Consumers hopped online for some more Internet shopping on Cyber Monday after last week's post-Thanksgiving Black Friday frenzy came to a close.
Many started early this year: Online spending on Black Friday topped $1 billion for the first time as some shoppers turned to their computers instead of braving the crowds in person.
Cyber Monday is "the Super Bowl of online shopping," said Jonathan Johnson, president of bargain site Overstock.com.
As of late afternoon, the site's traffic was up compared with last year's Cyber Monday, he said, but it was too early to predict how the entire day's sales would shake out. In the last few years, he said, Cyber Monday shoppers with high-speed Web access have started browsing Overstock at home after a day at the office.
"It used to be during the work hours that people shopped the most," Johnson said. "Now, it's a big hump in the middle of the day during work hours, then slows down during the commute home, and the biggest hump is at night."
This Cyber Monday, up to 129 million consumers were expected to hit Web merchants to take advantage of discounts, promotions and free shipping, according to the National Retail Federation.
Some of them, just returning to work after Thanksgiving, indulged right at their desks.
"People at work already take care of personal business like online banking. During the holidays they shop and buy gifts," said Andrew Lipsman, vice president of industry analysis at research firm ComScore Inc. "People can also shop without family members looking over their shoulder and kids snooping around to see what they're getting."
Nancy Lu, 28, of Los Angeles' Koreatown planned to surreptitiously browse the websites of favorite stores such as Macy's and J. Crew in the hopes of scoring some bargains for herself and her family. The personal assistant said she was hoping to get holiday shopping done early this year.
"I'm usually the person at the malls two days before Christmas trying to find something for everyone," she said. "If I find really good deals on Monday then I can relax later on."
For the last two years, Cyber Monday has been the year's biggest online spending day, Lipsman said. That's up from 12th place in 2006. Last year, Cyber Monday sales totaled $1.3 billion, and ComScore predicted they could reach $1.5 billion this year.
More consumers are using laptops, smartphones and tablet computers to do their shopping this holiday season.
On Black Friday, 57.3 million Americans visited an online retail site, up 18% from a year earlier, ComScore said. The National Retail Federation said that for the first time ever, more than half of shoppers over the long Thanksgiving weekend said they checked out stores online.
Cyber Monday, its name coined in 2005, quickly gained traction as shoppers took advantage of work computers with faster Internet connections, Lipsman said. Now, he said, at-work transactions account for about half the dollars spent at online retailers that day.
Nearly half of workers plan to do some of their shopping online while at the office this holiday season, according to a survey from CareerBuilder. More women than men said they had shopped at work in the past: 43% compared with 36%.
The retailer with the most-visited site on Black Friday was e-commerce giant Amazon.com Inc., followed by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Best Buy Co., Target Corp. and Apple Inc., ComScore said. Amazon is the nation's largest online-only retailer.
Nearly all merchants with a Web presence are participating in the flurry of promotions and discounts surrounding Cyber Monday, said Trae Bodge, a shopping expert at deals site RetailMeNot.
She said some people admit to devoting three or more hours to shopping while at work.
That's good news for retailers, many of which will continue to roll out deals online this week.