The U.S. holiday shopping season got off to a slow start last Thursday, as the number of people seeking bargains in stores and online fell from last year.
The Friday after the Thanksgiving holiday is traditionally the largest shopping day of the year, and a time when many merchants make enough money to go from loss to profit. Bookkeepers record losses in red ink and profits in black ink, giving rise to the term "Black Friday" for this key part of the business year.
The National Retail Federation says more than 133 million Americans have shopped in person or online since Thursday. That is down more than 5 percent from the same period last year.
Retailers are watching on-line sales closely Monday because "Cyber-Monday" has seen a shopping peak in the past four years, as a growing number of shoppers avoided crowded stores and made purchases online.
ComScore, which tracks on-line commerce, says the first few weeks of November saw stronger online sales than the same period last year. It also predicted $2.5 billion in total online sales for Monday.