Things should be auspicious for Best Buy and other retailers trying to get into the Cyber Monday game: a survey conducted for the National Retail Federation (NRF) by BIGresearch says 96.5 million Americans will shop on Cyber Monday, up from 85 million in 2008. Moreover, online commerce has been bumping along at a positive clip: up 18.7 percent in October from a year ago and up 19.4 percent in the first half of November, according to a study by SpendingPulse.
But one lesson from Black Friday looms large: What consumers mean when they say "shopping" may be more like "shopping lite."
Some 195 million shoppers visited stores and websites over Black Friday weekend, an increase of 23 million from 2008, according to the NRF. But they spent less money, with average spending dropping to $343.31 per person from $372.57 a year ago.
While online numbers jumped 11 percent to $595 million for Black Friday (click on chart above), according to marketing research firm comScore, such early momentum may fade as the shopping season drags on.
"If you’re a retailer and you see that there’s a limited demand, you are offering promotions earlier and earlier to beat your competitors to the punch," says Jeffrey Grau, senior analyst at eMarketer. "If they are trying to condition people to spend early, then later on in the season it can bite back because they were successful early on and now there is less money to spend."
It's a possibility retailers are girding for.
“Shoppers proved this weekend that they were willing to open their wallets for a bargain, heading out to take advantage of great deals on less expensive items like toys, small appliances, and winter clothes,” says Tracy Mullin, NRF president and CEO in a news release. “While retailers are encouraged by the number of Americans who shopped over Black Friday weekend, they know they have their work cut out for them to keep people coming back through Christmas."
Still, the overall prognosis for this year's Cyber Monday is a positive one: comScore estimates that this year's online shopping extravaganza could post sales north of $900 million.
Sustaining that spending through the holidays, however, remains a significant question mark.