Retail's Cyber Reality

'Cyber Monday' holiday shopping may not provide a huge boost after Black Friday.
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After a big Black Friday, holiday shopping moderated later in the weekend, and now retailers are looking to so-called Cyber Monday for a boost in online sales.

However, it likely is just another manic Monday on the Internet.

Cyber Monday is supposed to be the online equivalent of Black Friday, where instead of battling crowds in stores, consumers log onto their office computers upon returning from the long Thanksgiving Day weekend and shop until their keyboards melt.

But last year, Cyber Monday was only the ninth-busiest holiday online shopping day, according to the Internet research firm comScore Networks. Dec. 12 and Dec. 13 took the top spots.

Moreover, Black Friday itself was a heavy online shopping day this year, with consumers clicking up $434 million in a cyber-shopping spree that topped last year's total by 42%.

Gian Fulgoni, comScore Networks' chairman, says aggressive online promotions and crowded real-world stores may have driven shoppers to the Internet on Friday. But people have not abandoned their workplace computer as a shopping tool.

"We're still seeing that Monday through Friday, at least half of all online shopping is coming from the work machine," he says. "It's dropping a little, but not a lot. We would have thought with increased home broadband connections, a lot of buying would have shifted to the home machine, but it still hasn't happened. People like shopping from work."

Fulgoni suggests that shoppers prefer the office because there fewer distractions at the job than at home, and consumers don't have to deal with family members peeking over their shoulders as they shop.

Retailers will be looking for that added online boost following a dropoff in sales after a solid Black Friday. According to ShopperTrack RCT's latest data Monday, Black Friday sales rose 6% over last year, but sales on Saturday fell a slight 0.4% from the same day a year earlier. Combined together, sales over the two days rose 3.4%, with sales of $8.96 billion on Friday and $5.7 billion on Saturday.

ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based research group, suggested that aggressive weekend promotions couldn't sustain Friday's strength.

The world's biggest retailer,

Wal-Mart

(WMT) - Get Report

, relied heavily on promotions, and it came up short. The company said over the weekend that U.S. same-store sales dropped 0.1% in November, worse than the company's previous forecast for flat sales.

Ken Perkins, president of the research firm Retail Metrics, says there is some indication that consumers are "cherry-picking" the drastically marked-down items in the store and then making for the exits.

"It looks like

Wal-Mart's unable to convert the door-busters into additional traffic for the rest of the store," he says.

Outside of Wal-Mart, electronics and apparel emerged as the early holiday shopping leaders over the weekend. Visa USA said consumer spending on electronics helped boost overall sales during Black Friday.

"We knew that electronic sales were going to be strong this holiday season, which was reflected in the impressive 8.7% increase in average ticket compared to the same day last year," said Wayne Best, senior vice president of business and economic analysis for Visa USA, in a statement.

Visa represents 17% of personal consumption expenditures, which means $17 out of every $100 is spent using a Visa-branded card.

Perkins also says that consumer electronics were a strong sales driver, pointing to solid weekend sales for

Best Buy

(BBY) - Get Report

and

Circuit City Stores

(CC) - Get Report

.

Perkins said other retail standouts included the "three A's:"

American Eagle Outfitters

(AEOS)

,

Abercrombie & Fitch

(ANF) - Get Report

and

Aeropostale

(ARO)

.

J.C. Penney

(JCP) - Get Report

had a solid weekend, Perkins says, as did most of the department stores, such as

Federated Department Stores

(FDS) - Get Report

,

Nordstrom

(JWN) - Get Report

and

Saks

(SKS)

.

Richard Hastings, senior retail sector analyst at Smyth Bernard Sands, says rising gas prices had an impact on lower-income shoppers and rural locations. Wealthier shoppers were going to department stores, he said, and within that group were a significant number of younger consumers.

"Macy's,

Kohl's

(KSS) - Get Report

, and J.C. Penney have been starting to come back," he said, "and now they're not just the older adult shopper or the mature shopper. That's a big deal.

"Department stores and apparel will have a really good season," he adds. "Kohl's and J.C. Penney are the two absolute, slam-'em-down-to-the-mat winners."