Twas the night before Cyber Monday and all through the 'net, hardly a new special was posted - did the e-tailers forget?
Five years ago Cyber Monday didn't exist. In 2005 when the National Retail Federation was first credited for dubbing the Monday after Thanksgiving as "Cyber Monday," the day really wasn't a record-breaking online shopping day at all. So, why all the fuss? Well, since the U.S. retail industry had long since taken possession of every major and minor national holiday in America, it needed a fresh way to trigger the buying impulse. What better way to do that than with a fabricated retail event of its own creation? With the appropriate amount of media hype, any day can be turned into a consuming phenonmenon, right?
The theory worked for the first three years of the make-believe online shopping day of deals. Retailers were willing to play along, and created Black Friday-type one-day only online specials to give Cyber Monday some substance and credibility. Why not?
Well, there's at least one big "why not" for Cyber Monday specials this year - the newfound American frugality. The drastic changes in consuming, or the fear of them, have launched an aggressive national game of Retail Stratego, along with the prevailing retail tactic of pre-emptive strikes. Most retailers aren't focusing on big one-day only Cyber Monday sales, because if they did, they would risk losing their share of this year's diminished holiday shopping budgets.
So instead of Cyber Monday, this year we really had "Black Weekend," which started for many major retailers on Thanksgiving Day and will extend through at least Monday, if not beyond. The deals that most online shoppers will see on Cyber Monday 2009 are the same deals that could have been seen running on e-commerce websites all weekend. That's good news for those who have been filling their virtual shoppng carts already. It's not such great news for those who want to have a semi-legitimate excuse for shopping on the job on Cyber Monday.
Even though retailers are not wholeheartedly honoring the sanctity of the day itself, there are still some efforts being made to make the day worth the hype. Retailers who are running specific one-day only Cyber Monday specials include:
- Amazon (AMZN)
- Dell (DELL)
CyberMonday deals were advertised to go live at 12:01 a.m.
Notice of Cyber Monday only specials was tweeted from their Twitter account, along with a link to a sneak preview page. Like Daddy Sears there was no mention of a start time, which probably means a midnight switchover.
- Overstock.com (OSTK)
There were 89 specials dubbed "Cyber Monday," although they were also available for purchase on Sunday.
- Sears (SHLD)
Cyber Monday specials appeared on their home page at 9:00 p.m. on Sunday night, but weren't live immediately. Presumably, they will start at 12:01 a.m., although no start time was specifically stated.
- Toys 'R Us
There are more than 200 specials designated as "Cyber Monday Only," although they were available for purchase on Sunday.
A designated page lists "Cyber Monday" deals, but they were available on Sunday, and some of them will be sold out before Monday begins. For these and other "lightning specials" that Amazon is running this holiday season, there is a nifty little HSN-type timer that shows how long the deal will be available, and how much of the inventory is left. It's a gimmick, but it's fun.
That's Cyber Monday? Really? This is not the sum total of the deals to be had, but it pretty much sums up the only new deals that will be added to the end of a weekend of deals.
Free shipping was hyped as the universal offer for Cyber Monday. While there are plenty of shipping deals to be had, most of the "free" shipping comes with conditions. There are a few sites, however, that are offering completely free shipping with any purchase on Cyber Monday only:
Bealls - free shipping, with no minimum order through Monday with code SHOP
Bedford Fair Lifestyles - Free shipping on any order with coupon code 142602
Books A Million (BAMM) - Free shipping any order with code BKLVFREE
- Cheryl & Co. - A Special Cookies & Baked Goods "Free Shipping Collection"
Karmaloop - Free Shipping with coupon code GODEEP
- Manhattanite - Free shipping on any order with coupon code FreeShip09
- National Pet Pharmacy - Free shipping on any product in the Flea and Tick department (This is not really a Cyber Monday special, but the fact that it was included on the list made me laugh out loud.)
- Speedo - Free shipping on any order with coupon code NWARL
- Waterford - Free shipping and free gift wrap with coupon code BLACKFRIDAY
That's the whole Cyber Monday free shipping list? Really? It's much shorter than the list of websites with completely free shipping every day.
Undoubtedly there will be more deals and more shipping freebies available on Cyber Monday than are listed here. It's just a matter of finding them, which is never a small task with bojillions of online retailers to choose from. The search is doubly difficult this year because it's hard to tell where one promotion ends and another one begins.
Serious Cyber Monday shoppers will just have to click through their favorite sites to see what pops up. That is about as much fun as sifting through the dressing room reject racks looking for something in your size to try on. To shopping addicts this is recreation. To sane people, the Cyber Monday virtual scavenger hunt this year will be much more exhaustng than fighting the mall mob was on Black Friday. It may even be frustrating enough to make you want to get some work done in your workday.
One last note about Black Weekend... My 2009 Black Friday prediction last week was that the day itself would be ridiculously busy until all the best deals were gone because unemployment is high and consumers are broke. I'm still not sure if that prediction was accurate or not. It's not that there was a lack of data or conclusion-drawing provided after Black Friday, it's just that I was in Orlando, and it was nearly impossible to get any news that didn't contain a reference to Tiger Woods.
The mystery about where the world's most recognizable sports figure was going at 2:30 a.m. on Black Friday, by the way, is not really such a mystery to those of us who spend time in Orlando. There aren't that many late-night destinations in the land of Mickey Mouse, so the answer seems pretty clear.
The Old Navy stores were scheduled to open at 3:00 a.m., so this was an obvious destination for Tiger. It makes sense, if you think about it. Nothing says "I'm sorry for my tabloid love affair Down Under" like Old Navy performance fleece and LEGO RockBand gift-with-purchase software. Unfortunately, though, Tiger didn't make it all the way to the Old Navy Black Friday sale. This is one of those cases when shopping online clearly would have been the better choice.