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Pandemic expected to fuel record Cyber Monday spending

An Amazon worker sorts packages in the company's

An Amazon worker sorts packages in the company's last-mile warehouse in Shirley. Credit: Amazon/Austin Eden

U.S. consumers will shop from the comfort of their own homes in record numbers on Cyber Monday, retail experts project.

Online shopping has accounted for a growing share of overall holiday spending annually for years, but e-commerce is getting a big boost this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Already, socially distancing Americans skipped brick-and-mortar stores in big numbers on Black Friday, the busiest in-store shopping day of the year, because of the pandemic and because many retailers offered discounts online and much earlier than Black Friday.

"Many brands have been offering deals in advance of Black Friday as they attempted to pull some demand forward as there were some potential concerns regarding shipping time and shipping delays. So, they’ve already been communicating out those deals to attract customers and … create an early shopping season," said Adam Pressman, a managing director in the retail practice at AlixPartners, a Manhattan-based consulting firm.

Online spending on Cyber Monday is projected to grow 35.3% to a record $12.7 billion compared to the same day last year, according to Adobe Analytics, a division of San Jose, California-based software company Adobe Inc.

Online shopping on Black Friday also hit a record $9 billion, a 21.6% increase from the $7.4 billion spent on the same day last year, according to Adobe.

Meanwhile, foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores fell by a record 48.4% and sales declined by a record 29.6% on Black Friday, according to preliminary data from RetailNext, a San Jose-based retail analytics company.

Merrick resident Mackenna Honigfield, 20, plans to do most of her holiday shopping online, including on Cyber Monday, to avoid crowds, out of consideration for her grandparents, she said Tuesday.

"My grandparents are older and we’re still going to see them for the holidays but definitely like distance ourselves, so I definitely don’t want to be seeing them if I’m going holiday shopping," Honigfield said.

Senior citizens are among the groups at higher risk of developing more serious complications from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cyber Monday typically benefits large-chain retailers more than mom-and-pop shops because big companies are more able to afford to invest in websites and apps that are user-friendly and tied to convenient services, such as curbside pickup and buying online for pickup in stores, retail experts said.

"But I always say a little store looks as nice as a big store [online]" with the right investment, and having the right products at the right price, said Marshal Cohen, a retail industry expert at the NPD Group, a market research firm based in Port Washington.

Unlike Adobe, Cohen expects Cyber Monday sales to be strong, but not record-breaking, because retailers have been offering online sales since October, he said.

Amazon.com got the ball rolling when it moved its Prime Day from July to two days in mid-October because of logistics issues, leading Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Macy’s and other retailers to follow suit with their own major sales events during the same period.

Cyber Monday won’t pack as big of a punch because sales have been spread out over three months, Cohen said.

"Now, Cyber Monday is every day," he said.

Lester’s is a 72-year-old, Brooklyn-based retailer that sells kids’ and women’s clothing and accessories at three stores — in Greenvale, Manhattan and Rye Brook, N.Y.

The retailer's online sales have grown during the pandemic, accounting for 10% of all sales now, compared to 5% a year ago, said owner Perry Schorr, who said Lester’s added more of its products online during the pandemic.

Cyber Monday will be a big day for Lester’s, which will offer 25% discounts on most merchandise online, but the nature of its business — a neighborhood department store serving families who want to try on clothes — won’t make the day a blockbuster, he said.

"It’s not a big part of my business. We do an online business. It’s been growing. It’ll be a very good day for us on Monday," he said.

Lester’s stores were closed for three months, starting in March, during government-mandated shutdowns of nonessential businesses, although the retailer did do some sales of baby clothes via FaceTime appointments, Schorr said.

Still not fully recovered, Lester’s business is 20% below where it was a year ago, he said.

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