Cyber Monday: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Did anyone else see the crazy news footage from that Wal-Mart in Michigan over the long Thanksgiving weekend? When the store opened its doors the morning of Nov. 25, a flood of people poured in, knocking down and trampling each other in a chaotic free-for-all that reached lows in civility and orderliness not seen since Gothic barbarians sacked ancient Rome. But if you've ever been shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving — the busiest day of the year for retail stores — and witnessed firsthand the mobs of frenzied shoppers who swarm shelves like piranhas, then this kind of thing shouldn't surprise you.

This year, though, enthusiasm for post-Thanksgiving shopping at traditional retailers was somewhat lackluster (the previous example notwithstanding). According to ShopperTrak RCT Corp., sales at stores located primarily in shopping centers increased only 0.4 percent between Nov. 25 and 27. Does this mean people are keeping their spending pat this holiday season? Yeah, right.

Actually, many people opted out of the tumultuous shopping conditions found at the local mall (I can't imagine why) and opted instead to purchase gifts from their office or home, especially on what observers have dubbed "Cyber Monday." This is the day when consumers return to work and shop for presents using their employers. Internet connections, which are generally better and more secure than the ones they have at home. (Shopping on company time? I'm shocked, shocked!)

At any rate, they spent $485 million at Web retailers last Monday — a 26 percent increase — which was more than half of the $925 million in total online sales of the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, research firm ComScore Networks reported. Incredibly, more than 27.7 million people shopped online on Cyber Monday, a number that exceeds the population of every U.S. state except for California. Overall, Internet holiday spending is projected to approach $20 billion in the months of November and December.

- Brian Summerfield, bsummerfield@certmag.com

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