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Buyers Turn Out for Cyber Monday

In a surprising twist, more online shoppers may have actually clicked through to purchase items on Cyber Monday, the post-Thanksgiving online holiday.

Online sales were up 11% above Cyber Monday 2008 as of 6:30 p.m. ET, says the website sales tracking firm Coremetrics, which represents 500 major retailers, including Macy's and Nordstrom. The data were mirrored in results for sites including Buy.com, which had more orders in an hour from 1 to 2 p.m. ET than ever in its 12-year history, and eBags.com, which had a 53% increase in sales Monday.

The results could represent an improvement over the holiday weekend: Internet and in-store sales through Sunday were about on par with last year, but the average amount spent per person was down, according to a survey of 5,000 consumers by BIGresearch.

Retailers hoped to do better than that on their websites and often offered bigger price cuts on Cyber Monday, a term coined by the National Retail Federation five years ago when employees noticed an uptick in Web sales, likely from consumers who were shopping from their offices after the holiday. Each year since, more retailers have been adding special one-day promotions, and more shoppers have been visiting store sites.

Traffic to retail sites Monday was running about 1 million visitors ahead of last year's 10 p.m. peak of 3.3 million, says Web monitoring firm Akamai. With all those visits came some problems: HP's and Dell's websites had intermittent issues that placed them last in performance rankings this year by Gomez, a Web performance management firm.

The day could seem anticlimactic with all the online and in-store deals already this holiday season, but Brad Wilson of BradsDeals.com, says there were "plenty of legitimately large" coupons and deals, including 5% to 10% discounts on top of discounts already being offered.

"There's going to be some spreading out that happens with such an important retail event," says Scott Silverman, executive director of NRF's digital division Shop.org. "But I don't think retailers want to see Cyber Monday lose its specialness."

Wilson thinks many of the deals deserved attention, especially when offered by retailers that don't normally do coupons, such as Bloomingdale's and Kate Spade. But some of those offered by Wal-Mart weren't necessarily so special. He cites the 32-inch Sony Bravia LCD HDTV the discounter advertised for $398. Sony was advertising it for $379.99.

ConsumerSearch.com's Christine Frietchen says some of the Cyber Monday digital camera deals were the same ones featured in Black Friday circulars but with higher prices. Still, retailers and analysts insist the discounting isn't going to get deeper as the holidays get closer, because stores cut their inventories. "I don't expect to see this level of discounting in seven or 14 days," Wilson says.

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