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Cyber Monday expected to draw fewer online shoppers this year

The shopping day known for big online sales is expected to draw fewer people this year

After hitting the malls on Thanksgiving and scouring Black Friday sales, American consumers were back for another bout of retail therapy Monday.

But the shopping day known for big online sales — called Cyber Monday — is expected to draw fewer people this year. Web promotions that kicked off as early as October had already taken a bite out of sales during the long holiday weekend and will probably squeeze consumer interest in Cyber Monday.

About 126.9 million shoppers planned to browse online for bargains Monday, down nearly 4% from 131.6 million in 2013, the National Retail Federation said. But they appear to be spending more: Sales may grow to $2.5 billion, surpassing last year's record of nearly $2.1 billion, research firm ComScore said.

"Every day is Cyber Monday," said Matthew Shay, chief executive of the National Retail Federation. "Consumers know shopping on Cyber Monday won't be their last chance to find low prices and exclusive promotions."

Retailers have reinforced the expectation that plenty of good deals can be found throughout the season by launching Web-based discounts early and extending them well beyond Monday.

Many shoppers took advantage. Web sales from Nov. 1 to 28 jumped 14% this year to $32 billion, according to a report from Adobe Systems Inc. E-commerce sales climbed 25% to $1.33 billion on Thanksgiving Day and 24% to $2.4 billion on Friday, the report said.

People too busy to shop Monday shouldn't sweat it. Many retailers looking to beat out rivals are turning Cyber Monday into Cyber Week, or in some cases, Cyber Month.

Toys R Us has already launched 11 days of online savings that run through Saturday. Sears and Kmart kicked off a week of digital deals on Sunday. Amazon.com is rolling out deals every 10 minutes during eight days of Cyber Monday.

The Monday after Thanksgiving has "lost a lot of its bloom and glamour and excitement," said Alan Whitman, a managing director at Morgan Stanley. "I don't see panic or a sense of urgency."

But many shoppers such as Georgie Gonzalez still logged on in search of bargains Monday.

The 32-year-old said she avoided going to malls on Black Friday after witnessing tussles break out among competitive shoppers in years past. An animal lover studying to be a veterinarian's assistant, Gonzalez checked Amazon and EBay for gifts for her cat and her sister's new kitten.

"I can stay at home in my pj's and look online," said Gonzalez, who lives in South Los Angeles. "No fighting with anybody."

Many online retailers say Cyber Monday is a big day for business, even if it has ceded territory to the rest of the holiday season.

Steve Davis, chief executive of designer flash sale site Rue La La, said Monday is the "giant kickoff" to weeks of heavy sales.

"It's either the biggest day of the year or the top two or three," he said.

This year, Rue La La offered even more deals to whet shoppers' appetites: Monday caps the last of five special "gift steal" boutiques, up from two last year.

Rue La La sees a lot of traffic from people shopping from their cubicles during work hours, Davis said. "Bosses around the country might cringe," he said, "but office buying is a big thing for us."

All told, about 85% of holiday shoppers said they planned to browse Monday for online deals at the office, according to a survey from RetailMeNot. These worker bees said they would spend four hours of the day on average shopping online.

Among shoppers, 40.8% said they would tackle the promotions in the morning, and about 18% did so during their lunch hour, according to the National Retail Federation.

A blockbuster Cyber Monday will give a boost to the retail industry, which saw both traffic and sales fall during the Thanksgiving weekend.

Sales over the four days plunged 11% and traffic dropped 5.2%, the National Retail Federation said. The group is sticking by its original forecast that spending in November and December will rise 4.1% to $617 billion, up from 3.1% last year.

As of 3 p.m. Monday, online sales grew 8.1% Monday over the same period a year ago, according to IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark.

The term Cyber Monday was invented in 2005 by Shop.org, the online unit of the National Retail Federation. As customers increasingly took to shopping online and retailers rolled out more bargains, Cyber Monday became the biggest online shopping day of the year in 2010, ComScore said. It has held that spot ever since.

shan.li@latimes.com

Twitter: @ByShanLi

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