Cyber Monday Slowdown as Consumers Strech Out Shopping

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Amazon.com Fulfillment Center
Amazon.com Inc. employees load boxes with orders at the company's fulfillment center ahead of Cyber Monday in Tracy, California, on Nov. 30, 2014. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Cyber Monday sales growth is slowing as consumers embrace the convenience of online shopping, spreading out their purchases instead of being lured by one-day specials.

Internet holiday shopping rose 8.5 percent on Cyber Monday yesterday, typically the busiest day for Web shopping as people return to their desks after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday weekend. That compares with online sales growth of 20.6 percent posted on the same day a year earlier, according to a report by International Business Machines Corp.

The declining pace of growth reflects an earlier start to the year-end shopping season, with Amazon.com Inc. and other online retailers offering online deals before Black Friday, when stores traditionally began offering holiday discounts. With people shopping online more frequently, e-commerce on Saturday and Sunday was up 17 percent compared with the same weekend in 2013, according to IBM, which began measuring pre-Cyber Monday sales last year in response to shoppers’ changing habits.

“We’re still getting really strong growth on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but people are realizing it’s a season of shopping,” Soren Mills, chief marketing officer at Newegg Inc., an online electronics retailer. “We’re releasing new deals all the time. We refresh constantly and bring in new deals to keep the excitement there. People are turning it from a day-long occasion to a monthlong occasion.”

Cyber Monday Slowdown

The Cyber Monday sales slowdown took place even as Amazon, EBay Inc. and other online retailers cut prices on electronics to lure shoppers. Amazon touted its Fire TV streaming device for $69 as part of its Cyber Monday promotions. EBay featured discounts on laptops and notebooks of various brands. Newegg started its holiday shopping deals on Nov. 26, with sales through Nov. 30 climbing 15 percent, Mills said.

“It’s not like the day isn’t growing, it’s just that the additional growth is being spread more evenly on other days,” said Jay Henderson, strategy program director at IBM.

Cyber Monday is typically seen as an opportunity for retailers to “stem some of the bleeding,” said Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“Black Friday becomes more irrelevant every year,” said Mulpuru, who predicts online shopping will reach $89 billion this holiday season.

EBay, Wal-Mart

Sales at San Jose, California-based EBay climbed 19 percent on Cyber Monday, beating the total growth rate, while Amazon lagged at 12 percent, according to ChannelAdvisor Corp., which works with merchants to increase sales. That’s because the Seattle-based online retailer pushed deals earlier, helping it to post sales growth of 46 percent on Saturday and 24 percent on Sunday, according to the firm.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said its website took a record number of orders yesterday as shoppers sought discounts on tablets, high-definition televisions and toys. The world’s largest retailer has been spreading out its promotions this year to attract consumers, extending its online deals through Dec. 5 in what it dubbed “Cyber Week.”

“Consumers are definitely shopping earlier,” said Scot Wingo, ChannelAdvisor’s chief executive officer. “Thanksgiving eats into Black Friday, and Saturday and Sunday are eating into Cyber Monday.”

Disappointing Start

Shopping on smartphones and tablets yesterday accounted for about 20 percent of e-commerce sales, up from a total of 17 percent the previous year, according to IBM.

The broader retail industry had a disappointing holiday kickoff on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Spending fell an estimated 11 percent over the weekend from a year earlier, the National Retail Federation said yesterday.

Total spending fell to $50.9 billion over the past four days, down from $57.4 billion in 2013, according to the NRF. It was the second year in a row that sales declined during the post-Thanksgiving Black Friday weekend, which had been famous for long lines and frenzied crowds seeking door-buster deals on electronics.

This year, many shoppers stayed home. The NRF had predicted that 140.1 million customers would visit retailers last weekend. Instead, only 133.7 million showed up. The slow start may make it harder for retailers to hit sales targets over the next month. The NRF had predicted a 4.1 percent sales gain for November and December -- the best performance since 2011.

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