US shoppers buy early this holiday season

Online shopping has grown sharply so far this holiday shopping season after US retailers pushed out a slew of mobile and Internet deals that lured consumers before Cyber Monday, traditionally the biggest day for e-commerce in America.

While it remains to be seen if the gains on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday can be sustained, the latest estimates show shoppers scooping up early special offers via their smart phones and tablets, the way they used to hunt for bargains in brick-and-mortar stores.

Online sales increased 17.4 percent on Thanksgiving and 20.7 percent on Black Friday, compared with 2011, according to IBM Smarter Commerce, a unit of International Business Machines Corp that analyzes transactions from 500 U.S. retailers.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, had traditionally been the kickoff to the holiday season for stores. This year, retailers such as Walmart and Target made their biggest push ever with special offers during the holiday itself.

The Thanksgiving creep revitalized the thrill for people, said Wendy Liebmann, chief executive of WSL Strategic Retail. It got people excited to go out. But it pulled a lot of sales forward.

In-store sales on Thanksgiving jumped 71 percent and more than tripled between 6 p.m. and midnight from a year earlier, according to Chase Paymentech, a leading credit card processor.

On Black Friday, in-store sales dropped 7 percent, Chase Paymentech noted.

ONLINE SHIFT

Cyber Monday, which follows the long holiday weekend, has been the biggest day for online shopping in recent years, as workers return to their office computers.

Now, armed with mobile devices, particularly Apple Inc's iPad and iPhone, shoppers are no longer waiting.

Shoppers are also using the devices to track down the lowest prices. The average order value on Black Friday declined by 4.7 percent to $181.22, and the average number of items per order dropped 12 percent to 5.6, according to IBM.

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