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Flat sales plumped on Cyber Monday

| Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Cyber Monday shopping should help many retailers offset Thanksgiving weekend sales that fell flat.

Retailers' push, including early store openings on Thanksgiving, Black Friday and the long shopping weekend, failed to deliver higher sales. A National Retail Federation survey said shoppers spent $57.4 billion from Thanksgiving through Sunday, a 2.9 percent decrease from a year earlier and the first decline in holiday gift spending over Black Friday weekend since 2009.

But online shopping, including activity on Cyber Monday, should help retailers register somewhat higher sales over the entire holiday season. Generally, online sales account for about 10 percent of total spending.

E-commerce activity at PayPal, a global Internet payment system, is a good indication. PayPal said that by midafternoon it processed slightly more than double the volume of mobile payments made all day on Cyber Monday 2012.

Cyber Monday sales were expected to rise significantly, according to comScore Inc. The research firm projected sales would reach $2 billion, compared with $1.47 billion on Cyber Monday 2012.

The Retail Federation said more than 131 million people would shop online on Cyber Monday, which is 2 percent more than a year earlier, and nearly matching the 141 million total shoppers who hit stores during the four-day weekend.

It's the convenience of shopping on the Internet versus the frustrations of driving and parking to visit physical stores, said Jon Prince, president of wholesaler McKeesport Candy Co. and its CandyFavorites.com business unit, an online retailer of candy.

“People can't justify spending on five gallons of gasoline to visit the mall when they can stay home and just click and order online,” said Prince, who owns the local candy company.

“A ton of orders came in today,” Prince said of CandyFavorites.com's sales volume on Monday. Sales from Friday through mid-day Monday had put the company ahead of year-ago volumes for the Friday-through-Monday period, he said.

Between brick-and-mortar store sales and online sales, November-December holiday retail sales are projected to increase 3.9 percent this year to $602 billion from $579 billion the year earlier, said the Retail Federation. That compares with a 3.5 percent rise in 2012 and a 10-year average annual increase of 3.3 percent

A number of local merchants, however, reported solid store sales over the weekend.

For instance, Heinz Healey's did very well, especially compared to last year, said Chaz Schaldenbrand, owner of the Downtown men's apparel shop.

“Business was excellent. We were probably up 40 percent over last year,” he said. “This is a good barometer.”

Allen Difrischia, manager of Playthings Etc. in Clay, Butler County, said sales at his toy store were 10 percent higher on Black Friday than a year earlier, which helped push November sales 9 percent over last year.

Shopping traffic was so brisk over the weekend, Difrischia said, the store was out of many items on Monday and he was scrambling to restock.

“It's great,” he said. “It really caught me by surprise.”

The Associated Press, Bloomberg and Trib Total Media staff writer Alex Nixon contributed to this report. Thomas Olson is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at 412-320-7854 or tolson@tribweb.com.

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