* Mobile shopping on rise, Apple's iPad leads the way
* Many people spend less and buy fewer items online
* Shipping costs could eat into retailers' profits
CHICAGO/SAN FRANCISCO, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Online shopping
has grown sharply so far this holiday shopping season after U.S.
retailers pushed out a slew of mobile and Internet deals that
lured consumers before Cyber Monday, traditionally the biggest
day for e-commerce in America.
While it remains to be seen if the gains over Thanksgiving
Day and Black Friday can be sustained, the latest estimates show
shoppers scooping up early special offers via their smart phones
and tablets, the way they used to hunt for bargains in
Online sales increased 17.4 percent on Thanksgiving and 20.7
percent on Black Friday, compared with 2011, according to IBM
Smarter Commerce, a unit of International Business Machines Corp
that analyzes transactions from 500 U.S. retailers.
Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, had traditionally
been the kickoff to the holiday season for stores. This year,
retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp.
made their biggest push ever with special offers during
the holiday itself.
"The Thanksgiving creep revitalized the thrill for people,"
said Wendy Liebmann, chief executive of WSL Strategic Retail.
"It got people excited to go out. But it pulled a lot of sales
Visits to stores rose 3.5 percent on Friday, down from a 4.7
percent increase last year, ShopperTrak estimated.
Sales actually fell an estimated 1.8 percent, the company,
which analyzes store traffic, said. But if Thursday sales were
added in, ShopperTrak estimates that "Black Friday" sales would
have been up a little less than 1 percent from a year earlier.
"It's not a superstar Black Friday, but it also wasn't an
underperform Black Friday," said Ed Marcheselli, chief marketing
officer of ShopperTrak.
Cyber Monday, which follows the long holiday weekend, has
been the biggest day for online shopping in recent years, as
workers return to their office computers.
Now, armed with mobile devices, particularly Apple Inc's
iPad and iPhone, shoppers are no longer waiting. They
are also using the devices to track down the lowest prices.
The average order value on Black Friday declined by 4.7
percent to $181.22, and the average number of items per order
dropped 12 percent to 5.6, according to IBM.
Client sales on Black Friday rose 23 percent from last year,
while Thanksgiving sales rose 32 percent year over year,
estimated Mercent, which helps merchants sell more on websites
including Amazon.com, ebay.com and Google Inc's online
"What we don't know is whether this is a zero-sum game or
whether there is some benefit to retailers by broadening the
holiday shopping window," Best said. "There is risk that real
growth in retail for the entire holiday may be overestimated
based on these early numbers."
E-commerce software firm ChannelAdvisor said clients'
same-store sales on eBay's online marketplace rose 27 percent on
Thanksgiving and 31 percent on Black Friday, compared with a
Last year's year-over-year growth was about 15 percent for
eBay, ChannelAdvisor said.
"The online players are definitely participating more on
Thanksgiving and Black Friday, so Cyber Monday is being shared
with other holidays now," said Scot Wingo, chief executive
EBay usually grows more slowly early in the holiday season
and then ramps up later as retailers run out of hot products and
shoppers turn to eBay sellers for those items.
Its strong start this year is driven partly by the company's
success in attracting mobile shoppers through shopping apps on
smart phones and tablets, Wingo said.
EBay said on Saturday that the volume of mobile transactions
on its online marketplace jumped 153 percent on Black Friday,
compared with a year earlier. PayPal, the payments division of
eBay, saw Black Friday volume almost triple, year over year.
More broadly, purchases from mobile devices accounted for
16.3 percent of online sales on Black Friday, up from 9.8
percent in 2011 and 3.2 percent in 2010, according to IBM data.
Apple Inc's iPads and iPhones led the charge, with owners using
the devices to browse and buy on retailer websites.
SHOPPERS 'WANT TO SPEND'
Overall, the percentage of sales from online shopping is
expected to rise. But while retailers bring in more revenue from
online shopping, they may also face some higher costs in terms
of shipping a larger number of packages to more shoppers.
Among tablets, iPads were the clear leader, generating 88.3
percent of traffic to retailers' sites on Friday, followed by
Barnes & Noble Inc's Nook with 3.1 percent, Amazon.com
Inc's Kindle with 2.4 percent and the Samsung
Galaxy with 1.8 percent, IBM said.
At the mall, stores continued to use discounts to lure
shoppers on Saturday, with Aeropostale Inc discounting
items as much as 70 percent after a storewide 60 percent
discount on Friday.
Rival American Eagle Outfitters Inc continued its
two-day sale at 40 percent off, and Gap Inc's namesake
chain was offering 60 percent discounts for the entire weekend.
"The discounts were reasonable but didn't take your breath
away," said Liebmann. "Retailers are being cautious."
The Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus, New Jersey, appeared
to be crowded on Saturday, although much quieter than on Black
Friday, clerks at several stores said.
Vanessa Crenshaw, a 45-year-old accountant shopping at JC
Penney, said that if stores pulled back on discounts,
she would go elsewhere.
"You can always find a deal, someone will have a deal," she