Jamaican online retailers report strong sales

Thanksgiving taking Jamaican Christmas shoppers?

BY JULIAN RICHARDSON Assistant business co-ordinator richardsonj@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

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JAMAICAN online retailers are reporting that year-on-year sales increased by as much as 40 per cent over the US Thanksgiving holiday weekend, with computers and clothing the most popular items among local residents shopping for steep discounts overseas.

'Black Friday', the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, and 'Cyber Monday', a term coined in 2005 by a shopping trade group that noticed people were doing a lot of shopping on their work computers on the Monday following Thanksgiving, were as usual the biggest days for business over the period, said retailers.

"We saw a tremendous boost on 'Black Friday' and 'Cyber Monday'," said Stephen Laing, managing director of Tara Courier Services, which a few years ago made a strategic move to diversify its operations into providing online shopping services.

Laing's "guesstimate" is that Tara handled about 40 per cent more purchase orders than last Thanksgiving holiday weekend. He said there was a "tremendous demand" for clothes and computers.

"We have gotten more clients since then and I think people are getting to understand more and more the deals that are available for those days. I would imagine, as the years go by, that sales are going to increase," he said.

It's estimated that shoppers hit stores and websites at record levels over the weekend. According to research firm comScore, which tracks online spending, online sales rose 26 per cent to US$1.04 billion on Black Friday compared with a year ago, reported The Associated Press. It was the first time online sales on Black Friday surpassed US$1 billion. On Thanksgiving, online sales rose 32 per cent from last year to US$633 million.

What's more is that Cyber Monday was expected to be the biggest online shopping day in history, with shoppers expected to spend US$1.5 billion on the day, up 20 per cent from last year, according to comScore.

Khary Robinson, owner of MailPac Services, the biggest online shopping company in Jamaica, was upbeat about his firm's performance after an early assessment on Monday.

"I can't speak on 'Cyber Monday' yet, but I am actually in Miami at our warehouse and we are up over 115 per cent over the Monday after thanksgiving in 2011," said Robinson, adding that the warehouse that that the company shares with a few other dealers saw over 18,000 packages come in on Monday alone.

Industry experts say the booming online retail trade is an indication that consumers are becoming addicted to the convenience of the Web, catalysed by the growth in smartphones and tablet computers.

Shoppers can buy what they want, whenever they want, wherever they want. As a result, retailers have ramped up the deals they're offering on their websites during the holiday shopping season, reports the AP.

Indeed, one Jamaican consumer bought a computer worth around US$800 for US$250 from the comfort of his home more than a thousand miles away from the US. The customer was one of the many clients of Kingston-based online shopping provider Quickmail Services who capitalised on huge discounts. Kaydene Thomas, online customer service agent at Quickmail, gave a "conserva-tive" estimate that the company did about 10 per cent better than last year in terms of sales over the period.

"People were more aware this time around, so we had a much bigger inflow on Black Friday," said Thomas, who also said that clothing and computers were the most sought after items.

A worrying sign for local brick-and-mortar retailers, but a positive for online outfits, is a developing trend of Jamaican consumers doing their 'Christmas Shopping' online over the US Thanksgiving holiday period. It's a reality of the times, said Laing.

"They definitely are because the economy is so tight," he said. "They are looking for ways that are economical."





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