November 30, 2011, 3:12 PM

Will the holiday frenzy last?

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the books, some web merchants wonder what's next.

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While e-retailers say that holiday weekend sales met or exceeded their expectations, and that mobile played a bigger part in shopping this year, some question whether e-retail sales will subside once the fervor of discounts and media hype about holiday shopping cools down.

Data e-retailers provided Internet Retailer show that traffic and sales, particularly on the day after Thanksgiving that is commonly called Black Friday, increased significantly over last year, a sign that consumers are increasingly incorporating the web into what has traditionally been a big day for store retailers. Store sales for the week ending Nov. 26 increased 4.0% year over year and 1.7% from the week prior, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs Weekly Chain Store Sales Index. The index tracks the performance of 40 retail chain stores.

Meanwhile, sales for e-retailers increased 26% year over year on Black Friday and were up 21% on Monday, according to comScore, which tracks online sales.

“What’s different this year is the growing importance of Black Friday to online retail,” says Eoin Comerford, senior vice president of marketing and technology at outdoor apparel and gear retailer Moosejaw Mountaineering. “Consumers are learning that, unless you’re one of the lucky few to get one of the five $2 waffle makers per store, you can get comparable deals from the comfort of your couch.”

Comerford says Moosejaw.com, No. 281 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide, experienced healthy growth last week and that growth was especially concentrated on Friday and Monday, also referred to as Cyber Monday and a day when e-retailers often offer money-saving promotions or discounts.

Black Friday online sales for Pacific Sunwear of California, No. 255 in the Top 500 Guide, were up 50% from a year ago, says Tim Katz, senior online operations manager for PacSun.com. Sales on Monday were up 42% from a year ago. He says 14% of site traffic on Black Friday came from mobile devices, and 80% of that mobile traffic came from tablet computers like the iPad. In the early hours of Black Friday, mobile devices accounted for 23% of traffic, he says.

Black Friday sales were up 19% year over year for specialty retailer eBags.com, making it the third-largest day for sales in the retailer’s history, following Cyber Monday this year and last year. Sales on Cyber Monday this year were up 49% from last year. Co-founder Peter Cobb says more sales are coming earlier in the holiday season. Tracked from the Sunday before Thanksgiving through yesterday, eBags.com’s sales increased 30% year over year. He says 7.9% of sales came from mobile devices, up from 3.9% last year. The majority of mobile sales for eBags.com came from tablets (82%). EBags.com is No. 114 in the Top 500 Guide.    

Sales from Thanksgiving Day through Monday were up 29% for FatBrainToys.com, says Mark Carson, CEO of the specialty toy e-retailer that is No. 445 in the Top 500 Guide. He says he’s pleased with the holiday performance but wonders how the rest of the season will play out once the hype surrounding Black Friday and Cyber Monday dies down. “The hard part is looking into the crystal ball and predicting what will hold true through the remainder of the season,” he says. “My sense is that it will be good overall, but with the continued hyping of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I think we are seeking peak sales earlier in the season than what I was accustomed to seeing five years ago.”

Carson says FatBrainToys.com saw a five-fold increase in traffic from mobile devices over the holiday weekend. While he declined to reveal how much of the weekend sales came from mobile devices, Carson says 68% of mobile users that did make a purchase did so from a tablet computer.

At baking and ingredient supply e-retailer KingArthurFlour.com, No. 451 in the Top 500 Guide, mobile traffic also increased 500% from the holiday weekend last year, says Halley Silver, director of e-commerce. Mobile accounted for 18% of site traffic from Friday until Monday and for 7% of total weekend sales.

For the five days from Thanksgiving through Monday, shoppers spent $3.577 billion online, up 20.5% from $2.969 billion during the comparable holiday period last year, comScore says. Analyzing the early sales numbers, comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni says it’ll be important to watch whether early promotions and price cuts have a negative impact on retailers’ margins during the remainder of the sales season.

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