As more data comes in this week about the Black Friday/Cyber Monday holiday season kickoff, it’s becoming clear that this shopping season, online sales have been driven by earlier promotions — since October. New data also reveals strength in the discount store segment while traditional department stores are struggling.

As part of the marketing push this holiday, MediaRadar’s analysis of retail brand expenditures showed that “ad spending has picked up for the holiday shopping season. Through the first two weeks of November, retail brands have spent more than $415 million in advertising across TV, digital, print, podcasts, etc.,” the company said in its report, adding that the top five retail advertisers in the first two weeks of November were Walmart, Amazon, Target, Best Buy and Macy’s.

“Collectively, these five brands spent over $180 million on advertising in the first half of November,” the firm noted.

Aside from the massive ad dollars expended, there was also a lot of mobile phone data burned up by consumers. According to Verizon, their customers made more than 400 million mobile phone calls, which lasted 36 percent longer than on Thanksgiving Day last year. “And customers this year sent over 9 billion text messages on Thanksgiving Day, up 17 percent over last year’s text message volume.”

Verizon also said “Virtual Thanksgiving” launched this year, “with many families and loved ones social distancing for safety, collaboration tool usage such as video conferencing on Thanksgiving Day increased 31 times when compared to the prior year.”

On social media, the top product and gift being talked about so far this season, according to an analysis by social media analytics company Sprout Social, is “iPhone,” which is followed by “TV” and “Switch” (Nintendo Switch). “Laptop” came in fourth, and was followed by “AirPods” and then “headphones.”

When assessing who’s leading the pack this season at physical stores as well as online, trending sales data for November shows mass merchants and discounters leading the pack. According to Commerce Signals, across all of retail (including airlines, hospitality, restaurants, specialty apparel, department stores, etc.), year-over-year purchases were down 2 percent for the trailing 12 months while in-store purchases are down 12.3 percent.

In the period leading up to Black Friday/Cyber Monday, Commerce Signals noted that discounters are seeing year-over-year sales gains of over 68 percent, which is followed by sporting goods/toy stores with a 57 percent year-over-year gain and appliance stores with a 46 percent increase. Home goods, hardware, grocery, wholesale and repair shops experienced year-over-year sales gain for that period of between 9 and 20 percent.

Department stores, specialty apparel and restaurants are down 17 percent, 9 percent and 11 percent, respectively, while gas stations are down 21 percent and hotels and motels are down 49 percent.

In the discount realm, Walmart is a standout. According to Jungle Scout, the retail giant’s e-commerce “business shows massive gains during the holiday season, with Black Friday sales topping $75 million in a single day,” the firm noted, adding that sales on walmart.com are trending up 124 percent. The firm said toys and electronics accounted for $27 million in sales for Black Friday.

“Although electronics led for calendar quarter-to-date sales on walmart.com with $148 million in sales since Oct. 1, toys led sales on Black Friday, raking in $14 million to electronics’ $13 million,” Jungle Scout said in its report.