Online surge marks start of solid Thanksgiving sales

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NEW YORK-Retailers will once again offer big deals and early hours to lure shoppers into their stores for the start of the holiday season.

Many shoppers followed up their Thanksgiving feast with a visit to the local mall or specialty store, as the Black Friday tradition that has crept into Thursday continued.

United States shoppers desperate for deals banged on doors and formed long queues at checkout counters on Black Friday, as a strong economy and rising wages drove a solid start to the holiday shopping season.

Retailers have also been introducing new technology to make it easier to shop inside their stores. For Black Friday, online spending was on track to hit more than $6.4 billion, according to Adobe.

"The biggest pain point on Black Friday is standing in line", says Jason Goldberg, senior vice president of commerce and content practice at consulting group SapientRazorfish.

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More than 164 million Americans are expected to shop over the five days from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday, according to predictions from the National Retail Federation, the same number of people retailers expected past year.

Toys R Us UK, Maplin and Poundworld have all gone bust, while Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, Mothercare and House of Fraser are between them shutting hundreds of stores.

"This is my first year going Black Friday shopping, so I'm really stoked about everything I got", said Courtney Cross from Richmond.

The result: For all of November and December, retail sales will reach $1.002 trillion, a 5.8 percent increase from past year and the first time they'll cross the $1-trillion mark, the research firm EMarketer estimates.

"Thanksgiving is on track to be a blowout day ... fastest-growing day that we have ever seen in terms of major shopping holidays online", said Taylor Schreiner, director at Adobe Digital Insights, the research arm of Adobe Systems. Over the past 12 months, purchases at non-store retailers such as Amazon have jumped 12.1 percent as sales at traditional department stores have slumped 0.3 percent.

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While many lined up outside of Best Buy on Thanksgiving afternoon, the shopping didn't end then. Marketers are starting to recognize the need to get off to a fast start, as Thanksgiving email sends increased 26% compared to past year. Adobe claims to have collected more than a trillion data points from 80 of the top 100 US e-commerce websites for its report.

Shoppers were enticed by sales and plenty of them.

Still, Black Friday isn't what it used to be.

Separate data suggested a continuing trend for Black Friday bargain hunting to be done online rather than on the High Street. "Retailers understand that shopping and buying on smartphones are now the norms for consumers, and as a result are delivering better experiences and optimization on mobile devices", said Schreiner.

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