Black Friday online sales growth lags last year

Sat Nov 26, 2011 4:49pm EST

A box from Amazon.com is pictured on the porch of a house in Golden, Colorado July 23, 2008. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

A box from Amazon.com is pictured on the porch of a house in Golden, Colorado July 23, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking

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(Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc, eBay Inc and other e-commerce companies had a strong "Black Friday," but the industry's growth rate lagged last year's surge in online buying on the traditional first day of the holiday shopping season.

Online shopping jumped 24.3 percent on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, versus the same period a year earlier, IBM Benchmark, which tracks transactions on websites of 500 retailers, said on Saturday.

IBM was expecting growth of about 15 percent. Higher-than-expected online buying was partly driven by increased use of mobile devices, it said.

Some of the best-performing retailers also did a good job informing consumers about online promotions ahead of the crucial post-Thanksgiving shopping day, said John Squire, chief strategy officer at IBM Smarter Commerce.

Mercent, a company founded in 2005 which helps retailers sell through e-commerce channels including Amazon, eBay and Google Inc's Internet search engine, reported a 23-percent jump in Black Friday same-store sales by clients.

"E-commerce continues to grow on an absolute basis and take additional market share from (traditional) bricks and mortar retailers," said Eric Best, chief executive of Mercent and a former Amazon executive.

Best expects a "huge" Cyber Monday - which this year falls on November 28 - but he warned that this doesn't mean the whole holiday season will be strong.

Cyber Monday is the first work day after Thanksgiving, when workers often use office computers to shop online. Last year, over $1 billion was spent on Cyber Monday, making it the heaviest online shopping day in history, according to ComScore.

"Holiday shopping is becoming more front-loaded around Black Friday and Cyber Monday," Mercent's Best said. "All of this is great news, but it's still early in this 45-day shopping season."

WEATHER EFFECT

Last year, Mercent clients saw same-store sales growth of 30 percent on Black Friday. Best said slower growth this year may have been caused by better weather.

"The weather was really good this year, which can have an effect on the amount of screen time," Best added. "People were outside shopping offline or they weren't shopping at all."

Amazon saw some of the strongest growth again this year, according to ChannelAdvisor, which helps merchants sell on websites run by Amazon, eBay and other e-commerce companies.

ChannelAdvisor clients saw same-store sales via Amazon jump 49.8 percent on Black Friday, versus a year earlier.

Traditional retailers offered Black Friday deals earlier this year, but Amazon aggressively matched this strategy by running Black Friday promotions online starting on November 21, according to Scot Wingo, chief executive of ChannelAdvisor.

Still, on Black Friday in 2010, ChannelAdvisor clients saw same-store sales growth of about 80 percent via Amazon, Wingo noted.

Sellers on eBay generated same-store sales growth of 15.1 percent on Black Friday this year, down from 15.5 percent year-over-year growth in 2010, he added.

MOBILE SHOPPING SURGES

Mobile shopping surged on Black Friday but remained a relatively small part of overall online commerce.

EBay said U.S. shoppers bought almost two and a half times as many items via mobile devices this past Black Friday compared to 2010.

PayPal, eBay's online payments business, saw a six-fold increase in global mobile transaction volume on Black Friday, versus the same day last year.

More than 14 percent of Black Friday traffic on retail websites came from mobile devices, up from 5.6 percent a year ago, according to IBM.

eBay said it offered an XBOX 360 250GB Kinect gaming system from Microsoft for $259.99 the evening before Black Friday that sold out in 20 minutes - at a rate of 75 units per minute.

Best sellers on Amazon.com on Black Friday included the company's Kindle Fire tablet computer, a Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-TX10 Waterproof Digital Camera and a Mr. Coffee Single Serve coffee machine powered by Keurig, according to an Amazon spokeswoman.

(Reporting by Alistair Barr; Editing by Paul Simao)

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