Editors' pick: Originally published Nov. 24.
Updated from Nov. 25 with new Adobe sales data.
U.S. consumers have stepped up big-time to shop so far this holiday season.
Online sales for Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday reached $5.27 billion, up a strong 17.7% from last year, according to new data Saturday from Adobe. Black Friday set a new record by ringing up $3.34 billion in sales, an increase of 21.3% year over year.
A good portion of the online shopping is being done on mobile devices. Black Friday became the first day in retail history to notch over $1 billion in mobile sales at $1.2 billion, up 33% from a year ago.
The results are based on aggregated and anonymous data from 22.6 billion visits to retail websites.
"Shoppers hit the buy button at unprecedented levels as conversion rates were up nearly a full percent across all devices in the evening hours on Black Friday," said Tamara Gaffney, Principal Analyst and Director at Adobe Digital Insights in a statement.
Top-selling products tend to be expensive, notes Adobe, including Samsung 4K televisions, Apple (AAPL) iPads, Macbooks, electric scooters, Sony's (SNE) Playstation virtual-reality goggles, Microsoft's (MSFT) Xbox gaming console, and the Sony Playstation 4 gaming console. The early spending binge by consumers is also being fueled on bigger discounts vs. last year on tablets, toys and appliances.
Adobe predicts Cyber Monday will generate $3.36 billion in sales, up 9.4% from a year ago.
"It was interesting this year that around Election Day, people weren't spending as much -- visits to retailer websites were down," said Becky Tasker, Managing Analyst at Adobe Digital Insight in a phone interview. "But after Election Day, things normalized and people came back."
The upbeat early read on holiday shopping shouldn't come as too much of a surprise.
"I continue to be very optimistic on our position for the holidays," Target (TGT) Chairman and CEO Brian Cornell told TheStreet on a conference call with reporters Thursday evening. Most encouraging, said Cornell, was that people were shopping multiple departments after scooping up the typical Black Friday doorbuster deals. Cornell's sentiment was echoed by Macy's (M) long-time CEO Terry Lundgren.
"I got to the opening at Herald Square in New York City at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving and it looked as strong as I have ever seen it at anytime," Lundgren said to TheStreet in a phone interview on Friday.
Meanwhile, another year of gradual improvement in the U.S. labor market, rising wages and higher home values has top forecasters predicting a bumper season for such leading retailers as Walmart (WMT) and Macy's. The National Retail Federation (NRF) forecasts sales in November and December, excluding autos, gas and restaurant sales, to increase a solid 3.6% to $655.8 billion. If achieved, that would be significantly higher than the 10-year average gain of 2.5% and slightly above the seven-year average of 3.4% since macroeconomic recovery began in 2009.
"All of the fundamentals are in a good place, giving strength to consumers and leading us to believe that this will be a very positive holiday season," NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said.
Wall Street has bought into the early hype on the holiday season.
Shares of the Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLY) , which counts retailers such as Amazon (AMZN) and Nike (NKE) among its top 10 holdings, has gained about 3.2% over the past month. That has outperformed the S&P 500's rise of 2.1%.
"At the tail end of the election week retailers, as measured by the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT) , busted through key moving averages -- and that triggered quant-oriented purchasing (computers) and short covering as short interest was on the rise for retailers leading up to November," said Brian Curran, retail analyst at Nasdaq Corporate Solutions. "We are seeing institutional demand support these quant-driven gains as sentiment for the holiday season has turned to the upside."
TheStreet highlights below what looks to be unbridled optimism on how U.S. consumers will react this holiday season.