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Retailers hope Cyber Monday keeps shoppers buying

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By Jon Lentz and Alexandria Sage

NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Retailers are hoping to cash in on Cyber Monday, one of the biggest days for Internet commerce, after strong weekend online sales.

The Monday after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday was dubbed Cyber Monday five years ago to get consumers to focus on online shopping. But retailers have been increasingly offering online deals on Thanksgiving Day and over the holiday weekend.

Cyber Monday is still a big draw and could generate between $900 million and $1 billion in sales, according to Jefferies analyst Youssef Squali. Last year, Cyber Monday sales were $887 million, according to analytics firm comScore.

Retailers from Target Corp to Overstock.com advertised Cyber Monday deals on their websites.

Amazon.com deals included singer Susan Boyle's albums for half price at $5.99 each, a Canon flash memory Camcorder for $229 after a 40 percent discount, and Barbie Fashion Fairytale Palace at $64.99 instead of $114.99.

Walmart.com did not include items' original prices in its Cyber Monday deals.

WHO WAITED FOR MONDAY?

Early data point to robust online shopping over the Thanksgiving weekend, with sales from Thursday through Sunday up 14.4 percent versus the same period last year, according to IBM Coremetrics.

Caris & Co analyst Sandeep Aggarwal said that was encouraging for e-commerce, which in recent years has outperformed brick-and-mortar retail but can still be hit by cautious consumer spending.

"Increasing online traffic, continuation of accelerated adoption of e-commerce and some improvement in average order size are the key highlights of this year's holiday season," Aggarwal wrote in a note to investors.

He said Amazon, eBay and GSI Commerce, which helps retailers sell online, stood to benefit.

Blue Nile Inc's Chief Executive Diane Irvine said Cyber Monday was a bigger selling day for the online diamond seller than Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when retailers hope sales will turn bottom lines to black from red. She said Blue Nile's sales rose 20 percent.

But, she added, Blue Nile's biggest selling day is Dec 20.

ComScore found that online spending on Thanksgiving Day rose 28 percent from a year ago to $407 million. The company expects overall online sales for November and December to rise 11 percent to $32.4 billion, compared with the same time last year.

"I would expect Cyber Monday to be as strong as sales were this weekend," said Maggie Taylor, a senior credit officer with Moody's Investors Service.

Early sales data helped boost shares of Internet commerce companies, with Amazon.com rising as much as 2.6 percent to an all-time high at $181.84.

"The data does suggest that consumers are spending more time online this year with their spending plans, which would bode well for Amazon," Beating Wall Street analyst Hamed Khorsand wrote in a note to investors.

Overstock.com shares rose 3 percent while Blue Nile shares were up 5 percent compared with a decline of nearly 1 percent in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index.

The National Retail Federation said about 33.6 percent of those who shopped during the four-day holiday weekend bought goods online, up 15 percent from the same time last year. The group estimated that of the $365.34 consumers spent on average, about 33 percent went to online businesses compared with 30.2 percent last year.

A survey by America's Research Group showed that 18.1 percent of those polled said they would buy online on Monday, compared with 25 percent a year ago.

That may be because many consumers shopped over the weekend, the group's president Britt Beemer said.

Traditional retailers with websites are competing more fiercely for online sales. Some are drawing consumers to their stores via online purchases. For example, Best Buy and Wal-Mart allow shoppers to buy online and pick up those purchases in stores.

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, is going head-to-head with Amazon by offering free delivery of certain merchandise during the holidays.

(Editing by Michele Gershberg and Matthew Lewis)

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