By Christina Cheddar Berk, CNBC News Editor
NEW YORK ( CNBC) -- Take door-buster specials, add early opening hours, and mix in a good measure of pent-up demand and you have a recipe for a strong start to the holiday shopping season. And retailers liked it so much, expect to see a version of it -- albeit smaller -- today, as a record number of shoppers are expected to go online to snag Cyber Monday deals, which at some retailers, began Sunday night. Black Friday sales are estimated to have risen 6.6% from the same time last year, according to ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based company that tracks mall traffic. That estimated $11.4 billion in retail purchases represents the biggest dollar amount ever spent on that day. The National Retail Federation estimates 226 million shoppers visited stores and Web sites over the Black Friday weekend, up from 212 million last year.
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Cyber Monday has become more significant each year. Retailers embraced it and are offering bigger and bigger discounts online -- and more and more shoppers are coming for them. That is what is what makes the event, which initially began as marketing gimmick to promote online shopping, more important each year. According to Dealnews, last year Black Friday had only 5% more deals than Cyber Monday did, a drop of 5% from the prior year. And the deal gap should continue to close.