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Yes, Cyber Monday got its start because people shopped online at work

The National Retail Federation coined the term “Cyber Monday” in 2005 after noticing a spike in people shopping online at work on the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Credit: Gorodenkoff - stock.adobe.com

Thanksgiving weekend officially kicks off the holiday shopping season in the United States. Nearly two million more people than last year are expected to shop between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday in 2021, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey

In 2020, Cyber Monday became the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history. Data from Adobe shows Americans spent a record $10.8 billion online by the end of Cyber Monday last year, an increase of 15.1% that also broke 2019’s $9.4 billion record. 

Online searches show many people are wondering how Cyber Monday first got its name. Some websites claim it had to do with shoppers using high-speed internet at work on the Monday after Thanksgiving, so the VERIFY team looked into the retail holiday’s origin. 

THE QUESTION

Did Cyber Monday get its start because people shopped online while at work? 

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is true.

Yes, Cyber Monday got its start because people shopped online while at work on the Monday after Thanksgiving. 

WHAT WE FOUND

In 2005, Ellen Davis, the former senior vice president of strategic initiatives at the National Retail Federation (NRF), coined the term “Cyber Monday” in a press release published by the NRF’s digital division, Shop.org.

In the press release, Davis wrote online retailers had set their sights on the Monday after Thanksgiving because they noticed sales had been creeping higher in the years leading up to 2005. She also wrote that consumers, many during work hours, were “expected to head online in droves on Cyber Monday,” attributing the shopping increase to workers’ access to better quality internet in the office.

“Experts believe that an increase in web traffic could stem from the fact that consumers may have faster or more secure Internet connections at work and choose to shop there, or that they were unable to finish all of their shopping over the Thanksgiving weekend,” Davis wrote. 

A Shop.org survey conducted in 2005 found that more than 37% of consumers said they would use internet access at work to browse or buy gifts online during the holiday season, according to the press release. The survey also found that 51% of young adults between the ages of 18 to 24 and 49% of shoppers between the ages of 25 to 34 said they planned to shop online during work hours.

Michael Lisicky is a department store historian and the author of 10 books that celebrate the legacies of America's favorite bygone department stores. He told VERIFY many offices in 2005 had better high-speed internet connections than most peoples’ homes, so that made shopping online at work a bit easier. 

“A third of us were probably still using dial-up with AOL tones,” said Lisicky. “We weren't connecting in with what our businesses were needing to get those new computer systems going, and that was a better way to get people used to shopping online.” 

Kristin McGrath, a shopping expert at BlackFriday.com, also attributed Cyber Monday’s origin to people using high-speed internet at work. 

“It used to be the case that Black Friday was the in-store holiday and Cyber Monday was the online holiday. So, if you didn't line up on Thanksgiving night to get your in-store Black Friday deals, Cyber Monday was from the comfort of your work computer,” McGrath told VERIFY. 

She says times have changed since 2005, and Black Friday and Cyber Monday have pretty much morphed into one giant shopping weekend, especially amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Now, a lot of people have good internet connectivity at home. A lot of people are still not even back in the office yet. So it's kind of like Black Friday has moved increasingly online. There's not as many differentiations between those two days anymore,” said McGrath. 

The VERIFY team confirmed supply chain issues are impacting a lot of holiday shopping deals this year, but consumers can still find good discounts on some items, including computers, furniture and toys.

More from VERIFY: Shoppers can expect fewer deals this holiday shopping season because of supply chain issues

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