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12/22/2009

Web sales surge during holiday snows

New York City According to a report late Monday by the Associated Press, which cited research from Web research firm Coremetrics, online retail sales rose 22.4% for the weekend compared with last year. On Saturday, sales were up 24.8% alone.

Coremetrics research also found that the average shopper spent and ordered more on Saturday, when the weather's effects were deepest, than Friday. The surge continued on Monday; morning sales were strong as shoppers raced to make purchases so they could be delivered by Christmas.

"This teaches consumers that maybe those of us that procrastinate, we still have time to go online very close to Christmas," John Squire, Coremetrics' chief strategy officer, told AP.

 

Online retailers are leveraging the spike. Amazon.com extended the cutoff for standard shipping by one day through Monday, and offered free two-day shipping for select electronics products. Macy's Web site offered free shipping through Monday, and J.C. Penney through Tuesday.

Shoppers are busy hunting for last-minute deals. Retail Web traffic peaked at 2.9 million visitors per minute Saturday night, according to the Akamai Retail Net Usage Index. That was up from 1.9 million on the Saturday before Christmas in 2008, though that day -- Dec. 20 -- was closer to Christmas than this year.

The Sunday peak was 3.5 million visitors per minute, compared with 2.2 million on the Sunday before Christmas last year.

Monday's numbers were nearing those levels but hadn't peaked by late afternoon, when the AP report was issued.

Now that the storm has largely abated, some brick-and-mortar stores are extending early morning bargains that had been offered on Saturday through Wednesday. Scott Bernhardt of weather research firm Planalytics told AP he is seeing stores opening earlier and closing later and boosting more promotions to get people shopping. He said retailers can help make up sales by adding more hours to counteract the loss from Saturday.

Toys “R” Us is adding hours to some 300 stores along the East Coast and in other areas of the country to woo shoppers. Some stores will open as early as 6 a.m. and close at 1 a.m.

Les Morris, spokesman at mall operator Simon Property Group, noted the mall operator is thinking of extending hours beyond what was planned for early this week to accommodate customers