NEW YORK — Retailers who saw Thanksgiving holiday sales drop off as the weekend progressed stepped up online promotions on the day known as "Cyber Monday" to try to get consumers who are tired of the crowds at stores to keep shopping.
But after weeks of already heavy discounting both at regular stores and online, experts doubted that the day would give much of a lift to what is still expected to be one of the weakest holiday seasons in years.
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"People are expecting that deals will only get better as we approach the Christmas time frame," said Youssef H. Squali, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. "So while Cyber Monday is significant, I wouldn't say today is the only day to track. People may opt to wait a little more."
The Monday after Thanksgiving was dubbed "Cyber Monday" by the National Retail Federation trade group in 2005 to describe the unofficial kickoff to the online retail season, when customers shopped at their desks as they returned to work. But with more deals advertised ahead of time and more consumers with high-speed access at home, the day has lost some luster.
Marcia Turner, 43, a freelance writer in Rochester, N.Y., said she plans to buy a Dell laptop before Christmas, but is holding off for now.
"I suspect prices will come down further before the holiday season is out," she said. "I doubt they will go up, so there is little risk in waiting, as I see it."
Although "Cyber Monday" is not the busiest online shopping day of the year (that day usually occurs later in December as shipping deadlines approach), retailers — who have seen consumers pull back amid the recession — stepped up their online deals, offering discounts on clothes and gadgets, set amounts off purchases, free shipping and more.
Traffic at online retailer eBags.com was up 12 percent compared with the Monday after Thanksgiving last year, and sales were up 10 percent as of 1 p.m., said co-founder Peter Cobb, who added that that was about what he expected. The site is offering a 20 percent off deal for Cyber Monday.
"Retailers are much more aggressive this year, as we are," Cobb said. "We expect to see a big push in the next two weeks."
John Morris, an analysts at Wachovia Capital Markets, wrote in a note published Monday that traffic and business were strong on Black Friday, but that the "strength did not carry through the remainder of the weekend as business fell off sharply on Saturday."
Karen MacDonald, a spokeswoman at mall operator Taubman Centers Inc., similarly said that based on a sampling of malls, business for the three-day weekend was flat from a year ago, with sales quickly fizzling after spiking on Friday.
"The momentum didn't continue," she said.
A more complete sales picture of the weekend will be known by Thursday, when the nation's retailers report November same-store sales, or sales at stores opened at least a year. Many analysts expect the period could show a rare drop in sales.