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Shoppers Click Away

'Cyber Monday' sales jump 26% and set e-commerce records.

Online retail sales on "Cyber Monday" jumped a higher-than-expected 26% over last year and set e-commerce records, an Internet research company said Wednesday.

According to comScore Networks, online retail spending totaled $608 million on Cyber Monday, the day shoppers return to work after the Thanksgiving weekend and supposedly rush to do their holiday shopping online. ComScore had forecast sales of about $600 million.

The sales figure marked the highest single-day number in retail e-commerce history and was the first day ever to break the $600 million threshold, comScore said.

Internet sales already had surpassed expectations on so-called Black Friday, when shoppers spent an estimated $434 million online and flocked to traditional sellers like


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, as well as Internet-only retailers like


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. The $434 million in sales was up 42% over the same day last year.

The theory behind Cyber Monday is that more people will buy online when they're at work, when shoppers are more likely to be sitting in front of a computer and Internet connections are supposedly faster.

Gian Fulgoni, comScore's chairman, says that on Monday, about 55% of the online purchasing was coming from work computers. On Black Friday, about 65% of the online buying was being done on home computers, he says.

Though Cyber Monday may have surpassed online selling milestones, those records likely will soon be broken.

Last year, Cyber Monday was only the ninth-busiest holiday online shopping day, comScore said, with Dec. 12 and Dec. 13 taking the top spots. Fulgoni says he still expects the heaviest online shopping to occur during the week of Dec. 12, because that is around the time that many retailers start offering free shipping.

"(Cyber Monday) is kind of the official kickoff," Fulgoni says, "but it's not going to be the heaviest day by any stretch.", the holiday-season discount hub from online retail trade group, attracted 300,000 U.S. visitors on Monday, or about the same number of visitors that, a price-comparison shopping engine, draws on an average day.

"The online retail marketplace has become extremely competitive, and we're seeing that play out with some pretty significant discounting to win over consumers early in the holiday shopping season, much of which was advertised at," Fulgoni says. "While online sales have certainly seen a strong start to the holiday season, it will be interesting to see if all of this discounting ends up cutting into retailers' profit margins."

As for bricks-and-mortar retailers, research firm ShopperTrak RCT said Wednesday that full Black Friday weekend sales rose 2.8% from the same three-day period last year.

Black Friday sales totaled $8.96 billion and then leveled off to $5.7 billion on Saturday and $3.44 billion on Sunday, ShopperTrak said, as the excitement of Black Friday discounts petered out over the weekend. Still, total sales during the three-day holiday weekend totaled $18.1 billion.

"Retailers experienced more of a consumer outpouring than we anticipated on Black Friday, but it appears both Saturday and Sunday began to trend more towards the sales performance we expected heading into the 2006 holiday shopping season as Friday's heavy promotional excitement wore off," Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, said in a statement.

"Although Saturday and Sunday began to flatten a bit, the 2.8% weekend increase is a very solid start to the season, especially when you factor in the extra Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2006, which allows shoppers to spend later this season," he added.

Traffic patterns corresponded to sales performance, ShopperTrak said, with weekend traffic slipping about 0.5% from the same three-day period a year ago. Friday saw a 6.1% increase in traffic, while Saturday's foot traffic fell 6.4%.