FOCUS: With Deals Offered Early, Will Shoppers Buy on Cyber Monday?

NEW YORK (AP) -

Cyber Monday may be in danger of losing its online sales title.

The Monday after Thanksgiving is traditionally the busiest online shopping day of the year, but stores are releasing internet deals earlier, stretching them through the week, as well as making them available in stores. Shoppers looking for discounts spurred online sales on Black Friday to a new high.

During the shopping weekend that kicks off on Thanksgiving and the day afterward known as Black Friday, more and more shoppers decide to skip the mayhem in stores and buy online. Consumers spent $3.34 billion shopping online on Friday, a 21.6 percent increase from the same day last year, according to Adobe Digital Insights, which tracks online retail transactions.

Online sales have also been stretching out more and more.

Cyber Monday, which is the Monday after Thanksgiving, has typically been the busiest day of the year for online shopping. The phrase was coined in 2005 to encourage online buying when people returned to offices where they had high-speed internet connections.

The term is still used to promote heavy discounts online. ComScore expects mobile sales to make up 20 percent of online sales for the first time this year, and Adobe said mobile purchases surged 33 percent on Black Friday to $1.2 billion.

“Thanksgiving has become the new Cyber Monday,” said Shawn DuBravac, chief economist at the Consumer Technology Association. Out of the estimated 135.9 million U.S. adults who shopped this past week, 35 percent did so online, an increase from a 28 percent share last year, according to the trade group’s survey.

Promotions have changed in response to buying patterns. Instead of door-buster markdowns on a select few products, retailers are shifting to a stream of discounts and alerts during the entire week via email and social media.

“It’s really this weeklong flow of deals,” DuBravac said.

Research firm comScore had predicted online spending on Cyber Monday will jump to $3.5 billion from $3.12 billion last year. The firm’s preliminary holiday shopping forecast, which includes November and December, is for online sales to rise as much as 19 percent to $81 billion.

Overall, the National Retail Federation trade group is forecasting holiday sales for the November and December period to rise 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion, better than the 3 percent growth seen in the year-ago period.