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E-shoppers on search for savings
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MONROE - Shopping in your slippers seems to be an increasingly common practice.

As shoppers are moving online, rather than standing in line, to find the best holiday deals, more and more e-retailers are offering special deals to sweeten the online pot. And the good news for consumers is the best online deals are likely just beginning.

Today marks Cyber Monday, considered by many in the retail sector to be the start of the online holiday shopping season. Traditionally, retailers have played up the importance of Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving noted for special sales and early-morning store openings. But in recent years, Cyber Monday has taken its share of the holiday-shopping spotlight.

Early figures show Black Friday sales were up just .5 percent over last year, topping $10.6 billion, the Associated Press reported. Online sales Thursday and Friday, however, were up 11 percent and accounted for more than $900 million, according to the Internet research firm comSource.

Many national retailers, including Walmart and JC Penney, made Black Friday sales available online - some as early as Thanksgiving Day, helping to spur Web-based sales. In fact, almost 30 percent of shoppers nationally said they shopped online over the holiday weekend, and about 25 percent said they were shopping before 5 a.m. Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

More than a few of those dollars likely came from right here in Green County, where local shoppers said they like the convenience and savings of both time and money of shopping online.

For a working mom with young children, online shopping can make life easier. Kelli Brunton, a kindergarten teacher at Parkside Elementary School who has an 8-year-old son and triplet 5-year-old daughters, finds she ends up buying clothes for her family and a few electronics online. She said she's been shopping online regularly ever since her daughters were born and it became more difficult to get out of the house to shop.

"It's so much easier," she said of online shopping. Brunton likes well-known "e-tailers" such as because they have "a little bit of everything." Kohl's and Bath and Body Works sites are other favorite shopping portals, she said. Her husband Bill also does his shopping at Cabela's Web site rather than making the trek to Prairie du Chien for hunting supplies.

Brunton said she seeks out sales online as well as special codes for free shipping. And while returning items purchased online can be a hassle, Brunton said bricks-and-mortar stores like Kohl's and Old Navy will accept online returns.

Despite the convenience of being able to comparison shop at home, Brunton still likes to get out to the stores to see what's available - especially at the Black Friday sales.

"I was in Madison at 4 a.m.," she said. "I'm one of the dumb, dumb people."

It's something of a family tradition, with Brunton hitting the sales early with her sister and father. And it gives her a chance to determine if the advertised merchandise is really what she wants. "Some of the things you want to see," she said.

Shopping online can save the time, gas and frustration of having to drive to a larger city such as Madison to purchase what isn't available locally. Sue Curran, Monroe, shops online year-round for items she can't get here in town, she said.

"I don't have to leave the house, stress over driving around Madison, or deal with crowded stores," she said.

Curran, an author, said her favorite online site is Barnes and Noble.

"I love books. I am a writer, after all, and can search for exactly what I want without sifting through the stacks at the store," Curran said.

There's also plenty of savings in cold, hard cash to be found online.

Deb Moe, Monroe, finds it's cheaper to shop online than regular retail stores.

Moe, a translator at Parkside school, said she buys all of the clothes for her 16-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son online. She also shops for their books and movies, and finds they are considerably cheaper there.

"I always compare," she said. For instance, she estimated the $87 she spent on Christmas presents at Amazon this year would have cost $119 at Walmart.

Comparison shopping comes naturally for her.

"I'm a cheapo. If I can save a penny I will," she said.

A serious online shopper since last Christmas season, Moe shops clearance specials for back-to-school clothes from online retailers such as Kohl's in March, saving even more money.

She also scorns shipping charges. "I hardly ever pay for shipping and handling," she said. "Eight dollars shipping on a $15 order - that's ridiculous."

Instead, she searches out promotional codes for free shipping. She's even been known to contact the retailer to see if it will waive a shipping fee for her.

But even without the specials and free shipping, shopping online has a decided advantage over shopping in person for Moe.

"I hate mall shopping," she said.