Web Shopping Surge Lifts Retailers

Amazon and Wal-Mart lead online shopping, sending the stocks higher.
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Shares of the retailers got a lift Wednesday following a report that online sales for the industry's so-called Cyber Monday climbed to a record this year.

Those sales, however, came amid steep discounts from the big chains, and the average amount spent per customer slid.

ComScore, a Reston, Va., market research firm, said that overall sales for Cyber Monday reached a record of $733 million this year, a 21% increase over last year. Cyber Monday, the first Monday after Thanksgiving, is seen as a big online shopping day as shoppers return to work and supposedly spend their time surfing the Web for deals.

Amazon.com

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and

Wal-Mart

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were the top online shopping destinations on Monday, comScore said.

Amazon saw a 50% jump in traffic compared with its average daily visitors in the four preceding weeks. For Wal-Mart, traffic more than doubled on Monday compared with the prior four-week average.

Shares of Amazon were gaining $2.15, or 2.5%, to $87.74, while Wal-Mart was up 94 cents, or 2%, to $46.77.

Following Amazon and Wal-Mart was

Target

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, which saw an 86% jump in Cyber Monday traffic over the daily average in the four earlier weeks.

Dell

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and

Best Buy

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, the next most-visited sites, saw traffic climb more than 100%.

Target shares were up $1.72, or 3%, to $58.72; Dell was adding 99 cents, or 3.7%, to $27.63; and Best Buy was climbing 71 cents, or 1.5%, to $49.81.

The number of online buyers on Monday rose 38% from a year earlier, but the average dollars spent per buyer slipped 12%. ComScore attributed the decline to deeper price discounts from the online merchants and the fact that new Cyber Monday shoppers tend to spend less online than returning buyers.

The heavy discounting -- and drop in customer spending -- highlights the issues facing retailers this holiday season. With recent months showing lackluster sales as an economic slowdown and the housing slump weigh on consumers, retailers are expected to have a heavily promotional holiday, boosting overall sales but potentially hitting profits.

While Cyber Monday is heavily hyped, it's not expected to be the heaviest online shopping day of the year. ComScore said it expects a number of individual days to pass Monday's total, with some days potentially topping $800 million.