Missed those Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals? You're not alone. Some retailers like Amazon.com (AMZN) are extending their holiday sales for an entire week to lure in shoppers. The holiday shopping season has just commenced but early signs are pointing to a jolly year for retailers, especially online retailers.
According to research firm comScore, online sales totaled $1.04 billion Black Friday weekend, a 26% gain from last year. Online retailers are expected to post $43.4 billion in holiday sales this year. A survey conducted for the National Retail Federation estimates that more than 129 million Americans shopped online on Cyber Monday, up from 123 million on the same day last year. E-commerce currently makes up less than 10 percent of consumer spending in the U.S.
Amazon.com was the most-visited retail Web site on Black Friday, according to comScore, followed by the online sites of Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target and Apple. Amazon also recorded the highest year-over-year increase in visitor traffic among the top five retailers.
"We expect this to be our biggest holiday season ever," Amazon spokesman Scott Stanzel says in the accompanying clip.
Amazon has yet to release its Cyber Monday stats but Stanzel expects the numbers to surpass last year's tally when 17.7 million items were purchased by consumers worldwide, a rate of 200 items per second. For 2012, Amazon hired 50,000 temporary workers to help meet the site's holiday shipping demand.
As expected, consumer electronics are the hottest sellers on Amazon, with tablets and TVs being two popular holiday gifts. But consumers are also taking advantage of low prices on toys, movies and diamond stud earrings on the site, Stanzel notes. Amazon has been viewed as the evil empire by brick-and-mortar retailers because of its ability to offer deep discounts on merchandise and its zero-tax policy in most states. "Showrooming" -- the pejorative term used to describe Amazon's effect on sales — has become well-known among consumers and the retail industry alike. Showrooming refers to shopping and analyzing a product in a physical store but ultimately purchasing the item at a lower cost on Amazon or another online retailer. Stanzel says consumers are just trying to find the best deals.
"We think there's much transparency in retail these days," he says. "People can get the information they want, they can seek out the lowest prices. There's a lot of competition for that consumer dollar."
Retailers' holiday sales will depend largely on how optimistic consumers are about the economy. The Conference Board reported Tuesday that its consumer confidence index rose to 73.7 last month, the fourth consecutive monthly increase and the highest level since February 2008.
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