November 26, 2008, 12:00 AM

Shoppers use the term Black Friday online, but mainly to find store deals

Black is back this year and its use by online consumers in connection with the day after Thanksgiving is growing, says web measurement firm Hitwise. But that doesn’t necessarily mean increased sales for e-retailers.

Black is back this year and its use by online consumers in connection with the day after Thanksgiving is growing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean increased sales for e-retailers, web measurement firm Hitwise says.

The term Black Friday-synonymous with the day after Thanksgiving-is evolving from a retailing insider phrase to one commonly understood by online consumers, says Heather Dougherty, director of research for Hitwise. Traffic to web sites dedicated to promoting Black Friday sales, such as Bfads.com and BlackFriday.info was up 58% last week, after growing 48% during the week before Thanksgiving last year, says Dougherty. However, 36% of shoppers leaving such sites next visit the web sites of retailers that Hitwise says mainly sell in stores. “These deal sites mainly cater to the brick-and mortar channels,” she says.

The top retail web sites visited by consumers coming from Black Friday sites were Walmart.com, Sears.com and CircuitCity.com, Hitwise reports.

But that doesn’t mean e-retailers should stop using the term in their online promotions. Hitwise found 1,700 variations of the term “Black Friday” entered in search engines in the week before Thanksgiving week, up 47% over pre-Thanksgiving week last year. And, more consumers are combining the terms with retailer names, entering such phrases as “Black Friday Wal-Mart,” she adds. In 2006, 40% of searches containing the phrase Black Friday included retailer names; last year that figure rose to 51% she says. Data for this year is not yet available. While traffic to retail web sites overall is flat compared to the week before Thanksgiving last year, according to Hitwise, the news is not all doom and gloom for e-retailers. Most online consumers still plan to do at least some shopping on the web during the holidays and more plan to turn to the internet for the majority of their holiday purchases, according to a new survey from comparison shopping engine PriceGrabber.com.

The PriceGrabber poll of 2,641 online consumers found 97% plan to shop on the web for holiday gifts this year and 55% plan to do more than half their holiday shopping online, up 10% from last year. 37% surveyed say online shopping appeals to them because it makes it easier to compare products and find the lowest price, and 24% percent say they like being able to shop anytime and anywhere.

Online consumers also are being more cautious about how they spend their dollars. 37.6% of shoppers in the PriceGrabber study say they will use comparison shopping web sites to find the best deals and 61.2% say they are making a concerted effort to cut back on spending this year.

For those e-retailers still gearing up for the holiday rush, they have until exactly 10:25 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 28, to brace for the masses. That’s the minute payment card issuer and processor Retail Decisions predicts will be the busiest of the for online holiday shopping season. The busiest hour will occur from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. that day. Runner-up will be the Monday after Thanksgiving, between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., Retail Decisions says.

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