U.S. stores hope “Mega Monday” led to brisk sales

(Reuters) – Shoppers found a mixed bag of bargains and so-so deals on Monday, as a day off for many Americans lured some out for what was likely to be the third-busiest shopping day of the holiday season.

Chains were also hoping that shoppers coming in to redeem the millions of gift cards given as presents might be willing to spend a bit more cash of their own.

Many retailers were still relying on bargains to entice shoppers on the day after Christmas.

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In 2010, chains rang up about $62 billion in sales during the final week of the year, about 12 percent of the total for the holiday season, despite some major snowstorms.

“This year we’ll blow through that, with about $72 billion in sales for this retail ‘second season,'” said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners.

Retailers could sell as much as $29 billion worth of merchandise on Monday alone, eclipsing the $27 billion in sales on Black Friday, Johnson said on Monday morning, as he saw parking lots at suburban malls and outlet malls filling up.

Some areas such as Chicago’s Michigan Avenue had smaller morning crowds than on the busy day after Thanksgiving.

Internet offers were popular, especially on Christmas, when most stores were closed. Target Corp, for example, offered $10 off online orders of $50 or more on Christmas.

Online sales on Christmas Day rose 16.4 percent from 2010, and were up 10 percent as of 3 p.m. EST on December 26, according to IBM.

The National Retail Federation expects holiday season sales to rise 3.8 percent to a record $469.1 billion, slower than last year’s growth but stronger than its preseason forecast.

The potential shopping boom comes as a weak labor market that has dragged on the economy shows signs of a turn. The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits hit a 3-1/2-year low in the week shortly before Christmas, and consumer sentiment scaled a six-month high in December, with more Americans optimistic about the economic outlook.

Still, U.S. consumer spending, which accounts for about two-third of U.S. economic activity, rose less than expected in November.

This year marked the first time in six years that the day after Christmas fell on a Monday. Some dubbed it “Mega Monday” as the day takes on more prominence for shoppers, especially those who have the day off.

Read More: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/26/us-usa-retail-megamonday-idUSTRE7BP0HC20111226