Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) and EBay Inc. (EBAY), aiming to get more consumers to shop online this holiday season, are taking their fight to brick-and-mortar retailers’ home turf on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year.
EBay is planning holiday “pop-up” locations in New York, San Francisco and London that will let consumers scan a barcode and buy products on the spot, using mobile phones. Amazon opened an online Black Friday deals store on Nov. 1. It’s packing the site with offers each day to keep shoppers checking in over the Web, instead of heading to the mall.
Internet sellers aim to spur more buying from couches and armchairs among the more than 95 percent of U.S. consumers who still shop in stores, ratcheting up rivalry with traditional retailers as economic weakness weighs on spending growth. EBay’s outdoor displays and shopping cafes, for example, seek to catch the eye of shoppers who are hurrying in and out of stores, offering an alternative to post-Thanksgiving crowds and lines.
“If people have a finite amount of discretionary dollars to lock up before Black Friday, it suits these retailers well,” said Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. (FORR) “Web retailers are better-positioned than store retailers. They in many cases can have better offers because their economics are more favorable.”
Internet Retailers Gain
Amazon and EBay shares have gained this year as more consumers use tablets such as Apple Inc.’s iPad to shop and look for deals they can’t get at physical locations, which incur more overhead. Amazon’s stock price has risen 6.9 percent in 2011 and EBay has increased 4.3 percent, while Best Buy Co. (BBY) has declined 24 percent.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), Target Corp. (TGT) and other retailers are also pouring on the discounts, some opening earlier than ever on the day after Thanksgiving. They’re eager to win over the 49 percent of consumers who last year chose to shop less in physical retail locations and more online as they looked for cheaper items, Mulpuru said. That trend will probably continue, she said.
“This is everyone trying to clamor for what’s going to be a difficult holiday season,” she said.
EBay’s London pop-up store, open from Dec. 1 to Dec. 5, will feature physical products -- examples of what’s available online -- with so-called QR codes consumers can scan with mobile devices to buy through EBay’s marketplace, the world’s largest. In New York and San Francisco, the company is letting consumers buy items online through storefronts that feature digital screens with scannable price tags. The displays also let users simultaneously make a donation to the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, an organization that gives toys to kids in need.
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