Best Buy is selling an HP laptop, the G60-507DX, for $197. The model normally retails for $549.99. Best Buy launched its second annual VIP contest at the beginning of November. Contestants are eligible to win a $1,000 Best Buy gift card, limo rides to and from store locations and early admittance into the store.
Many of Target's Black Friday deals are on electronics, including a Westinghouse 32-inch LCD HDTV for under $250. Sears started announcing its early "Doorbusters" as Black Friday specials, including a 42-inch LCD TVs for $649.
"Retailers have already cut down inventory and started holiday discounts early this year," says Jie Zhang, associate professor of marketing at the University of Maryland School of Business. "Good deals are already out there and some hot items may sell out this year."
Online retailers are reducing prices on popular big-ticket items such as plasma televisions and electronics, as well as on less expensive items.
Amazon is offering a 60 percent sale on Blu-ray movies starting at $9.99, with a considerable number of Blu-ray titles available for $10. The offer is available through Dec. 31. The Seattle Web retailer is in fierce battle with Walmart for spending dollars this shopping season.
"Both are taking proactive steps to make sure that their businesses continue to grow," says Lee Eisenberg, the author of "Shoptimism."
"While Walmart has had a pretty strong presence online, they haven't fired the imagination of many consumers like Amazon has."
Online sales account for 8 percent of total annual retail, according to the National Retail Federation. Internet researcher comScore said consumers spent $8.21 billion online from Nov. 1-22, a 2 percent increase from the same period a year earlier. The Internet researcher expects the total for both November and December to reach $28.8 billion, a 3 percent gain from last year's holiday season.
New Web sites are popping up to help point shoppers to deals. A site called Black Friday Ads publishes daily updates featuring the best deals on electronics across the Web. SickDeals.Net categorizes offers by retailer, including major ones such as Amazon.com, Best Buy, Macy's and Target, and the number of deals available at each one.
BlackFriday.Info allows shoppers to create a Black Friday shopping list and specifies which deals are online-only.
The weekend after Thanksgiving is easily among the biggest for retailers.
Up to 134 million U.S. consumers may shop for holiday gifts this Thanksgiving weekend, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation. That's 4.7 percent more than last year. A projected 57 million consumers definitely intend to hit the stores in the three days after the Thanksgiving Day holiday, the survey showed.
But thanks to early Black Friday sales – including sales on Thanksgiving Day itself -- the importance of the Black Friday shopping weekend is fading, analyst Cohen said.
"It's really about shopping earlier and longer," he said. "I'm going to be talking about black November, not black Friday.