On Black Friday, retailers move so much product that their balance sheets switch from red to black. On Cyber Monday, online stores join in the cost cutting.
Where to find the best deals this season? Cyberspace is the place to shop these days, with deals and discounts drawing shoppers in record numbers. Stores posted Web pages a week or more early, with information on the sales they plan, such as Amazon.com's Black Friday Deals page and Newegg.com's Black Friday and Cyber Monday section.
Online stores are increasingly turning to social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to drive traffic and publicize sales. Beyond sites such as theblackfriday.com and www.black-friday.net, you can use micro-blogging site Twitter to keep current on sales. Surf to twitter.com/Blackfriday, which promises news and deals, from the editors at shoppingblog.com.
Or follow the latest deals tracked down by black-friday.net on popular social networking site Facebook. The deals site is posting its favorite finds to facebook.com/blackfridaydeals.
To compete, other retailers are letting news of their plans slip out early. Fortunately, AOL's consumer adviser Regina Lewis thinks people are safe believing the prices listed in the "leaked" circulars you'll find on sites such as BlackFriday.info and BFads.net.
"Leaked — I use that term loosely, because often times now the retailers are doing it intentionally. It is after all promotion," she points out. Besides, the deals aren't just on Friday and Monday. Lewis notes that Thanksgiving Day itself has emerged as one of the biggest online traffic and sales days in recent years. "The turkey's in the oven, you watch a little football, the next thing you know you get down to business," she explains.
So in between preparing the stuffing and basting the bird, which deals should you watch for?
Cheap laptops: Wal-Mart is coming out with a laptop that's incredibly affordable, at just $198. "A sub-200 dollar price … puts it in the consideration set for a lot of people," says Lewis.
Cheap Apple gear: The iPod-manufacturing technology giant has already sent Black Friday teasers to customers, advertising a "special Apple one-day shopping event" scheduled for November 27th. The circular doesn't list specific deals, but Apple hints at better than ordinary prices. If you've been hankering for a new MacBook, the prices may not get any better.
Cheap digital cameras: Best Buy is advertising a 10-megapixel digital camera for the almost embarrassingly low price of just $49.95, and other stores such as Office Depot are matching that price with different models. Digital cameras will almost certainly be a huge seller on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Cheap Blu-Ray players: The price of high-definition Blu-Ray movie players has been dropping steadily since the products first debuted in June of 2006. Watch for sub-$100 players at Best Buy and other retailers. Wal-Mart is even advertising a $78 model, which is certain to sell out promptly.
Cheap HDTVs: The cost of high-definition televisions seems to plunge by the day, but which deals are worth your money? Keep an eye on Wal-Mart for a 40-inch Sony Bravia, which will be on sale for $598. And rival Target reportedly will sell a 32-inch Westinghouse set for just $246.