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Launch a PR Campaign Because Shoppers Will Soon Run Out of Money

Despite the anger from retail workers about having to work earlier than usual this Black Friday, the holiday shopping weekend bonanza has gone gangbusters. Cyber Monday isn’t over yet and IBM is already predicting that the day will be up 20 percent over last year. In 2010, digital cash registers rang up more than $1 billion in sales, making it the biggest online shopping day to that point. (*Update: Cyber Monday sales jumped 33 percent, breaking an e-commerce record.)

And not to be outdone, Black Friday saw a record number of shoppers – 226 million — who, on average purchased more than last year – $398.62 vs. $365.34 last year.

Besides the receipts, Black Friday/Cyber Monday are providing companies with a chance to tie other promos to the shopping event, which may be a smart idea since people don’t actually have money to go shopping.

For example, Patagonia is using the day as a way to spread the CSR message about the overuse of resources, specifically in the making of one of its best-selling items. In support of the Common Threads initiative, it’s actually asking people not to buy something from them.

And American Express is using the occasion to launch The Gift Chain, which will offer gifts to shoppers and merchants based on spending through December 21.

Even a PR firm, Jenna Communications, is offering a Cyber Monday discount for courses taking place December and January with a special “CyberMonday25″ discount code.

An analyst from The NPD Group who appeared on CNN’s American Morning today, Marshall Cohen, warned that while shoppers have “frugal fatigue” and have been waiting for just such a reason to get their spend (mostly for themselves), folks really don’t have any cash or credit. Buzzkill. He says a two-week lull is on the horizon.

“I call it sizzle to fizzle,” Cohen says, adding that a huge start doesn’t mean success for the whole holiday.

Using the opportunity to launch long-term campaigns or otherwise do some PR based on the holiday shopping news hook may not be as exciting as all the hoopla over credit card swiping and savings spending, but it may ultimately add to the bottom line. Once the next four weeks are over, you’ll still want customers to come back to spend more money they won’t have.

Mashable has an infographic about the history of Cyber Monday here, in case you’re interested.

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