RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)– Thanksgiving is still weeks away, but the holiday shopping season is already in full swing.  

There was a time when people would flock to a mall on Black Friday looking for deals, but this year, experts tell us those holiday crowds at malls will be fading away because the pandemic is causing a huge change in consumer behavior.

A survey by RetailMeNot found 75 percent of Americans prefer to do their holiday shopping online this year. 

“I think the trend in early holiday shopping is here to stay,” RetailMeNot shopping expert Sara Skirboll told CBS News. 

Fear of close quarter encounters in a pandemic are one reason why folks are going online. 

Analysts also say more people are searching for discounts because folks have a lot less money to spend this year as a result of the way the pandemic affected the economy. 

“It’s easier to stay within a budget by shopping online and stuff,” said Raleigh resident Chris Brown. 

Amazon helped spur the early holiday shopping trend when it shifted its Prime Day from July to early October. Other major retailers like Target and Walmart also jumped in early on by offering deep discounts online. 

Sha Beard of Raleigh said she’s already begun her holiday shopping on line this year. “It’s safer,” she said.

With big price cuts on electronics, appliances and home goods, experts say by the time Halloween hits, a lot of holiday shopping will completed. 

“A  lot of people are going to start their shopping and even finish their shopping in October,” said Skirboll. “That’s because people are concerned about inventory and shipping delays.” 

Come December, analysts say there will be deeper discounts on things like toys, but shoppers who wait until then take a chance on those items being sold out and may have to supplement their shopping at brick and mortar stores.

Beard said she’d do much of her shopping online and when it comes to going stores, she’ll stay near her home.

“I want to go to my local area and do business in my area,” she said.  

Experts say that seems to be the trend. Consumers won’t abandon brick and mortar stores this holiday season,  but will use them to supplement what they can’t find online.