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U.S. online shoppers were on track Monday to spend an estimated $9.4 billion, boosting an already robust Christmas shopping season and setting a new record.

Consumers had dropped $473 million online as of 8 a.m., on track for an almost 19% increase over last year, according to Adobe Inc. The busiest online shopping time is expected to be in the hour before midnight, as people race to take advantage of discounts before they disappear.

Adobe said big e-commerce platforms such as Amazon.com Inc. will benefit the most from the surge in sales.

Cyber Monday was created by retailers in 2005 to get people to shop online at a time when high-speed internet was rare and the iPhone didn't exist. The idea was to encourage people to shop at work, where faster connections made it easier to browse, when they returned from the Thanksgiving break.

"It's somewhat antiquated," said Rob Graf, vice president of strategy and insights at cloud computing company Salesforce, which tracks shopping behavior of the online stores that use its platform. "But retailers are still using it as a big milestone and driving heavy discounts."

The hottest selling products on Monday, according to Adobe, included Frozen 2 toys, L.O.L Surprise Dolls and Paw Patrol in the toy category. Top-selling electronics include Samsung televisions, Apple laptops and Amazon's line of Alexa-powered Echo devices.

Extreme weather across the continental U.S. gave consumers plenty of reason to shop from the coziness of their homes. A storm that started in California barreled across the nation and pummeled the Northeast just as Thanksgiving travelers were heading back from visiting family.

Black Friday hit a record $7.4 billion in U.S. online sales as many shoppers spent the day clicking instead of lining up to buy.

It was the second biggest U.S. online sales day ever, behind 2018 Cyber Monday's $7.9 billion, according to an Adobe Analytics survey of 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers.

Shoppers increasingly favor buying online from the start of the Christmas season, rather than waiting for Cyber Monday as they may have a few years ago. That's in part because they are increasingly purchasing via mobile devices instead of personal computers.

Purchases made by smartphone on Friday accounted for $2.9 billion in sales, the most ever.

U.S. shoppers will spend $135 billion online in November and December, representing 13.4% of all holiday sales, up from 12.3% a year ago, according to EMarketer. The shopping season is also shorter this year, with six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas than last year.

The shortened shopping calendar this year resulted in promotions that started earlier in November, and lasted longer than in past years.

While extended sales may crimp margins for many retailers -- especially in the "softlines" such as apparel and linens, according to Cowen analysts -- there will still be some holiday winners. Target Corp., Best Buy Co., Walmart Inc. and Lululemon Athletica Inc. were widely mentioned by Wall Street analysts as early leaders.

"A positive 'perfect storm' of retail growth drivers," including job growth, rising wages, benign gas prices, "healthy household balance sheets," and the "wealth effect" stemming from the S&P 500's gain of 24% this year, led to four-day Black Friday weekend sales growth of 5.4%, to a record $69 billion, according to consulting and research firm Customer Growth Partners. In addition to Walmart and Target, CPG also mentioned Amazon and Costco Wholesale Corp. as faring well.

Walmart kicked off online discounts for the holidays a week before Halloween. It was a way to combat the shortened Christmas shopping season.

Thanksgiving is always celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. This year, that was Nov. 28, cutting the typical time between Thanksgiving and Christmas by a week, making it the shortest stretch between the two holidays since 2013.

Information for this article was contributed by Spencer Soper, Hailey Waller, Giulia Camillo and Janet Freund of Bloomberg News and Joseph Pisani of The Associated Press.

Business on 12/03/2019

Print Headline: Day's online sales forecast at $9.4B

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