Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Black Friday deals abound in the downturn

Retailers are rolling out some of the best deals in years in an effort to get consumers anxious about the nation's economic crisis to pry open their pocketbooks.

Expect to see even more eye-popping deals the day after Thanksgiving.

Although most ads for Black Friday don't officially come out until Thanksgiving Day, some already have been leaked on the Internet and are available on sites such as www.dealnews.com (with the caveat that they aren't "official" ads.)

This year, there is no shortgage of $300 laptops, $500 42" LCD TVs, $30 7" digital picture frames and $100 name-brand GPS systems, said Dan de Grandpre, chief executive of www.dealnews.com which tracks Black Friday deals throughout the country.

Many stores are offering a greater selection of Black Friday deals. And unlike previous years, if you miss out, you haven't lost an opportunity to get what you want at the best price possible.

"This year, you shouldn't think of Black Friday as the only time to get the best deals," de Grandpre said. "I think you're going to see a lot of these types of deals throughout the entire season."

What sets this holiday shopping season apart from last year, he said, is the fact that retailers began offering deep discounts on electronics and other merchandise weeks ago. And from all indications they will continue doing so right on through Christmas.

Why so many great deals this year? The nation's economic crisis has taken its toll on retail spending, and deep discounts appear to be the only way for stores to get shoppers to buy.

In October, retail sales nationwide dropped by the largest margin on record, pushing the U.S. economy toward the worst slump in decades.

For retailers, part of the problem is that many consumers are loaded down with debt and can't borrow anymore. Because of growing defaults among credit card users, issuers are raising interest rates but are in no mood to raise credit limits. Banks are cutting off home-equity lines of credit, another source of Christmas cash in years past. In other cases, consumers are reeling from job losses or mandatory reductions in their hours worked, so they are struggling to make mortgage payments, let alone have enough left over for much shopping.

Perhaps an even a bigger issue is that consumers who can afford to buy but seem to be in no mood to do so after months of watching the value of their homes and stock portfolios plummet in value.

All these issues weigh heavily on retailers as they near the Thanksgiving shopping weekend. Although it isn't typically the biggest weekend in terms of retail sales, The Black Friday through Sunday period did account for just over one-tenth of overall holiday sales last year, according to ShopperTrak RCT Corp. co-founder Bill Martin.

The three-day period helps set the tone for the holiday shopping season. It's on this weekend that retailers try to steal market share away from competitors by slashing prices -- even more so this year.

Expect stores to open earlier and to offer more deeply discounted deals.

For example, DVDs, which retailers offer at low prices on Black Friday to help generate foot traffic in stores, this year are being sold for as low as $2 each.

Toys "R" Us stores, for example, will throw open their doors at 5 a.m. on Black Friday, offering 50 percent more early morning deals than a year ago. Unlike past years, it will also be offering a variety of deep discounts at its Babies "R" Us stores. Kohl's Corp. is opening its doors at 4 a.m. and plans to offer discounts of 40 percent to 50 percent on a wider range of brands, including its priciest fashion labels such as Simply Vera Vera Wang.

J.C. Penney is pushing more affordable gifts such as the $49.99 My Sports Gaming System -- which the company is pitching as a cheaper alternative to the Nintendo Wii -- and said it will have 20 percent more early morning discounts on Black Friday than a year ago.

Source : http://www.sltrib.com/