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Cyber Monday: Small businesses jump on bandwagon to boost sales in north country

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On Cyber Monday morning, Massey’s Furniture Barn in Watertown received an unexpected phone call from a Fort Drum soldier serving overseas in Afghanistan.

The soldier was interested in an online special: the purchase of a five-piece furniture set would net her a free queen-sized Serta memory foam mattress, which was valued at $648. The promotional code on the website, “CYBER13,” was given over the phone, making her eligible for the deal. (The soldier wasn’t identified.)

“We told her we could hold the furniture for her until she’s ready to pick it up,” said owner Shawn E. Massey, who launched the Cyber Monday sale Monday for the first time at his Arsenal Street store. Customers “can make the purchase on the website or over the phone, as long as they mention the code. I’m hoping to create some business on a needy day that I usually miss out on after Black Friday weekend.”

Although big-box retailers traditionally are associated with Cyber Monday, more small businesses are offering cyber specials. This year the National Retail Federation projected that 131 million people would shop online on Cyber Monday, an increase of about 2 percent from last year. Sales were expected to reach nearly $2 billion, up from $1.47 billion last year. About 81 percent of retailers planned to offer online specials.

Early results released at noon Monday showed online shopping was up 21.4 percent compared with the same time last year, according to IBM Benchmark, a marketing software program. Mobile traffic, which includes smartphones and tablets, accounted for 31 percent of all online traffic.

At Massey’s Furniture Barn on Monday morning, Mr. Massey said he was optimistic that a few customers would make online purchases to redeem the trendy 8-inch memory foam mattress. The deal was available to customers who bought a sofa-loveseat combination or a five-piece furniture set.

“We’re testing it out to see how we do,” he said, adding that the sale likely will be expanded next year. “If I can get one or two people to make purchases, then it’s worth it.”

By 6:30 p.m., the store confirmed it had one sale.

Another Watertown business that decided to offer Cyber Monday sales was the Spicy Wench, which sells pepper jellies, fruit jams and spices. By Monday afternoon, four customers had checked out the “buy one, get one half-off” sale available at www.thespicywench.com, according to Christine E. Hoffman, who started the business in 2011.

“I’ve had a few more sales today than I had over the weekend with the (Cyber Monday) sale going on,” Mrs. Hoffman said. “I think more small businesses that already sell things online are going to be drawn to Cyber Monday, because they know it’s a trend for consumer spending. It’s almost kind of an equalizer, because you can do the same thing as the big-box stores.”

The majority of the business’s sales are made at summer festivals, she said, while the website accounts for about 10 percent. But Mrs. Hoffman, who launched the website in the spring of 2012, said she believes online sales will grow as awareness builds among customers who live outside the region.

“The website is going to play a huge role, because I don’t have a physical storefront,” she said.

Customers across the country who stayed home to shop on Cyber Monday were able to capture online deals earlier than last year. Walmart began offering online-only deals Saturday, including $500 off a 55-inch LED TV bundle and free shipping on orders higher than $35.

Brandon Harris, 27, from Memphis, Tenn., started shopping at midnight Sunday and by Monday had spent about $300 and completed half of his Christmas shopping, including a Barbie doll for his niece and a TV for his mother.

“I haven’t shopped for a Christmas present in a store in three years,” said Harris, who made the purchases from his iPad. “It’s a lot more convenient to be at home and shop.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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