Realizing that they will need all the help that they can get this recession plagued year, many big retailers like Wal-Mart, Sears and Saks are starting their Black Friday sales early.
Black Friday, or the Friday after Thanksgiving, used to be considered the beginning of the holiday shopping season, the time of year when many retailers see their red ink turn to black, as yearend sales push them into profitability.
"Larger retailers who do typically offer large Black Friday savings will try to do their best to win the shoppers out there," said Kathy Grannis, media relations manager of the National Retail Federation.
But winning shoppers' dollars will be tougher this year.
A National Retail Federation survey shows that consumers are expected to spend less during the 2009 holiday season. According to the survey, U.S. consumers plan to spend an average of $682.74 on holiday-related shopping, which is a 3.2 percent drop from last year's $705.01.
That's why some retailers are rolling out their black Friday sales early, but it's unclear how widespread the practice will become, said Grannis.
"Historically a lot of retailers prefer to wait until the last minute [to reveal their sale promotions] because of competition," she said.
Here are some of the early Black Friday sales that we found:
Saks Fifth Avenue
Saks is experimenting with exclusive private online sales. Last week, members of the Saks e-mail list were invited to a 36-hour exclusive Web only sale. Saks plans to host another such sale this month, the company told ABCNews.com.
Saksfifthavenue.com is also offering 10 percent off the first order to all new subscribers who shop online. This in addition to their free shipping promotion on orders over $150 until Nov. 8.
Sears rolled out its Black Friday sales before Halloween, starting last Friday night and extending through Saturday at noon. The store will continue with what they call "Black Friday Now" sales every Saturday morning until after Christmas.
One deal Sears is offering is the Zenith 42" Widescreen Plasma HDTV for $499.99, saving about $150.
Wal-Mart, Amazon, Target (Books)
On Oct. 15, Wal-Mart announced that it would take online preorders on 10 new hardcover book releases for just $10 each. Not to be outdone, Amazon.com matched Wal-Mart's price on the same books. Soon this turned into a price war. Wal-Mart responded by lowering its price to $9, then Amazon followed suit. Target also jumped into the mix, selling preorders on 7 of these books for only $8.99. Wal-Mart ended with the final word at $8.98.
"I think that people expect price drops from Wal-Mart as well as consumer electronics," said Lori Wachs, a retail analyst. She also emphasized that retailers are more prepared this year, acquiring less inventory and looking at their cost structures.
In addition to books, Wal-Mart announced 100 additional price cuts on toys this holiday season. This new savings is on top of Wal-Mart's 100 toys for $10 pricing that began at the end of September.
The latest toy rollbacks include popular toys like Buzz Lightyear Talking Action Figure at $29, interactive toys, favorite games and more with 20 percent or 30 percent savings.
Toys 'R' Us
The company introduced its "Biggest Big Book" of toys this year, featuring up to $5,500 in savings. This 80-page book offers deal on bikes, trains, dolls, video games, and electronics. You can also view many of the sale items online at toysrus.com with free shipping on orders over $49.
You can get a $10 Toys 'R' Us gift card with any purchase of $75 or more.
Nintendo Wii Gaming Console is listed for $179, a $20 savings at dell.com with free shipping. Expiring Nov. 3, this will be the lowest price you should expect to see for the Wii since retailers reportedly will not sell it for less than $199 on Black Friday.
Once again this year, in 25 cities, Best Buy consumers will have the opportunity to win a $1,000 gift card and VIP treatment on Black Friday, including a limousine ride to and from the designated Best Buy store. Consumers are asked to submit 250 words or less about what they are most excited for this Black Friday on www.bestbuyvipcontest.com from now until Nov. 20.
Many of these pre-Black Friday deals, such as Wal-Mart and Sears, will last throughout the holiday season, while others may not. Despite recent reports that consumer spending has dropped, the retail industry is not completely suffering yet.
"Things in retail land have picked up a little bit in the past month or so," Wachs said. "September numbers leave us some room for encouragement; this season won't be as disastrous as last year's."