Manfred Bracklow, at his desk in Portland, Maine, looks at the on-line catalog… (Joe Raedle / Getty Images )
The Black Friday frenzy is over, but consumers have another major shopping event to keep the spending marathon going.
The first Monday after Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday traditionally marks the first big jump in online spending for the holidays. Millions of consumers are expected to storm retail websites for Web-only deep discounts, special promotions and free shipping.
No longer just an afterthought to Black Friday, Cyber Monday has grown in importance in recent years.
In 2006 it was only the 12th-biggest online spending day of the year. It's jumped in the rankings every year since, landing in the No. 1 spot last year for the first time, said Andrew Lipsman, vice president of industry analysis at market research firm ComScore Inc., which tracks online spending.
Cyber Monday sales topped $1 billion in 2010, and Lipsman estimated that sales this year could reach a record $1.2 billion.
Already there are signs that consumers plan to spend heavily online this Christmas season.
ComScore reported Sunday that U.S. retail e-commerce spending rose 26% on Black Friday compared with the same day last year. The firm reported $816 million in online sales for the day, up from $648 million.
Fifty million Americans visited retail websites on Black Friday, a 35% increase from a year earlier, ComScore said. The most-visited site was e-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc., followed by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Best Buy Co., Target Corp. and Apple Inc.
Thanksgiving Day saw an 18% year-over-year increase in online retail sales, to $479 million, ComScore said. Online spending through the first 25 days of November totaled $12.7 billion, up 15% compared with the same period last year.
That bodes well for the retail industry ahead of Cyber Monday, which has gained momentum in recent years thanks to merchants' aggressive marketing efforts to increase consumer awareness of the day. At the same time, Americans have become more comfortable shopping on their laptops, smartphones and tablets.
Cyber Monday is typically a hit with office workers, who use their computers to shop on the job. About half the day's online sales are expected to come from people at work.
With consumers expected to shop carefully this holiday season, retailers say they'll continue to roll out the deals in stores and online every week leading up to Christmas.
The National Retail Federation predicts that total retail sales will rise a modest 2.8% year over year during the November-December period to $465 billion. Online retail spending is estimated to reach about $37.6 billion for the holiday period, up from $32.6 billion a year earlier, ComScore said.