Cyber Monday

The latest buzzword for holiday shopping is Cyber Monday. In 2005, online retailers created the reference for the Monday after Thanksgiving. The Web merchants figured that this day would see a substantial sales bump since a majority of online shoppers make their purchases at work. Following an intense marketing effort to get Cyber Monday into the mainstream lexicon (and thus drive customers online), sales figures revealed that the day generally doesn't rank in the top 10 busiest online shopping days.

The Black Friday Myth

­Y­ou can always expect to deal with jam-packed stores, long lines and frenzied shoppers in search of Black Friday deals. And as far as the number of bodies that walk in and out of stores, Black Friday hauls them in. That heavy Black Friday foot traffic translates to high dollar profits, accounting for 4.5 to 5 percent of all holiday sales [source: Credeur and Riddell]. In 2007, retail sales on Black Friday and Saturday netted $16.4 billion [source: ShopperTrak].

That's an undeniably large number. But it isn't the largest of the season. In fact, Black Friday isn't the busiest shopping day of the year normally, despite what popular opinion holds [source: National Retail Federation]. Instead, the holiday shopping procrastinators win out: The highest sales day of the year usually strikes the Saturday before Christmas [source: International Council of Shopping Centers].

How is that possible if shoppers line up in front of stores at the crack of dawn on Black Friday? Customer volume goes through the roof, but sales don't follow in suit. The National Retail Federation predicts that consumers will spend an average of $832.36 on holiday shopping in 2008. In 2007, Black Friday bargain hunters spent an average of $347, which is far below that projected average and may help explain why Black Friday isn't the biggest retail sales day [source: Tanenbaum and Tate].

Surveys have also shown that despite the steady streams of people flowing into stores on Black Friday, not all of them drive home with trunks full of holiday presents. For instance, one study conducted by researchers at Indiana University found a consistently low rate of purchase among Black Friday shoppers [source: Krafft and Mantrala]. A higher percentage of those shoppers bought items the following day. Internet shopping and early previews of Black Friday sales leaked online may also trim the amount of transactions that day as people have more options for tracking down the best bang for their holiday buck.

If lining up at 4 a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving isn't your style, you certainly aren't alone. But if you think that waiting until a couple days before Christmas to do your shopping will help you avoid the swarming masses, think again.