E-commerce gets a boost as online deals spread

Posted at 11/29/10 8:47 AM

NEW YORK- Online retailers could see their best Thanksgiving weekend ever this year, as deep online discounts, once reserved for Cyber Monday, were offered more broadly throughout the weekend.

The term Cyber Monday was coined five years ago for the day many people return to work after Thanksgiving and make online gift purchases on their computers. It remains a prime shopping day online, but its novelty has been wearing thin due to promotions offered by online retailers earlier in the season, including on Thanksgiving Day.

"We've actually never seen a Thanksgiving Day this robust before online," said Fiona Dias, EVP of strategy and marketing for GSI Commerce, which operates more than 100 online stores for retailers including Toys R Us, Aeropostale Inc and Polo Ralph Lauren Corp.

Data from analytics firm comScore on Sunday showed that Thanksgiving Day, traditionally a lighter day for online holiday spending, saw a strong 28 percent increase to $407 million this year.

"This will go down for a lot of Web retailers as the year that Thanksgiving became the true start of the shopping weekend. A lot of people thought of Black Friday as the retail day and Cyber Monday as the Web day, but I think we've proven that Thanksgiving can be a pretty big Web day as well.

For example, retail leader Wal-Mart Stores Inc is offering "Cyber Week" specials including a Viore 24" LED high-definition television for $199 and a Hot Wheels Turbo Town Mega Garage playset, made by Mattel Inc, for $29.

GSI's busiest moment last year was late on Cyber Monday, when the company logged 789 orders across all of its sites in a single minute. It already surpassed that this year, at 11:27 p.m. on Thanksgiving, when it logged 797 orders.

"We clearly believe that for us and the hundred sites we have, it'll be the best holiday we've had by far," Dias said.

According to the National Retail Federation, about 33.6 percent of people who went shopping during the four-day Black Friday weekend which kicks off the holiday shopping season shopped online. That is a 15 percent increase from a year ago.

The amount they spent is up as well. The trade group estimates that out of the $365.34 spent by the average consumer this weekend, $121.67, or 33.3 percent, was spent online. That is up from 30.2 percent last year.

"I believe that's the highest number we've seen since we've been conducting the survey," said NRF spokeswoman Ellen Davis.

Online sales on Black Friday rose 9 percent to $648 million from last year, making it the heaviest online spending day to date in 2010, according to comScore.