Many analysts feared "Black Friday" was going to be as much of a disappointment this year as a burnt turkey on Thanksgiving. It turned out it was surprisingly successful, with sales being stronger than expected.
But perhaps the real test is "Cyber Monday." It's a term that was coined in 2005 by National Retail Federation, recognizing that more and more people are turning to the Web to do their holiday shopping.
The question is, how many people?
BIGresearch conducted a survey for Shop.org, which predicted that 84.6 million consumers plan to shop online from home or at work Monday, up from 72.0 million in 2007 and 60.7 million in 2006, according to the national Retail Federation.
According to a report published Monday by Mastercard, only 10 percent of Americans will shop on the Web on Cyber Monday. If last year is any indication, the biggest jump in sales may come in a week. The day with the highest amount of Web sales was actually Dec. 5 last year, a full week after Cyber Monday, according to Mastercard.
Bill Keep, a professor of marketing at Quinnipiac University, said the biggest draw of the Internet might be the convenience.
"It's all about accessibility," he said. "If you look at the evolution of broadband and the sophistication of Web sites, we see that by 2005 people really could find shopping to be a relatively efficient experience online."
Before that, he said, online shoppers were limited by the speed of their dial-up and Internet connection.
New technology and safety precautions have changed that.
"Credit card companies have really come forward to make sure the consumer feels safe," he said. "The fact now is that, if my credit file is violated, it probably won't do too much damage to me financially barring a full ID theft."
Even though it's a growing trend, it won't be one that takes over, Keep said.
"It won't displace store shopping, but it certainly will be a new shopping option and take a bigger piece of the pie out of retail sales," he said.
He compared it to a movement nearly 100 years ago.
"There were articles written in the early 20th century urging consumers to shop in stores, because there was a concern that people would do all of their shopping through catalogs," he said. "As these alternative shopping venues have opened up, consumers have wandered around and tried different experiences. True shoppers will shop everywhere."
Keep argued that the fear stores will lose their customers is one that probably won't become a reality.
"There's always been an element of the consumer market that didn't really enjoy store shopping, just as there will continue to be an element of the market that will enjoy store shopping."
He said that's because shopping is more than just spending cash.
"Some people really enjoy getting together with a family or friend and go shopping. It's a social experience," he said.
For those who can't stand the social experience, Keep said, there are definitely perks to shopping online this year.
"The deals are there, but in limited quantities," he said. "Retailers are aggressively marking down prices. The more popular an item is, the less inclined (the) retailer will be to mark it down."
Striking a balance between supply and demand is more trying than ever this year, Keep said.
"The retailers have a very difficult job to do this Christmas," he said. "They have to save as much margin as they can, but they have to compete aggressively for shoppers. Most retailers would prefer to have them in the store."
That's because of the hope that stores can lure consumers in with a deal on one product and get them to buy other items.
"The difficulty with a retailer on the Internet is that we can be in more of a cherry picking mode," he said. "We can just buy what's on sale and jump over to the next site."
These Web sites have compiled hundreds of merchants, featuring some of their best deals.