Remember when the holiday shopping season had one lone superstar: "Black Friday"? The day-after-Thanksgiving shopping madness signified the traditional kick- off to the holiday shopping season. Retailers would spend heavily, promoting their "best deals of the season," and news coverage featured stories of shoppers that were literally willing to wait outside in the cold for the official start of Black Friday, and others willing to do just about anything to snag a great deal. Now, thanks to technology, the times of holiday shopping just might be changing. (The early bird may catch the worm, but in shopping, the worm will come to those who wait. See 12 Ways To Shop Smarter.)

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Monday Is the New Shopping Day
In 2005, the holiday shopping tides began to turn "when a few people at (Shop.org, an online retailers association) were brainstorming about how to promote online shopping," according to a 2005 BusinessWeek article called "CyberMonday, Marketing Myth." Turns out that little idea mushroomed into a powerful marketing ploy. In 2010, eRetailer reports that "U.S. online holiday season sales will reach $38.5 billion (excluding travel)." That number represents almost a 15% increase over Cyber Monday spending one year ago.

And while total retail sales are at their highest levels since 2006, the boom of online holiday shopping is undeniable. Thanks to technology, shoppers are now able to seek which retailers are offering the greatest convenience and best price within seconds. One notable day quickly gaining force in the holiday shopping vernacular is "Green Monday." Never heard of it? Thanks to its stellar performance this year, it's likely to become a fixture among the "designated" holiday shopping days.

It's Not Called Green Monday for Nothing
Crafted in 2007, eBay's Shopping.com comparison site coined the term Green Monday to refer to its own best sales day in December. It essentially refers to the second Monday in December. It's also known as the best sales day in December, partly due to consumer shopping for holiday gifts, and partly due to "in time for Christmas" shipping schedules. FedEx attributes the handling of about 16 million packages to Green Monday. In 2009, it accounted for $854 million in online sales in the U.S. alone.

This year, Green Monday was December 13, and its performance proves that it's quickly becoming a force all its own. Digital researcher comScore reported that "Green Monday" sales for 2010 were up 12% over 2009 figures, making it the second heaviest online spending day behind Cyber Monday. Another online holiday shopping initiative, Free Shipping Friday, in which more than 1,500 retailers joined forces to offer free shipping on all purchases made December 17, only helped the online spending frenzy. As a result, comsScore reports that "2010 now has three of the highest spending days on record - Cyber Monday ($1.028 billion), Green Monday ($954 million) and Free Shipping Day ($942 million)."

But, perhaps the most famous of holiday shopping days appears nowhere on the list. (Learn more about how to cut utility bills in Ten Ways To Save Energy And Money.)

Holiday Shopping of the Future
With so much success from online holiday shopping initiatives, could "Black Friday" become a thing of the past? According to Rita DiPalma, senior vice president of Brand Magnet, an online loyalty solutions provider, the answer is probably not, because for consumers, the two days are not mutually exclusive. DiPalma believes that "most people still want to go into a store and touch and feel merchandise, but they can still plan shopping and make purchases online. By the time Green Monday rolls around, consumers know exactly what they want and buy it. On Black Friday, it is the thrill of the new deals of that day."

But, the result of online holiday shopping popularity could mean some changes are one the way for Black Friday, as retailers are likely to shift their approach in years to come. DiPalma notes that "strategy is changing from advertising the one-time loss leader item, to advertising and selling enhanced customer service to drive brand loyalty. At the end of the day, it's all about building consumer loyalty to the brand."

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The Bottom Line
As culture moves further towards technology and the convenience it offers, whether Black Friday will lose its luster in the wake of growth days like Green Monday (and whatever new designated shopping day may appear on the scene) remains to be seen. Either way, holiday shopping isn't going away. So whether you prefer the real crowds of Black Friday or the online masses of Green Monday and Cyber Monday, the point of all these days to create excitement around the holidays and get consumers to do what all retailers have at the top of their list holiday wish list: spend! (Find out why moving to a less expensive city may not reduce your expenses. Check out 10 Reasons Why Moving Might Not Make You Richer.)

For the latest financial news, see Water Cooler Finance: FBI Insider-Trading Bust.

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