While the state of the economy remains debatable, shoppers will continue to be conservative with their Christmas budgets, retail analysts say. And that means more bargain hunting.
Here are some tips from deal-finding experts and local savvy shoppers on how to get the best deals during the holiday season.
The shopper who waited until Black Friday in 2012 may have felt a little behind. About two weeks before the hyped shopping holiday, retailers were promoting early-bird "Black Friday" sales, many of which offered the steepest discounts of the year on certain products.
That trend seems to be a continuing chorus.
"Two weeks (before Black Friday) is a great benchmark for when some of the really good sales start trickling down to consumers," says Eric Jones, of bestblackfriday.com. "One of our favorite places to check out during this period is Amazon.com, as they have a great section on lightning deals and release 'Early Black Friday' sales the week before Black Friday. Additionally, Walmart's 'Ultimate Online Specials' are always great."
Over the past several years, shoppers have not had to wait for their Thanksgiving newspaper to score a peek at Black Friday bargains. Now, with leaked advertisements websites like blackfridaycentral.com and blackfriday.com, shoppers can view Black Friday sales almost a month in advance. That gives the consumer the opportunity to research deals, which Jones says is a necessity.
"If you see a sale before Black Friday on an item you really like, and you're comfortable with the price, go ahead and get it," Jones says. "The couple extra bucks you may spend will be worth it if you wait until Black Friday to get that item and it happens to be sold out.
"I will caution not to take the strategy of trying to purchase everything you need for the holidays in mid-December as inventory will be low and you may wind up with nothing," he said.
Sara Briggs, of Gloucester, says she stays organized by making a list of people on her gift list and what she plans to buy. That gives her time to find the best deal and not overspend by being disorganized.
"Start early (now is not too early), and buy for one or two people each week," says Sue Fout, of Williamsburg. "Wrap the gifts as you buy them. It takes the pressure off later and also surprises you when they open the gift, sometimes."
Look for electronics
Televisions are still a major draw on Black Friday, and the deals will continue this year, Jones said.
"Our TV deals page each year is the most heavily trafficked category on our site, and so far in 2013 that trend has continued before any deals on that page have been updated," he said. "As far as particular deals go for TVs, in 2012 Walmart had a doorbuster for a 32-inch' TV at $148. So I would expect a deal on a similar TV to be below $140 this year."
Jones says shoppers can also expect deals on the Amazon Kindle Fire HD, the Microsoft Surface tablet, and fourth generation iPads, as newer models of these products are expected to be released before Black Friday.
For example, Amazon offered the 250 GB Xbox 360 "holiday bundle" for $199 in recent weeks.
"We expect the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One to be the most sought after items for Black Friday and the entire holiday season," Jones says. "Both will be in stock on Black Friday, but I wouldn't expect to see these items for purchase until that day. The GameStop Black Friday ad claims it will have a limited number of both devices for sale at each store. By limited, I'd expect only a handful. However, I have heard some rumblings of up to eight PlayStation 4 consoles at each location.
Doorbuster deals are not only in stores, as the name might suggest, say experts with dealnews.com.