Workers make an extra effort -- to find deals on the Internet
Thanksgiving weekend brought throngs of bargain hunters to retailers' doors. But as Americans returned to work Monday, many consumers continued to shop, taking advantage of employers' high-speed Internet connections to search out deals online. La...
Thanksgiving weekend brought throngs of bargain hunters to retailers' doors.
But as Americans returned to work Monday, many consumers continued to shop, taking advantage of employers' high-speed Internet connections to search out deals online. Last year, 27.7 million Americans shopped at online sites on the Monday after Thanksgiving, according to Nielsen's NetRatings. The holiday phenomenon prompted Shop.org, -- the online division of the National Retailers Federation -- to dub the day Cyber Monday last year, and the name stuck.
Dan Thralow, manager of operations for Thralow Inc., a Proctor-based Internet retailer, said Monday probably would go down as the busiest day so far this year for his business. But he doubted it would be his best day of the holiday season.
"We're running a little pool here about what our biggest day for sales will be," he said. The frontrunners are Dec. 4 and 11, and Thralow has his money on the latter.
Both dates are Mondays -- usually the busiest day of the week for online sales.
"Lots of times, people think about what they want to buy on the weekend, but either they didn't get to the mall or they want to compare prices. So they go online Monday," Thralow said.
"Our research indicates that a lot of people are shopping from work," he said, noting, "Lots of times, computers are easier to get to at work, and there is better quality Internet service."
Thralow sees nothing wrong with shopping from work on a break, unless your employer explicitly forbids it.
But Patricia Stolee, president of the Northland Human Resources Association, warns that employees could run the risk of reprisal, even if they shop on their own time. She noted that many companies have a policy against using company equipment for personal purposes. Certainly, shopping for holiday gifts on an employer's computer would fall into that category.
Still, Stolee said, employers who want to discourage online shopping would be wise to adopt specific policies addressing the behavior.
There are technological solutions to consider as well. Stolee said that employers can block employees' access to certain popular shopping Web sites, just as they filter pornography.
"Online shopping is certainly becoming more prevalent," she said, calling it "a growing trend."
A survey conducted by Deloitte & Touche, an independent research company, indicated that more than 43 percent of shoppers in the Twin Cities shopped for the holidays online in 2005, and this year that percentage is expected to grow to 50 percent.
Jack Seiler, co-owner of Security Jewelers in Duluth, said that when his shop opened Monday, 138 e-mails with questions from prospective customers were waiting. That's more than twice the volume the business would see on a typical Monday.
"We're off to a good strong start," Seiler said, noting that business at his bricks-and-mortar shop was solid this past weekend as well.
Online sales account for15 to 20 percent of Security Jeweler's business, and Seiler said the percentage continues to grow.
Like Thralow, Seiler expects his online sales will escalate as the holidays approach.
"It seems that many people definitely need a deadline to get motivated," he said.
John Mohn, co-owner of Allenfall's, a Duluth clothier, said online sales account for a relatively small but growing portion of his business.
"If you're not on the Internet, you're not in the retail business these days, the way I see it," he said.
Still, Mohn was not one to fixate on Cyber Monday.
"I think it's a lot of hype," he said. "With sales, it's a building process. Our business builds through the holiday season."
PETER PASSI covers business and development. He can be reached weekdays at (218) 279-5526 or by e-mail at email@example.com .