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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Online retailers prepare for shoppers as Cyber Monday approaches

While shoppers hit brick-and-mortar stores in droves on Friday, another wave of shoppers are expected to hit retailers again Monday through the Internet with sales that are expected to reach well over half a billion dollars this year.

Andrew Lipsman, senior analyst with Internet research firm comScore Networks Inc., said in a Reuters article this week his firm is expecting Cyber Monday sales of more than $700 million this year, which would outpace the $608 million in online sales for last year.

While online sales have taken off, some shopping experiences people still want to do in person.

"Being a winery, the experience still happens inside the building. You can't get that online," said Brad Schmiling, a co-owner of Von Stiehl Winery in Algoma. "This may be the one thing they don't want to buy online. Get in the car and 'Let's go do some sampling.'

"It's a fun break from your standard Christmas shopping," he said.

While the winery can't ship to all states, there are 13 where it can, including Wisconsin. That limits some of the online sales potential, but Von Stiehl does run holiday specials to encourage web traffic.

Schmiling said online sales are about 15 percent of the winery's business, a number that has come up a little in recent years but trails far behind other sales avenues like wholesale. While the summer tourist season may be their busy season, the holidays are good for generating additional business.

"I'd call it a second spike," he said. "It isn't what we see during the tourist season but, like most retail businesses, it starts the Friday after Thanksgiving."

Work is apparently a popular place for online shopping, according to research done for

This year, according to a BIGresearch survey conducted for, 54.5 percent of office workers with Internet access, or 68.5 million people, will shop for holiday gifts from work, according to the survey.

That's up from 50.7 percent in 2006 and 44.7 percent in 2005.

Those online sales will also make up a larger percentage of all holiday-related sales this year with the Internet influencing 30.2 percent of holiday sales this year, according to the survey. In 2006, that number was set at 28.9 percent.

While Cyber Monday has garnered its own term, Mastercard said it sees purchases peaks later in the shopping season.

In 2005, the busiest online shopping day in terms of total MasterCard-processed e-commerce transactions was Dec. 5, according to a news release from that company. In 2006, it was a week later and with Thanksgiving falling early, this year's busiest day will likely be nearly three weeks later on Dec. 10.

Infinity Technology in Green Bay — which offers services like Web site and software development, network solutions and telephone services — has ridden the wave of increasing online shopping popularity over the past few years.

They got into the market with around the turn of the century but Curt Beams, the firm's technology product manager, said as the industry has matured over the past few years, retailers have asked for more dynamic sites allowing them to create their own look and feel.

"What you're seeing more of a migration to is not just an online store, but an online store where the average Joe can update the information without having significant training," he said.

"We had some customers that have had incredible success with their online stores we created, but we've put the time and energy into it and so have they.

"Anyone can stick a store out there but if they don't do anything with it … it's just another page sitting out there no one sees," Beams said.

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