UPDATE 1-U.S. holiday shoppers buy early, often, online

CHICAGO, Nov 25 (Reuters) - U.S. shoppers went to stores

earlier and bought online more than before this Thanksgiving

weekend, giving retailers a strong start to the holiday shopping

season, data showed on Sunday.

Likely beneficiaries included retailers that have done a

better job of combining their physical stores with their online

and mobile channels into a seamless shopping experience,

analysts said, mentioning the likes of Wal-Mart Stores Inc

and Macy's Inc.

"The more you can make a shopper shop multiple channels,

they are at least twice as likely to be a loyal shopper and

spend tons of money," Patty Edwards, chief investment officer at

Trutina Financial, said.

Total spending for the weekend rose to $59.1 billion from

$52.4 billion last year, according to a survey from the National

Retail Federation. An estimated 139.4 million adults visited

U.S. stores and websites from Thanksgiving through Sunday, up

from 131 million last year, the survey, conducted for the

industry trade group by BIGinsight, said.

In the latest sign of the growing importance of

Internet-based retailing, comScore Inc said "Black

Friday" online sales topped $1 billion for the first time, while

IBM said online sales rose 16.9 percent year-over-year on

Saturday.

ComScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni said "Cyber Monday" online

sales may reach $1.5 billion this year. That would be up 20

percent from the corresponding day last year, though slower

year-over-year growth than Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

Amazon.com was the most-visited retail website on

Black Friday, and it posted the highest year-over-year visitor

growth rate among the top five retailers. Wal-Mart's website was

second, followed by sites run by Best Buy Co, Target

Corp and Apple Inc, comScore said.

While the start appeared good, whether they can sustain the

initial burst through the holiday season is the key for

retailers, which can book a third of their annual sales and 40

to 50 percent of profits for the year in November and December.

The impact on the U.S. economy is also sizeable as consumer

spending accounts for about 70 percent of all economic activity.

There are two extra days between Thanksgiving and Christmas

this year and one more full weekend, so the opportunity for a

lull between the holidays is greater.

"A big Black Friday, it's hard to read too much into that

for the rest of the season," Scott Tuhy, vice president at

Moody's Investors Service, said.

Staying open on Thanksgiving became more widespread this

year as retailers such as Target, Sears Holdings Corp

and Toys R Us Inc joined in, while others including

Wal-Mart and Gap Inc either extended their operating

hours or had more stores doing business.

Traditionally, stores had waited until Black Friday, the day

after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, to make their big push.

"When you see strong sales on Thursday and Friday, you know

it is going to come from later in the weekend or later in the

season," Steve Krenzer, chief executive of shopping comparison

website PriceGrabber, said.

The National Retail Federation still expects sales in

November and December to rise 4.1 percent this year, below last

year's 5.6 percent increase.

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