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Cyber Monday could be crucial this year

At Bambeco's Baltimore warehouse, workers have been stocking wool throw blankets, soy candles, hemp dog beds and other items since July for Cyber Monday, the biggest day of the year for the online eco-friendly retailer.

"This is, we like to say, our Super Bowl," said Susan Aplin, the company's co-founder and CEO.

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Sales on Cyber Monday, the year's busiest online shopping day, have grown rapidly each year as more people embrace online shopping, with some analysts predicting double-digit sales growth again this year. After a lackluster Black Friday weekend — spending from Thanksgiving through Sunday fell 11 percent compared with last year, according to the National Retail Federation — some big retailers were under more pressure to have a sales blowout.

Just as Black Friday has morphed into a two-day event with the addition of shopping deals on Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday now stretches into an extended affair. Some are dubbing it "Cyber Week."

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Online retailer Amazon.com started adding deals in early November. It began Cyber Monday promotions on Saturday and will continue them for eight days, with a new offer added every 10 minutes. Amazon offered exclusive deals through its mobile app for the first time this year.

Walmart also kicked off its online deals on Saturday and will continue them until Friday, with offers of up to 50 percent off televisions, toys and tablets and free shipping. Target also is doing a "Cyber Week" with buy one, get one deals, 60 percent off for clothing, shoes and accessories, and 40 percent off home items.

For those who can't be caught shopping online while at work, some retailers, like Walmart, offered deals starting in the evening. Walmart estimated that nearly one in five shoppers don't plan to shop online on Cyber Monday until after work.

For smaller retailers like Bambeco, Monday was the big day, with 35 percent off everything on the site. Aplin said the Black Friday deal was for 30 percent off everything on the site.

"Already today we've shipped out hundreds of orders," Aplin said early Monday afternoon. She estimated sales were up four-fold from the year before by mid-day.

Other local deals included 25 percent off hoodies on Under Armour's website, discounts on Baltimore Orioles and Baltimore Ravens gear through the league-branded websites, and surcharge-free tickets at Baltimore music venue Rams Head Live.

The National Retail Federation coined the term "Cyber Monday" in 2005 to encourage office workers to continue their shopping online. In 2010, it became the biggest online shopping day of the year.

This year, computer software company Adobe predicts Cyber Monday will continue to be the largest online sales day of the year, with $2.6 billion in purchases and a 15 percent growth in sales. About 20 percent of online sales would be made through mobile devices on Cyber Monday, according to Adobe, which analyzes data from 4,500 websites.

Last year, Cyber Monday sales grew more than 20 percent over the year before, according to IBM Corp., which analyzes activity on more than 800 client retail sites. Much of that growth was driven by mobile devices, which accounted for 17 percent of sales.

Black Friday also continues to grow as an online shopping day. U.S. online sales rose 32 percent to $766 million on Thanksgiving and 26 percent to $1.2 billion on Black Friday, according to retail analytics firm comScore.

But a decrease in the volume of weekend shoppers means Cyber Monday or Cyber Week deals could be crucial for retailers this year.

The number of individuals who shopped in stores or online from Thanksgiving Day through Sunday fell 5.2 percent, leading to an 11 percent decrease in total spending, according to the National Retail Federation. The number of people shopping in brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday fell 14 percent, though the amount spent by shoppers rose about 2 percent, according to RetailNext, an analytics firm.

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At South Moon Under, the clothing retailer that started in Ocean City, it's difficult to say whether Cyber Monday or Black Friday is more important, said Gage Lester, the company's vice president of sales and marketing. South Moon Under was offering 20 percent off everything on the site on Cyber Monday.

"They're both gigantic days," he said. "You have to do well in both fronts."

Some companies that aren't selling clothes or holiday gifts sought to get in on the action, too. Baltimore Social, which manages social leagues for sports including kickball and bocce around the city, sent an email to its 25,000-person mailing list on Cyber Monday, offering discounts to sign up for winter soccer and football leagues.

"People may not be thinking about signing up for our leagues every day, every year, so it's a friendly reminder for people," said Giovanni Marcantoni, president of Social Leagues Inc. "I guess people are looking to spend, so we're looking to give them options."

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