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With sales brisk, online retailers push deals

Web purchases boom; traditional shopping sags

An Amazon.com worker sent a package on its way last week at the Goodyear, Ariz., warehouse. Amazon.com shares rose 3.2 percent yesterday, a day when stocks of many retailers fell. An Amazon.com worker sent a package on its way last week at the Goodyear, Ariz., warehouse. Amazon.com shares rose 3.2 percent yesterday, a day when stocks of many retailers fell. (Ross D. Franklin/ Associated Press)
By Mae Anderson
Associated Press / December 1, 2009

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NEW YORK - Retail websites kept amping up the deals yesterday, the first day after Thanksgiving weekend’s strong online sales, to try to maintain the momentum.

Meanwhile, a research firm that tracks business at stores reported tepid sales and customer traffic for Friday and Saturday that confirmed a so-so start to the season for the bricks-and-mortar world.

Though the Web is only about 10 percent of the holiday shopping pie, it has seen most of the growth so far this year, an encouraging sign after last year’s first online sales decline.

Coremetrics, a Web analytics company in San Mateo, Calif., said that as of 1 p.m. yesterday, sales for the day that the industry pitches as “Cyber Monday’’ were up 19.6 percent over a year ago.

The bright spot offers hope after traditional retail sales came in just above flat for Black Friday, with shoppers packing stores but sticking to their lists, going for deep discounts and practical items.

Investors voted with their dollars, rewarding online sellers. Amazon.com shares rose $4.17, or 3.2 percent, to $135.91 on a day when stocks of most traditional retailers fell as Wall Street analyzed the sea of data and anecdotal reports from the weekend.

ShopperTrak, which tracks sales and traffic at more than 50,000 outlets, said late yesterday that retail sales for Friday and Saturday edged up 0.9 percent to $16.77 billion, while customer traffic fell 2.7 percent compared with last year. According to ShopperTrak, US traffic slipped 2.5 percent on Friday, compared with an 18 percent drop in the year-ago period. Traffic fell 3.2 percent Saturday, compared with a 17 percent drop a year ago.

ShopperTrak derives its data from crowd-counting sensors in stores, combined with data from the retailers themselves on spending and how it relates to customer traffic.

The ShopperTrak results contrast with a report Sunday from the National Retail Federation on its poll indicating that more shoppers flocked to stores but each spent less than last year.

The dueling assessments show the difficulty of gathering and interpreting holiday weekend results. A fuller picture will emerge Thursday, when major retailers report November sales figures.

Many shoppers started looking for online deals ahead of Cyber Monday, as retailers stretched online deals over several days.

Target, Wal-Mart, Amazon.com, and other retailers started offering the online equivalent of Black Friday specials on Thanksgiving or even earlier.

They stepped it up yesterday. Amazon.com was discounting the Apple iPod Touch 8GB for $158, $20 less than Sunday and $40 off the retail price of about $200. Target.com offered a deal yesterday for a Garmin GPS system for $186.99, down from $249.99. Free shipping was also prevalent.