Thousands of consumers went to Best Buy at 4 a.m. on Black Friday this year searching for discounts on a Blu-ray players, netbooks and dozens of other items. Supplies of those hot items ran out before they reached the front of the line. Sometimes that caused near riots at the malls.
But this year many consumers gave up real-world shopping and did all their gadget buying online.
While Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving in the United States — is one of the biggest retail shopping days of the year, tech-smart consumers are increasingly turning to the internet for the best gadget deals. Last year nearly 100 million people in the United States went online from mid-November to mid-December to shop for gift items, which was up 12 percent over the year before, according to comScore, a company that tracks online traffic. Furthermore, the growth in online purchases is expected to outpace that in brick-and-mortar stores this holiday season.
The National Retail Association is predicting a 16% increase in online sales, compared to a 2.3% increase in “real world” spending.
But penny-pinchers may also be driving the phenomenon. Many of the best discounts on electronics — especially big-ticket items like TVs, laptops and gaming systems — are found on the internet, not at retail stores.
Online discounts “are as juicy or even more appealing than what some of the retailers are promising on Black Friday,” Consumer Reports advised people to stay away from the Black Friday mania “unless you like rubbing against people you don’t know — or getting trampled.”
On the internet, particular days seem to have less importance than at retail stores. Wal-Mart, Amazon, Target and Best Buy are already offering online discounts on electronics that may match or beat Black Friday prices.
Some discounts may pop up online on Friday, in tandem with in-store deals. Apple, which isn’t known for discounting its high-end products, says it will have a one day online sale at Apple.com Friday.
In recent years, a phenomenon marketers call “Cyber Monday” has emerged as a sort of online holiday shopping event. On the Monday after Thanksgiving, legend has it, consumers rush to the internet — presumably from their workplace computers — to shop for the rest of their lists.
The internet tracker comScore said Cyber Monday never has been the biggest online shopping day of the year. That day typically comes on a Monday in December.
Still, the Monday after Thanksgiving is a bigger day for online shopping than either Thanksgiving day — which has been talked about as the hot new day to shop online — and Black Friday.
For the first time, online spending topped $1 billion on Friday, but today’s Cyber Monday sales are expected to generate $1.5 billion and possibly more.