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Holiday shoppers eager to snag big discounts turned to the internet in record fashion this week, one tracking company said, driving online sales on Black Friday to a new high.
Consumers spent $3.34 billion shopping online on Friday, a 21.6 percent increase from the same day last year, according to Adobe, which tracks online retail transactions.
More than ever before, shoppers used their mobile devices to dial up deals online, the firm said, as mobile purchases surged 33 percent on Black Friday to $1.2 billion.
Retailers also racked up online sales on Thanksgiving Day and the day before, the latest evidence that consumers are increasingly turning to online shopping as an alternative to wading into malls packed with holiday season bargain-hunters.
College student Emilia Ollearis works at the Water Tower Place mall in Chicago but is doing virtually all of her shopping online. She said she prefers to go to a store to get a close look at merchandise, but that's it.
"I'll go buy it online," said Ollearis, 24. "I'm not gonna wait in line for it."
The trend also suggests that consumers are less willing to hold out for potential online deals traditionally found on Cyber Monday, which is the Monday after Thanksgiving and has traditionally been the busiest day of the year for online shopping.
"We had projected Cyber Monday to be a $3.36 billion day, and to win the crown of largest shopping day ever," said Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst and director at Adobe Digital Insights. "But Cyber Monday may not have as much gas left in the tank."
The widespread use of mobile phones and access to high-speed internet are likely contributing to more shoppers turning to the internet ahead of Cyber Monday, Gaffney said. Retailers are also increasingly making available online the type of door-buster deals typically reserved for store locations on Black Friday.
Lisa Collins of Gilford, New Hampshire, will buy gifts online if she finds a better price and free shipping. "Never pay full price," she said.
She felt like prices were better than in past years. "I think there's better deals. I think they're paying attention to online sales," she said.
Tablets had some of the steepest price markdowns online this Black Friday, with an average discount of 25.4 percent, Adobe said. Televisions were down an average of 23.2 percent, while markdowns for toys online were around 15 percent.
All told, shoppers spent $5.27 billion in online purchases on Thursday and Friday, up 17.7 percent from the two-day period last year, Adobe said.
Even as online spending hit new highs this Black Friday, many shoppers across the U.S. still ventured to malls looking for deals. The Mall of America in Minnesota, which opened 24 years ago, reported that Friday was the highest traffic day it can recall.
Courtney Weitz of Meredith, New Hampshire, picked up a few small gifts at Target in Concord early Saturday. She wasn't able to hit the stores on Black Friday or Thanksgiving because she had to work.
"I checked online and didn't really find anything I wanted," said Weitz, 24. "I only came for a Swiffer and toothpaste, and I'm leaving with a bit more than that."
All told, the National Retail Federation projects that shoppers will spend $655.8 billion in November and December. That would be a gain of 3.6 percent from a year ago.