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Cyber Monday exceeds last year's holiday sales peak

Online shopping gets a boost as sales exceed last year's one-day peak. Merchants are likely to post even larger numbers in the days ahead.

Online shopping got a shot in the arm Monday according to figures released Tuesday by credit card processor Visa USA. Sales were higher than last year's biggest online holiday shopping day and they arrived even earlier in the holiday season.

This bodes well for online merchants, who will likely post even larger numbers in the days ahead, said Brad Nightengale, Visa's vice president of emerging products. Strong online sales had been anticipated for "Cyber Monday," the day shoppers returned to work after the Thanksgiving holiday and used their employers' high-speed Internet connections to make online purchases.

Consumers rang up $505 million in Visa-related transactions on Cyber Monday, 26 percent more than the same time last year. Notably, that sales volume was larger than last year's biggest holiday shopping day, which didn't occur until Dec. 1, when online shoppers spent $481 million.

"Today is only Nov. 29, so I would expect to see even higher volumes than this in the next few days," said Nightengale. "E-tailers will have a banner year this year."

That sentiment is shared by Pinny Gniwisch, who oversees marketing for online jewelry store

On Monday the six-year-old company posted a 94 percent increase in sales and an 82 percent increase in traffic, as compared to the same day a year ago.

"We find a lot of people do shopping on the weekday," Gniwisch said. "And although we had huge growth on Monday, we think it'll be even better on Tuesday."

Employees returning to work on Monday are busy trolling through the e-mail that has accumulated in their inboxes over the holidays, leaving more free time to shop on Tuesday, he added, characterizing the day as Cyber Tuesday. sales were already up 130 percent by late morning on Tuesday, compared with the same day last year, Gniwisch said.

"Last year, our growth in November was good but not great. This year, it's unbelievable," he added.

Free shipping for orders of all sizes has played a role in boosting sales, as did a 10 percent discount offered in the past week, Gniwisch said. The average order is $205 this year; last year it was $140, he noted.

On Cyber Monday, online sales accounted for nearly 14.9 percent of $3.4 billion in Visa-related transactions, the company reported.

Overall online sales have been strong this month for e-commerce merchants, with Visa-related transactions up by 41 percent on Thanksgiving day alone, according to Visa.