Get ready -- Christmas is less than six weeks away. With retailers struggling and competing for consumer dollars earlier than ever, now may be the best time to start shopping. "Good Morning America" financial contributor Mellody Hobson has the scoop on where the best holiday deals are right now.
2008 was the worst holiday sales season in 42 years, according to the National Retail Federation, and the projections for 2009 are even worse. The NRF is expecting another drop of 1 percent in sales, which amounts to a whopping $4 billion. Hobson says that's causing retailers to roll out the red carpet to consumers earlier than ever to get your holiday dollars.
Hobson says the fierce competition for book sales started when Walmart announced that its online stores would charge just $9, with free shipping, for some of the biggest books coming out for the holidays.
With Walmart offering that price for books, such as John Grisham's latest and Sarah Palin's upcoming biography, retailers, such as Amazon.com and Target were forced to match them. That's great news for shoppers with book lovers on their list.
Toys, Electronics and DVDs
Toy retailers make 40 percent of their money in the final three months of the year, so the holiday season is very important to them, especially since sales have faltered in recent years.
Walmart is advertising 100 different toys for $10 or less, Hobson says, up from 10 toys last year. The newest DVDs are also on sale for $10 at Walmart, and shipping is free. You'll also find big discounts in electronics.
This season Toys "R" Us is having one of the biggest toy sales ever. It is selling 6,000 toys for under $10.
If you buy through the Toys "R" Us Web site, shipping is free for purchases of $45 or more, and almost anything you want is deeply discounted. Hasbro board games, such as Candyland, are selling for $1.99 after rebate. Many brands of bikes, scooters, and power wheels are 25 percent off. You can also save on electronics like the Sony clock radio for your iPhone, which has an instant $20 savings.
Holiday Gift Shopping Deals and Savings
Clothes and Gifts
Target is offering deep discounts with hundreds of gifts of all types below $15, plus clothing from their designers' collections for under $25. The retailer also has what it calls a low-price promise: stores nationwide will match locally advertised prices from competitors.
There are new sales at Old Navy every week, including 'Party Cardi' cardigans, starting at $19 this weekend.
(And if you want to give back this holiday season, donate a new or gently used coat to the Warm Coats & Warm Hearts Drive. CLICK HERE for more information.)
Hobson says online shopping is one area where sales are expected to go up this year. There is a shopping day called "Cyber Monday" -- the first Monday after Thanksgiving -- when online retailers offer deep discounts only through their Web sites.
One of the biggest discounts this year is in shipping charges. Many stores, like Amazon.com, are offering free or $1 shipping this year. If the store is out of your state, you'll save on sales taxes -- and on gas by not driving to the store.
While you're online, check out the Web sites that track sales and specials at numerous stores. For example, blackfriday.info keeps track of pre-Black Friday and Black Friday sales ads. It also has over 27,000 coupon codes that you can use at online retailers right now.
Mellody's Top 3 Holiday Shopping Tips
Make a Budget and Stick to It: Sales should keep your costs down, not give you carte blanche to spend more. Go to the store with a list -- and stick to it.
No New Credit Cards!: Do not sign up for a store credit card for that 10 percent discount. More credit cards often turn into more debt.
Check for Tax Holidays: Check out tax holidays in your area and shop on those days. You can find out about them on the Web sites of your city or state.