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Shoppers lined up at stores and flocked to their computer screens across the nation starting before dawn in search of bargains on Black Friday, putting the retail industry on track for what may be a record sales day. Online sales were forecast to pass $3 billion for the first time.

The frenzy continued into midday as shoppers were lured out not only by a generally strong economy, helped by a rising stock market, but also by what many perceived as exceptional deals. Retailers seeded their advertising with deep-discount “doorbuster” alerts earlier than last year to build early crowds, and offered more dramatic discounts, said Traci Gregorski, senior vice president of marketing at Market Track.

As a result, this year’s Black Friday could be record-setting. Early data indicates that Black Friday online sales at U.S. retail Web sites have brought in $490 million so far between midnight and 8:30 a.m. ET., reported Adobe Digital Insights. Adobe forecasts that Black Friday sales online will surpass $3 billion for the first time ever, hitting $3.05 billion in online revenue, up 11.3% over last year.

More shoppers are using their smartphones and tablets, too. Adobe expects Black Friday to be the first day in retail history to exceed $1 billion in mobile revenue.

Walmart was one of the retailers to experience a mobile boom. For its Black Friday event, 70% of the retailer’s online traffic was through mobile. And 60% of orders on Walmart.com were made with mobile devices. “Customers are getting more and more comfortable clicking the buy button on their smartphones,’’ Walmart spokesman Ravi Jariwala said in a statement.

Deals brought out consumers like Linda Dubbs, of Hanover, Penn., who turned her Black Friday shopping into a 16-hour marathon that started at 2:30 p.m. ET on Thanksgiving Day. “As long as I keep going, I’m okay,” she said.

Dubbs wielded her smartphone to hunt for bargains in a plan of action that brought her to Home Depot in Hanover at about 6:30 a.m. on Black Friday. She was 12th spot in line at the home-improvement megastore before being eighth in line at a Kohl’s store earlier.

She also downloaded apps for the major stores and was searching for the best deals, such as the heating blanket she chose to buy at Kohl’s over JC Penney. “I checked to see if it was a good price or a bad price,” Dubbs said.

She was far from done. After hitting Home Depot and five other stores, Dubbs planned to head to Lowe’s and Staples to buy gifts for her three daughters. With an exuberant smile, she rattled off her purchases: clothes, shoes, a vacuum, a pressure cooker and pillows.

The holiday shopping season kicked off with people rushing through store doors early Friday morning. Shoppers sprang into action at the Best Buy in Watertown, Massachusetts at 1 A.M. (Nov. 25)
AP

By being open on Thanksgiving Day, retailers can ring up more sales and take some of the pressure off store clerks when it comes to managing crowds.  “It’s totally different now than it used to be,” said Maura Macissac, manager of the Eddie Bauer store at Tanger Outlets in Rehoboth Beach, Del. “We used to open on Friday morning and there would be huge lines. Now we start on Thanksgiving so it’s a lot more spread out.”

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