November 29, 2011 in Business

Retailers’ outreach grabs market share

Consumers responding to plethora of holiday shopping pitches
Sarah Skidmore Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Megan Roney shops online at Europa Coffeehouse in Denver on what has become know as Cyber Monday. Online sales were up midafternoon by 15 percent from last year’s Cyber Monday.
(Full-size photo)

Hitting the computers

NEW YORK – Shoppers seem to be just as enthusiastic about shopping on their computers and smartphones on Cyber Monday as they were about finding deals over the weekend.

Online sales on Cyber Monday were up midafternoon by 15 percent from a year ago, according to data from IBM Benchmark. Meanwhile, sales from mobile devices were up 7.4 percent. The group did not give dollar amounts.

Online sales were strong even over the weekend. Thirty-eight percent of all purchases were made online this year, up from 31 percent to 32 percent last year, says Sherif Mityas, partner in the retail practice of A.T. Kearney, who believes the increase was due to heavy promotions.

Cyber Monday. Green Tuesday. Black Friday. Magenta Saturday.

Chances are you won’t find any of these holidays on your calendar. Yet retailers are coming up with names for just about every day of the week during the holiday shopping season.

During T-Mobile’s “Magenta Saturday,” the event named for the company’s pinkish-purple logo earlier this month offered shoppers the chance to buy cellphones and some tablets on a layaway plan. Mattel lured customers in with discounts of 60 percent off toys for girls and boys on “Pink Friday” and “Blue Friday.” And outdoor retailer Gander Mountain is giving shoppers deals on camouflage and other gear every Thursday through December during “Camo Thursdays.”

“There are hundreds of promotions going on this time of year,” says Steve Uline, head of marketing for Gander. “We needed to do something a little bit different.”

Merchants are hoping some creative marketing will generate excitement among shoppers during the last two months of the year, a time when many of them make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue. And they know that a catchy name can make a huge difference.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, in the 1960s became known as the point when merchants turn a profit or operate “in the black.” Later, retailers began marketing it as the start of the holiday shopping season with earlier store hours and deep discounts of up to 70 percent off.

It’s since become the busiest shopping day of the year. This past weekend, Black Friday sales were $11.4 billion, up 7 percent, or nearly $1 billion, from the same day last year, according to a report by ShopperTrak, which gathers data from 25,000 outlets across the country. It was the largest amount ever spent on that day.

Cyber Monday was coined in 2005 when a retail trade group noticed a spike in online sales the Monday after Thanksgiving, when people returned to their work computers and shopped.

The day has grown increasingly popular. Last year, it was the busiest online shopping day ever, with sales of more than $1 billion, according to research firm ComScore Inc.

• Nonprofit Green America is launching Green Tuesday this week to encourage people to buy gifts with the environment and local communities in mind. The group is planning to push the event every Tuesday through December.

• Last year, American Express named the Saturday after Thanksgiving Small Business Saturday to encourage Americans to shop at mom-and-pop shops. This year, it offered a $25 credit to cardholders who registered on social media website Facebook and shopped at participating stores.

The effort has worked. Small retailers that accept Amex had a 28 percent increase in revenue during the daylong event last year, compared with a 9 percent rise for all retailers.

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