GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - Black Friday is about a month away and retailers can expect a strong holiday shopping season.

The National Retail Federation (NFR) expects sales in November and December to increase by 3.6 percent over 2015--raking in $655.8 billion in sales. That's above the 10-year average of 2.5 percent.

"Overall unemployment numbers are pretty good at this point in time. The economy has been growing at about 2 percent or so for the past several years which is not great but cumulatively... we're better off than we were say eight to ten years ago," said Professor David Vang with the Finance Department at University of St. Thomas.

Vang said the shift to online shopping will continue. The NFR predicts non-store sales (direct-to-consumer, kiosks, and online) to increase between 7 percent to 10 percent over last year.

"I think a lot of last-minute sales are going to be taken care of more by online," Vang said.

He added, "Another thing that's happening is the so-called doorbusters are also being offered to the online shoppers, as well in certain ways, and so that makes it less important for you to be there first in line."

For the first time last year, Walmart offered most of the same Black Friday "doorbuster" deals in stores and online. Last year's Thanksgiving also marked Target's biggest day for online sales yet, driven largely by electronics.

Vang said we are also seeing the trend of more stores choosing to remain closed on Thanksgiving. Earlier this month, Mall of America announced it would close for the day but let stores choose whether or not to open.

"It's one of those deals where it's a nice gesture but at the same time there is a cost-benefit analysis to it... 'I definitely know what I'm going to be paying my employees but I don't know how many customers are going to take the time to walk in the door on Thanksgiving,'" Vang said.

For shoppers interested in Black Friday deals, Vang recommends looking at the circulars at Target and Walmart when they first come out to get a sense of what kind of deals could be coming.