As we said, no one was surprised to see that online sales were once again fantastic. But the actual growth on Cyber Monday in particular exceeded expectations. According to IBM, Cyber Monday sales increased 30% over last year, well above the 18% increase projected by Adobe Systems earlier this month. That's especially notable given that online sales started as early as Thursday, which had the potential to steal some sales from Monday itself.
It's unclear whether this means that online sales will beat expectations for the whole season, or if online shopping has simply shifted earlier and will be comparatively weak in December.
In an interview conducted before the final results became available, Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru said that a slightly better-than-expected sales increase on Cyber Monday would likely mean "a slowdown in early December." However, she added that a Cyber Monday sales increase north of 30% would probably bode very well for the online retail sector this holiday season.
[UPDATE: Mulpuru cites alternative figures from Chase Paymentech showing a more modest (but still impressive) 22% sales increase on Cyber Monday. She notes that the IBM numbers are weighted toward soft goods and apparel, which suggests that apparel will have a strong season while hard goods may suffer a bit of a hangover in December.]