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The numbers are in, and this year's Black Friday was a hit with shoppers. According to the National Retail Federation, 89 million people joined in the mayhem this year, up from 86 million in 2011. For the broader holiday weekend, a record 247 million people shopped either online or at stores, as compared with 226 million last year. With positive macro trends like that, there's plenty of cheer to spread around.
Here a few of the biggest winners from retail's biggest weekend.
1. Web retailers
True to form, online sales were up huge this year. IBM, in its Smarter Commerce report, said that e-commerce sales grew by 17% on Thanksgiving and 21% on Black Friday itself. According to comScore, Black Friday spending topped $1 billion online for the first time.
That bodes well for major online stores such as Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) and eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY ) , which drew a bigger audience than ever over the weekend. But all that extra revenue may come attached to a profit pinch. While total sales were up, online shoppers spent a bit less on average this year. Customers also ordered fewer items compared with last year, thanks to free shipping deals that lowered the bar on minimum purchase requirements.
2. Department stores
Department stores were also major winners over the Black Friday weekend. The National Retail Federation says 53.5% of shoppers visited one this weekend, up from 48.7% last year. Customers were pulled in to department stores by large discounts and time-sensitive deals. They also shopped those retailers online, contributing to a 17% jump in department-store online sales.
That should be welcome news to struggling companies J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP ) and Sears Holdings (Nasdaq: SHLD ) . As they grapple with declining sales, both need to log a big holiday quarter if they want to stay relevant with consumers.
3. Mobile shopping
Mobile devices surged in popularity as shopping tools this year. Almost a quarter of online sales over the weekend came from mobile devices, up big from last year's 14.3%. Mobile purchases accounted for 16% of sales this year, up from less than 10% in 2011.
And that's great news for Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) . The company's iPad accounted for 10% of all online shopping traffic, beating out the iPhone's 8.7% and Android's 5.5%. Considering the iPad's much smaller install base, heavy usage of the device now could portend further sales gains for Apple down the line.
With a strong Black Friday behind us, companies aimed to keep that solid momentum going as virtual shopping carts filled up in today's Cyber Monday.
J.C. Penney has been a train wreck whose comeback always seems just around the next earnings corner, but people are beginning to doubt whether CEO Ron Johnson can weave the same magic he did at Apple. For investors wondering whether J.C. Penney is a buy today, you're invited to claim a copy of The Motley Fool's new must-read report on the company. Learn everything you need to know about J.C. Penney's turnaround -- or lack thereof -- and as a bonus, you'll receive a full year of expert guidance and updates as key news develops. Simply click here now for instant access.