November 04, 2010, 10:05 PM — The first Black Friday e-mail alerts are already appearing in my inbox. The day-after-Thanksgiving holiday shopping event has morphed into a season of its own, running from November through Christmas in an effort to get consumers spending. So what will the deals look like this year?
First of all, they probably won't be as amazing as those of, say, two years ago, says Dan de Grandpre, founder of DealNews, which reports on bargains year-round. When the recession first hit, he explains, retailers had large inventories on hand and were forced to slash prices drastically to reduce them. They've become more cautious since then, so inventories are smaller and they are not under the same intense pressure to move merchandise.
Michael Brim, Webmaster for BFAds, which posts Black Friday ads as they are leaked or released, adds that stores may not have a lot of markup left to cut, owing to year-round efforts to lure customers in a down economy. "The stores are hurting too," he says.
As a result, de Grandpre generally expects to see this year's shopping season resemble a game of chicken, with consumers waiting as long as possible for bargains and with retailers holding the line on prices as long as they can. That might mean that the best prices won't be offered on Black Friday or Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend).
Even so, stores (both online and brick-and-mortar) will still be competing for customers. Here's the deal landscape in several popular categories.
Big Screens, Bigger Deals
HDTVs remain trusty holiday deal magnets. When it comes to bargains, however, size definitely matters in this category--and judging from recent history, you're more likely to find deals in larger screen sizes. Both de Grandpre and Brim expect the biggest price cuts to appear in the 50- to 55-inch HDTV category, as prices for 42- to 46-inch sets have already pretty much reached rock bottom in the last year. DealNews' Black Friday predictions anticipate seeing at least one brand-name 55-inch LCD-TV going for $800 (although it won't be a top-tier brand, and it likely won't be LED-backlit).