Video: Retailers gear up for Cyber Monday

msnbc.com news services
updated 11/28/2011 8:02:17 AM ET 2011-11-28T13:02:17

Cyber Monday. Green Tuesday. Black Friday. Magenta Saturday.

Chances are you won't find any of these holidays on your calendar. Yet retailers are coming up with names for just about every day of the week during the holiday shopping season.

During T-Mobile's "Magenta Saturday," the event named for the company's pinkish-purple logo earlier this month offered shoppers the chance to buy cellphones and some tablets on a layaway plan. Mattel lured customers in with discounts of 60 percent off toys for girls and boys on "Pink Friday and "Blue Friday." And outdoor retailer Gander Mountain is giving shoppers deals on camouflage and other gear every Thursday through December during "Camo Thursdays."

"There are hundreds of promotions going on this time of year," says Steve Uline, head of marketing for Gander. "We needed to do something a little bit different."

Story: Online sales surge 26 percent on Black Friday

It's difficult to get Americans to spend money when many are struggling with job losses, underwater mortgages or dwindling retirement savings. But merchants are hoping some creative marketing will generate excitement among shoppers during the last two months of the year, a time when many of them make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue. And they know that a catchy name can make a huge difference.

"The more special you make it sound, the more you might be able to get people," says Alan Adamson, a managing director at brand consulting firm Landor Associates. "It's tricky to come up with something simple and sticky."

Retailers have done it before.

"Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving, in the 1960s became known as the point when merchants turn a profit or operate "in the black." Later, retailers began marketing it as the start of the holiday shopping season with earlier store hours and deep discounts of up to 70 percent off.

Black Friday shoppers get bargains, less brouhaha

It's since become the busiest shopping day of the year. This past weekend, "Black Friday" sales were $11.4 billion, up 7 percent, or nearly $1 billion from the same day last year, according to a report by ShopperTrak, which gathers data from 25,000 outlets across the country. It was the largest amount ever spent on that day.

U.S. retailers racked up a record $52.4 billion in sales over the Thanksgiving weekend, a 16.4 percent jump from a year ago, the National Retail Federation said Sunday. It also forecast a 2.8 percent increase in sales for the November-to-December holiday season, down from the 5.2 percent increase in the same period last year.

'Victim of its own success'
But "Black Friday" has been a blessing and a curse: In recent years, it's become so popular that it's known for its big crowds, long lines, and even disorder and violence among some shoppers.

"Black Friday has become a victim of its own success," says Adamson, the branding expert. "It has been successful to the point where it has created the opportunity that if you don't want to deal with the madness, come out on Tuesday or some other day."

Video: Black Friday marred by violence (on this page)

"Cyber Monday" was coined in 2005 when a retail trade group noticed a spike in online sales on the Monday after Thanksgiving when people returned to their work computers and shopped. While more people now have Internet access at home, retailers still offer discounts and other online promotions for the day started by Shop.org, part of The National Retail Federation.

Image: A woman looks at Cyber Monday sales on her computer
Paul Sakuma  /  AP, file
Retailers are coming up with names for just about every day of the week during the holiday shopping season, going far beyond the recent addition of Cyber Monday to the retail calendar.

The day has grown increasingly popular. Last year, it was the busiest online shopping day ever, with sales of more than $1 billion, according to research firm ComScore Inc.

During this week's "Cyber Monday," the NRF says nearly 80 percent of retailers plan to offer special promotions. And a record 122.9 million of Americans are expected to shop on the day, up from 106.9 million who shopped on "Cyber Monday" last year, according to a survey conducted for Shop.org.

Video: Holiday shopping breaks records (on this page)

Marketers are hoping to strike gold again. Many are doing so by appealing to Americans who've become disenchanted with big business and commercialism.

Nonprofit Green America is launching "Green Tuesday" this week to encourage people to buy gifts with the environment and local communities in mind. The group is planning to push the event every Tuesday through December.

Green America, which says it aims to support society and the environment through economic programs, plans to showcase deals on its website, including jewelry made from recycled nuclear bomb equipment from online retailer Fromwartopeace.com and a self-watering system for plants by Dri Water.

Story: Black Friday weekend 2011 sees record turnout

"Mass culture encourages people to run out of their house, now at midnight, and go shopping," says Todd Larsen, director of corporate responsibility for Green America, which vetted the businesses it's highlighting on its website to ensure they meet certain environmental and ethical standards. "Why not wait another day or more and buy something that helps others?"

Last year, American Express named the Saturday after Thanksgiving "Small Business Saturday" to encourage Americans to shop at mom-and-pop shops. This year, it offered a $25 credit to cardholders who register on social media website Facebook and shop at participating stores.

The company launched a campaign to promote the day — including TV ads and marketing materials for small businesses to display in stores.

The effort has worked. Small retailers that accept Amex had a 28 percent increase in revenue during the daylong event last year, compared with a 9 percent rise for all retailers, according to card activity measured by American Express. The company did not disclose the dollar amount spent that day.

Crazed weekend launches crucial retail season

It's not clear yet how small businesses fared during the event this past Saturday, but a company survey before "Small Business Saturday" showed that 89 million consumers had planned to "shop small" on the day.

"People get it; they are behind it 100 percent," says Yabette Alfaro, owner of Swankity Swank, a San Francisco home furnishings and accessories shop that participates in "Small Business Saturday." "Our customers don't want to participate in Black Friday. Most of them think anyone making a stand is great."

Lizbeth Turq, a 26-year old in Deerfield, Ill., this past weekend shopped at several local shops during "Small Business Saturday." She ended up buying some gifts for the holidays, including one for her mother at a home décor store. Most of the items she found were 20 percent off, she says.

"It's really not an issue of having a sale or not," Turq says, "It's an issue of supporting the community I live in and creating jobs, particularly in the economy we are in."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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