Online Retailers Launch Early 'Black Friday' Sales

With the economy in the tank, retailers have decided there's no time like the present to start the bargain shopping.
With the economy in the tank, retailers have decided there's no time like the present to get out those Black Friday sales.

Rather than wait for the day after Thanksgiving to launch promotions to lure shoppers, retailers are using the Web to advertise their upcoming Black Friday specials, while also offering early deals online to entice people who prefer to let their mice do the walking. Getting an early start on Black Friday is new for many retailers and a sign that the economic downturn has convinced stores to set aside tradition.

Indeed, retail e-commerce sales in October were the slowest since at least 2001, increasing only 1% over the same month in 2007, according to Web-metrics firm ComScore. October represented the sixth consecutive month this year of slowing growth rates.

As a result, many retailers, such as, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Target, are jump-starting Black Friday with online promotions. Amazon, for example, launched its Black Friday page on Tuesday with deals that will run through Dec. 1, which is Cyber Monday, the Web equivalent of Black Friday, which falls on the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend.

Upcoming deals on Amazon include a Sony Vaio laptop for $800 and 42-inch Panasonic and Samsung plasma TVs for $700 each. Regular prices are $1,200 and $1,000, respectively. Shoppers also can enter a sweepstakes for a chance to win a $10,000 shopping spree on the site. Last Friday, Amazon launched "Customers Vote" deals. A shopper chooses a heavily discounted item, such as an Asus Eee PC 900 netbook for $129, and is notified by e-mail later whether they can buy the item. Winners are selected randomly, according to Amazon.

Best Buy is launching its Black Friday "doorbuster" specials online starting on Thanksgiving, and Kmart is offering free shipping on orders over $49, 5% off consumer electronics, and 10% off most everything else available online.

Wal-Mart's pre-Black Friday specials include a Philips 7-inch portable DVD player for $90 and a Nikon Coolpix L16 7 megapixel digital camera for $94., the National Retail Federation's digital division, expects retailers to offer more Cyber Monday promotions than ever before. Almost 84% of Internet retailers surveyed by the group plan such promotions, up from about 72% last year.