David McCombs has spent the past 10 Thanksgivings camped out in a Best Buy parking lot in central Alabama.

Each year, he and a rotating crew of friends have shown up days – sometimes a week – in advance and set up tents, couches and folding chairs to wait for the official start of the holiday shopping season. They played lacrosse, organized basketball tournaments and watched movies that they projected onto the side of the building. At night, they slept in sleeping bags and hammocks as they prepared for the year’s biggest competition: Beating their neighbors to discounted doorbusters.

But this fall, the local Best Buy closed – yet another casualty of Americans’ changing shopping habits – and brought the decade-long tradition to an end. Just as well, McCombs says. He’s doing more of his shopping online, too.

“Black Friday has lost its luster,” he said. “It’s just another day of sales now that you can buy everything online.”

Shoppers, it seems, are over the frenzied, harried, wait-all-night-in-the-cold madness of Black Friday. Consumers are increasingly shunning the shopping holiday, opting instead to spread out purchases over a course of weeks or months. For the first time, more Americans are preparing to shop online this holiday season than in department stores, according to data from the National Retail Federation.

And although big-box stores – Target, Macy’s and Best Buy among them – continue to open Thanksgiving Day, many are toning down the hoopla. Kohl’s began offering Black Friday deals on its website on Monday. Old Navy’s 50 percent-off promotions have been online since Wednesday. And those doorbuster deals that Walmart was hawking in stores Thursday? They’d been available on the company’s website – with free shipping – for hours.

“Frankly, Black Friday has become meaningless,” said Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia Business School. “Retailers are desperate – they’re offering discounts weeks in advance, so what more is there to do? There’s no urgency anymore.”

Before Black Friday became just another day of discounts, it was the largest shopping day of the year. For decades, customers lined up at the country’s shopping malls and big-box stores clamoring for deals they couldn’t get the other 364 days of the year. It was a frenetic hunt – that sometimes led to mass hysteria – for discounts. There were stampedes in stores and arguments in the aisles.

But that madness has died down in recent years, as more Americans opt to quietly buy big-screen TVs and discounted sweaters from the comfort of their homes.

Online spending is expected to surpass $100 billion for the first time this holiday season.

More than 40 percent of Americans had already started their holiday shopping by Nov. 1, according to the National Retail Federation.

Best Buy began offering hundreds of “Black Friday” discounts three weeks early on Nov. 1. Walmart followed a day later, with $6 pajamas and $998 Samsung TVs. Amazon’s “Countdown to Black Friday” has gone on for nearly a month.

And at Toys R Us, executives say they have spent more than a year preparing for the weeks-long marathon leading up to the holidays.

By most measures, Americans are feeling good about the economy this year: Consumer confidence is at a 17-year high, and unemployment is at a 17-year low; the stock market is up, and gas prices are down. In all, Americans are projected to spend about $680 billion this holiday season, a 3.6 percent to 4 percent increase from last year’s $655.8 billion, according to estimates by the National Retail Federation.

In all, retailers have closed nearly 7,000 stores this year. Among them: the Best Buy in Fultondale, Alabama, where McCombs spent nearly every Thanksgiving as an adult. Over the years, he and his friends bought dozens of televisions there, as well as Xboxes, DVDs, HDMI cables and the occasional Justin Bieber singing toothbrush.

But those days are over, he says.

“I’d rather hang out with my family,” he said. “I can always shop next week.”