WASHINGTON - Retailers are hopeful for what appears to be an encouraging start to the holiday shopping season.
Sales are up slightly and online sellers are crossing their fingers for a profitable Cyber Monday. The question is, are Americans - still hurt by the recession - in much of the shopping spirit?
The crowds, frenzy, and long lines of Black Friday are nothing more than an afterthought now. Bargain shoppers are taking their foot traffic online. An estimated 96.5 million Americans will point and click away for deals on Cyber Monday.
Our dot-com visits have influenced 50 percent of our sales inside the store," Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn said.
Over the weekend, Black Friday sales rose over last year from $534 million to $595 million ... an 11 percent increase.
Despite a dismal economy, online retailers are expecting a 3 percent increase this season.
"Retail took it on the chin the last two years, and recognizing that, any growth we can see is really good news," NPD Chief Retail Analyst Marshal Cohen said.
According to preliminary Black Friday figures, sales increased by half a percent, with more people hitting the stores than last year.
"The weather outside if frightful, but the sales insides are delightful," one shopper remarked.
"It was actually a very good sign in terms of traffic and interest in the store, and there are a lot of shopping bags that I see as well," Terry Lundgren, Macy's CEO, said.
But this year, more people are on a tighter budget.
"I will be spending less this year," one shopper said. "I just don't think it is necessary to drain the bank."
"Our budgets are a little stricter, because there is no excess money," another said.
Last year, Cyber Monday was the third biggest shopping day online. This year, online merchants are looking to lure bargain shoppers in new ways, especially through social networking sites.
More retailers, like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target and Sears, are using Facebook and Twitter to notify customers about their deals ... which are no more than a click away.