Holiday Shoppers Are Filling Their Carts, Online In-store purchases on Black Friday fell this year, but online sales have seen a big increase. Easy comparison shopping and widespread free shipping have sweetened the deal for many online shoppers.
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Holiday Shoppers Are Filling Their Carts, Online

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Holiday Shoppers Are Filling Their Carts, Online

Holiday Shoppers Are Filling Their Carts, Online

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/368026522/368041128" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The people who track holiday shopping patterns are trying to figure out what all the latest numbers mean. Online sales rose sharply yesterday, also known as Cyber Monday, but sales at brick-and-mortar stores during the Black Friday weekend were down compared to last year. NPR's John Ydstie has more on our changing shopping strategies.

JOHN YDSTIE, BYLINE: This weekend, Will Falls, who lives near Raleigh, North Carolina, decided to skip the mall and shop online instead. He says it's just so much easier.

WILL FALLS: No standing in line. No finding a parking spot. You know, just get comfortable and go at it.

YDSTIE: Falls helped contribute to an 8.5 percent increase in online shopping yesterday compared to a year ago. The use of mobile devices rose sharply. Though, desktop computers still accounted for three-quarters of online sales. The growth in online contrasts to an 11 percent drop-off in sales at brick-and-mortar stores last weekend.

BOB DRBUL: I definitely believe, like, there is cannibalization occurring, you know, from the perspective of online against the stores.

YDSTIE: Bob Drbul is an analyst and managing director at Nomura Securities. Of course, he says, some of that cannibalization is going to the retailer's own online arm. Drbul says another reason for the drop in in-store shopping this past weekend is that retailers are spreading their Black Friday sales across the whole month of November.

Elle Phillips, a 37-year-old graphic designer from near Boise, Idaho, says her family was visiting for Thanksgiving this past weekend.

ELLE PHILLIPS: And they wanted to go Black Friday shopping. I prefer to avoid it at all costs.

YDSTIE: Her brother-in-law headed for Cabela's, the big hunting and camping store, at 4 a.m.. He came back six hours later with tales of a checkout line stretching to the back of the huge store.

PHILLIPS: It literally took him two hours just to get through to the register with, you know, a couple of hoodie sweaters. So that just sort of - I don't know - verified the reason why I don't go out on Black Friday.

YDSTIE: Meanwhile, Phillips did her shopping online, including finding some new boots for her husband.

PHILLIPS: I look for those boots on Amazon, find out what the best price on there is, and then I actually went straight to the manufacturer's website, which in this case was Doc Martens, and I found an equally good price there - all with free shipping.

YDSTIE: That kind of price shopping and free shipping is forcing profit margins down for retailers, says Bob Drbul. But he expects a strong holiday season nevertheless.

DRBUL: This has the potential to be the best retail performance since 2011.

YDSTIE: A big reason is that falling gas prices are putting more money in consumers' pocket. John Ydstie, NPR News, Washington.

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