An employee pushes a cart of bins through the sorting area at the Amazon.com… (David Paul Morris, Bloomberg )
Shoppers went hunting for bargains over the Internet on Cyber Monday in yet another round of retail mania this month, setting a record as the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history.
Web merchants raked in $1.47 billion in sales on the first Monday after Thanksgiving, up 17% over the same day last year, according to research firm ComScore Inc.
On Cyber Monday, when online merchants like to offer bargains of all kinds, e-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc. said it sold the most Kindle tablets ever, while Walmart.com, the online arm of the world's largest retailer, enjoyed its best day in history.
"Cyber Monday was fantastic," said Maggie Glover, a spokeswoman for ModCloth, a San Francisco online retailer of vintage-inspired clothing and accessories.
Glover said she hasn't seen precise figures yet, but expects Cyber Monday will rank in the top five shopping days of the year. The site offered 25% off on its most popular items along with free shipping, returns and exchanges.
Gift website Fab saw "record breaking" figures for that day, with Cyber Monday sales up four times those of a year earlier, Chief Executive Jason Goldberg said.
"Fab smashed all previous records," Goldberg wrote in a blog post on the company's website. "12% of visits to Fab resulted in a purchase" on Cyber Monday.
Nearly half of all dollars spent online at U.S. websites came from people using work computers, while most of the other half came from people buying at home, ComScore said.
"Cyber Monday has assumed the mantle as the top online spending day for the past two years," said Gian Fulgoni, chairman of ComScore. That's a "trend we expect to hold once again in 2012."
Shopper Zino Perkins, 23, said he got bombarded with ads and checked out the electronics deals and holiday decor promotions on Walmart.com. But he decided against opening his wallet on Cyber Monday, opting to see whether the prices drop closer to Christmas.
"I thought a lot about buying a TV, but I ended up just scoping out the prices," the Long Beach handyman said.
Cyber Monday has gained popularity as people become more comfortable shopping on computers and mobile devices. NPD Group reported that 58% of those who shopped online on Cyber Monday bought something, up from 47% on the same day last year.
Clothes topped the list of items that were purchased that day, while an increasing number of people shopped for themselves as well as for family and friends, NPD said. But with nearly a third of shoppers saying they have yet to finish their holiday shopping, analyst say retailers still have to work hard to woo people in the coming weeks.
"Even with the great start out of the gate, this race still has a long way to go," NPD chief industry analyst Marshal Cohen said. "Consumers may have just spent themselves out until the next paycheck, so look for retailers to use more sales and specials to entice the consumer to keep shopping."
San Francisco's ModCloth plans to extend free shipping for the rest of the holiday season, along with "a lot of promotions clear through New Year's Eve," Glover said.
"We sell a lot of dresses for New Year's," she said. "We want to be a part of customers' celebrations during the holiday season."