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The Brief History of Cyber Monday, Explained

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With the Thanksgiving holiday weekend over, Black Friday shoppers might have finally been able to get back to their regular duties if it weren’t for Cyber Monday. But today, the online shopping extravaganza is bigger and more profitable than ever.

Retailers from Macy’s (M - Free Report) to Walmart (WMT - Free Report) count on Black Friday sales to help both fuel and kick off their holiday season sales. Yet, in the changing retail environment, the rise of “Cyber Monday” might merit more attention (also read: A Complete History of 'Black Friday').

A Brief History

The National Retail Federation, which is one of the world's largest retail trade associations and tracks retail consumer spending, began to notice a massive uptick in online consumer spending the Monday following Thanksgiving. Back then, many consumers did not have the best high-speed internet access at home, and therefore often waited until they got to work on Monday to start searching for holiday gifts and deals online.

The NRF officially coined the phrase in November 2005, via a press release entitled “‘Cyber Monday’ Quickly Becoming One of the Biggest Online Shopping Days of the Year.”

In fact, according to a Fast Company article, the origin of the phrase can be attributed to Ellen Davis, who is now the SVP of Research and Strategic Initiatives at the NRF. “It’s surreal to think that I’m associated with a term that has taken off like this,” Davis told the publication in 2015.

The release noted, “77 percent of online retailers said that their sales increased substantially on the Monday after Thanksgiving, a trend that is driving serious online discounts and promotions on Cyber Monday this year [2005].”

Cyber Monday caught on relatively quickly, as The New York Times and Wall Street Journal referenced the catchphrase in association with the online shopping sales day as early as December 2005.

Soon after, retail giants, online shopping powers, and media outlets co-opted the phrase that is now one of the biggest online shopping days of the year.

2017 Iteration

This year’s Cyber Monday is reportedly shaping up to be the biggest and most successful day of online deals in the decade-plus of its existence. Total online spending on Cyber Monday is set to topple $6.5 billion in 2017, according to Adobe Insights—which tracks online spending at America's 100 largest retail websites.

If that $6.5 billion figure is reached—which would mark a 16% year-over-year increase—Cyber Monday 2017 would become the biggest digital shopping day in U.S. history.

Preliminary Thanksgiving and Black Friday Sales

Online Black Friday sales reportedly jumped almost 17% this year to hit $5 billion. Paired with online sales from Thanksgiving Day, which now features a plethora of deals as well, the first two major days of the U.S. holiday shopping season brought in $7.9 billion in digital sales alone.

This should help retailers reach the total of roughly $678.75 billion to $682 billion that the NRF projects consumers will spend both in stores and online this year, which would mark a roughly 4% increase from 2016’s November through December holiday shopping season (also read: A Guide to 2017's Black Friday and Holiday Shopping Trends).


Shares of Macy’s, Nordstrom (JWN - Free Report) , and Kohl’s (KSS - Free Report) all rose on Monday. Shares of fellow retailer players Dillard’s (DDS - Free Report) and JC Penney surged 4.70% and 3.40%, respectively.

Retail sector ETFs also experienced gains. The SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT - Free Report) and the Direxion Daily Retail Bull 3x Shares ETF (RETL - Free Report) both experienced gains. Online selling powerhouse Amazon (AMZN - Free Report) saw its stock price climb nearly 1%.

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