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Cyber Monday caps holiday shopping weekend as virus lingers

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Cyber Monday caps holiday shopping weekend as virus lingers

Americans are spending freely and going back to store shopping, knocking out some of the momentum in online sales from last year when Americans were making many of their purchases exclusively via the internet.

Shopper traffic roared back on Black Friday, but it was still below pre-pandemic levels, in part because retailers spread out big deals starting in October. The early buying is expected to also take a bite out of online sales on Monday, coined Cyber Monday by the National Retail Federation in 2005.

In fact, Adobe Digital Economy Index said that it was the first time online sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday hadn’t grown, and Cyber Monday could likewise see a decline compared with a year ago. Adobe, which tracks more than one trillion visits to U.S. retail sites, had previously recorded healthy online sales gains since it first began reporting on e-commerce in 2012.

Still, Cyber Monday should remain the biggest online spending day of the year. For the overall holiday season, online sales should increase 10% from a year ago, compared with a 33% increase last year, according to Adobe.

A possible game changer is the omicron variant of the coronavirus, which could put a damper on shopping behavior and stores’ businesses. The World Health Organization warned Monday that the global risk from the omicron variant is “very high” based on early evidence, saying the mutated coronavirus could lead to surges with “severe consequences.”

Jon Abt, co-president and a grandson of the founder of Abt Electronics, said that holiday shopping has been robust, and so far overall sales are up 10% compared to a year ago. But he said he thinks Cyber Monday sales will be down at the Glenview, Illinois-based consumer electronics retailer after such robust growth from a year ago. He also worries about how the rest of the season will fare given the new variant.

“There are so many variables,” Abt said. “It’s a little too murky.”

Here is how the season is shaping up:


CYBER MONDAY STILL KING BUT COOLING

Consumers are expected to spend between $10.2 billion and $11.3 billion on Monday, making it once again the biggest online shopping day of the year, according to Adobe. Still, spending on Cyber Monday could drop from last year’s level of $10.8 billion as Americans are spreading out their purchases more in response to discounting in October by retailers, according to Adobe.

Both Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day online shopping came in below Adobe’s prediction. On Black Friday, online sales reached $8.9 billion, down from the $9 billion in 2020, the second largest day of the year. On Thanksgiving Day, online sales reached $5.1 billion, even from the year-ago period.

Harley Finkelstein, president of Canadian e-commerce platform Shopify, which has 1.7 million independent brands on its site, said that so far, Cyber Monday is off to a strong start. Sales on his platform were up 21% on Black Friday compared with 2020 and more than double compared with 2019. He said he believes that independent brands will see better percentage sales gains online than big national chains, as shoppers gravitate more toward direct-to-consumer labels and look for brands with social conscience. And he says these brands have been able to get the inventory. Among some of the hot items on Shopify are children’s couches from Nugget and luxurious linens from Brooklinen.

“I think it is a tale of two different worlds,” he added.


BLACK FRIDAY BACK BUT NOT THE SAME

Overall, Black Friday store traffic was more robust than last year but was still below pre-pandemic levels as shoppers spread out their buying in response to earlier deals in October and shifted more of their spending online. Sales on Friday were either below or had modest gains compared with pre-pandemic levels of 2019, according to various spending measures.

Black Friday sales about 30%, compared with the year-ago period, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks all types of payments, including cash and credit cards. That was above its 20% growth forecast for the day. Steve Sadove, senior adviser for Mastercard, said the numbers speak to the “strength of the consumer.” For the Friday through Sunday period, sales rose 14.1% compared with the same period in 2020 and were up 5.8% compared to 2019, Mastercard reported.

Customer counts soared 60.8% on Black Friday compared with a year ago, but were down 26.9% on the same day in 2019, according to RetailNext, which analyzes store traffic with monitors and sensors in thousands of stores. Sales rose 46.4% on Black Friday but were down 5.1% in 2019, according to RetailNext. Sensormatic, another firm that tracks customer traffic, reported a 47.5% surge in traffic on Black Friday compared with a year ago but that number fell 28.3% compared with 2019.


THE CHANGING DISCOUNT LANDSCAPE

Unlike in years past, many big box stores like Walmart didn’t market their discounted goods as “doorbusters,” in their Black Friday ads, choosing instead to stretch the deals out throughout the season or even the day. And the discounts are smaller this season as well.

Shoppers were also expected to pay on average between 5% to 17% more for toys, clothing, appliances, TVs and others purchases on Black Friday this year compared with last year, according to Aurelien Duthoit, senior sector advisor at Allianz Research. That’s because whatever discounts are offered will be applied to goods that already cost more.

And for the first time, discounts on Cyber Monday compared with a year ago are expected to be weaker, according to Adobe. Still, Cyber Monday remains the best day to buy TVs with discount levels at 16%, compared with 19% discounts last year. Other categories where consumers will find deals include clothing at a 15% markdown, compared with 20% last year. Computers are being discounted at 14%, compared with 28% last year, according to Adobe.

Overall holiday sales could be record breaking. For the November and December period, the National Retail Federation predicts that sales will increase between 8.5% and 10.5%. Holiday sales increased about 8% in 2020 when shoppers, locked down during the early part of the pandemic, spent their money on pajamas and home goods.


NEW YORK (AP)

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OneWeb, Hughes to provide satellite broadband connections in India

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Satellite communication companies, OneWeb and Hughes, offered high-speed, low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite broadband connectivity across India.  

The agreement between OneWeb and Hughes Communications India Private Ltd. (HCIPL), a joint venture between Hughes and Bharti Airtel Limited, follows the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the companies in September 2021.  

“OneWeb’s constellation will cover the length and breadth of India, from Ladakh to Kanyakumari and from Gujarat to the Northeast and bring secure solutions to enterprises, governments, telcos, airline companies, and maritime customers,” said Neil Masterson, CEO, OneWeb.  

Through its parent company EchoStar, Hughes is a well-established and supportive OneWeb shareholder. It is also an ecosystem partner to OneWeb, creating gateway electronics – including those in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu – and the core module that will power every user terminal for the system.  

The main contractor also agrees with the U.S. Air Force Research Lab to integrate and demonstrate managed LEO SATCOM using OneWeb capacity in the Arctic region.  

“This announcement marks a turning point for Digital India. Enterprise and government customers, including telecom service providers, banks, factories, schools, defense organizations, domestic airlines, and offshore vessel operators,” Partho Banerjee, president and managing director, HCIPL, said.  

“They are eagerly anticipating the arrival of new high performing satcom services. We look forward to bringing them high-speed, low-latency services from HCIPL using OneWeb capacity—and catapulting India to the cutting edge of connectivity,” he added.  

Neil Masterson, CEO, OneWeb, commented: “OneWeb is delighted to partner with Hughes to offer high-speed, low-latency satellite broadband solutions and contribute to the Digital India vision. OneWeb’s constellation will cover the length and breadth of India, from Ladakh to Kanyakumari, from Gujarat to the Northeast, and bring secure solutions to enterprises, governments, telcos, airline companies, and maritime customers. OneWeb will invest in setting up enabling infrastructure such as Gateways and PoPs in India to light up the services.”  

OneWeb’s latest satellite launch on 27 December 2021 brought its total in-orbit satellites to 394, over 60 percent of the planned 648 LEO satellite fleet.  

It plans to begin global service by the end of 2022 as demand continues from telecommunications providers, aviation and maritime markets, ISPs, and governments worldwide for its low-latency, high-speed connectivity services. 

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Yemen’s internet service returns after four-day outage following air strike

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Internet services were largely restored in Yemen on Tuesday, residents said, after a four-day outage https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/yemenis-struggle-without-internet-third-day-after-air-strikes-2022-01-23 following air strikes by a Saudi-led coalition on the Red Sea city of Hodeidah, which damaged telecoms infrastructure.

The Iran-aligned Houthi group’s deputy foreign minister, Hussein al-Ezzi, in a Twitter post praised efforts to repair the damage and restore services.

“To all friends and loved ones: We missed you,” he said.

Internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said at 1000 p.m. GMT Monday that services were starting to be restored.

Seven years of conflict have divided Yemen between an internationally recognised government based in the southern city of Aden, and the Houthi group that largely controls the north.

The coalition had said its strikes on Friday were aimed at Houthi military capabilities in Hodeidah, the main landing point for the country’s undersea web connection.

The outage hindered money transfers by Yemenis outside the country. The war and ensuing economic collapse has pushed millions into poverty and parts of Yemen to the brink of famine.

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Thailand to introduce data center campus by Etix

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A new data center is expected to be rolled out by IT service management company ETIX Everywhere, which has acquired a 67 percent interest in Genesis data center in Bang Chalong, 30 km from Bangkok’s historical center.   

This data center will create a new data center campus, which will be jointly developed with its local partner Interlink Telecom.  

As such, Louis Blanchot, Group CEO ETIX Everywhere, said: “We are very excited to announce our expansion into Asia starting with this acquisition in Bangkok, one of the most dynamic markets in the zone. This first step in Asia is a major milestone in ETIX’s strategy to support our global customers providing them our best-in-class colocation services wherever they need”.  

According to a press release, the Genesis data center – renamed ETIX Bangkok #1 – began working with 2.4 MW of IT power. The future development of the campus will offer significant additional capacity.   

In addition, this data center campus is the first of its kind in the market, offering such a high level of severance with four diverse routes for fiber access and power supply coming from two separate substations.  

On his part, Nuttanai Anuntarumporn, CEO of Interlink Telecom PLC, said: “We are very pleased to have a strong partner like ETIX Everywhere with experience in this industry. We believe that our partnership will support the booming Southeast Asia data center and cloud industry and lead us to common success.”  

Thailand has a large population, and remarkable internet penetration is an important growth market for the public cloud and OTT service providers.  

They need to bring their data as close as possible to the end-users to deliver better service, driving demand for colocation services.  

“Telehouse Bangkok will be the first data center of its kind in Bangkok and will come at a time when we expect the data center market in the country to see robust growth owing to the boom in the digital economy,” said Kenichi Miyashita, managing director, Telehouse Thailand.   

“It aims to provide the best environment for all the Internet-related customers, such as cloud service providers, content providers, telecoms and ISPs, to connect with one another with minimal latency.”  

The company, established in 1988 and owned by Japanese telco KDDI, has operations in 15 cities globally, including the U.S., UK, France, Germany, China, Singapore, Vietnam, and Japan. 

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