Shop Online Now for Black Friday-Style Sales

While retailers gear up for Black Friday -- the shopping day of all shopping days -- many are trying to get a jump on the competition, particularly online. Black Friday-style sales have already hit the internet in a big way and Regina Lewis, consumer adviser for AOL, has been scouting them out. She shared an inside look on "The Early Show" of some of the best deals out there now.

Special Section: Holiday Gift Guide

It's called Christmas Creep and the deals have certainly been coming early and often this year. It's a crucial time for retailers - the holiday season often accounts for 25 to 40 percent of annual sales, so they want consumers shopping sooner than later and want keep them shopping. Major retailers, such as Sears, Best Buy, Walmart and Target, all have been running various Black Friday-style sales for weeks now. And now that we are just three days away from Black Friday, you could say Black Friday has already started, at least online.

Lewis explained online retailers have traditionally led the charge for early sales, and this year is no different. Online shoppers can "cherry pick" deals from the comfort of their home. Shopping online, you have the feeling that the site has a warehouse full of supply - going out to brave the crowds online Black Friday - you never know when the "hot items" will sell out.

Deals already available on the web:
Amazon.com: Lightning Deals
Sears.com: Cyber Monday now
Target.com: Four-day pre-Black Friday sale
Oldnavy.com & Gap.com: One-day sales each day

If you spot a deal, don't hesitate to pull the trigger:
If you see something that's on your "list" and it's at a good price and it's in the size/color you want, don't wait or you run the risk of it selling out. Retailers are keeping fairly lean inventories this year and can't afford to be saddled with a lot of excess goods at the end of the season. Use sites like PriceGrabber.com to comparison shop.

Earn cash while you shop:
The big new trend this year is earning cash back while you shop. If you start on the website Shortcuts.com/cashback, you'll see all of the major e-tailers listed. Click on the site you want to shop at and secure your coupon code - it could be for $10.00 off your order or maybe it gets your free shipping. From there, you can earn cash back while you are shopping on any of the sites. Shortcuts.com keeps a running tab of your purchases and three months later, they send you a check in the mail. And if you are using a credit card that earns cash back (Discover or Bank of America Rewards card), it's a double win.

Stay-at-home and stay alerted to great deals:

Two moves to make here:

1. Raise your virtual hand for shopping deals:
To be the first to find out about holiday shopping deals, "opt in" to retailers e-mail (a.k.a, "sale mail"), SMS text messages on your cell phone and your favorite e-tailers social networking site. Become a "fan" of their Facebook page or sign up for their Twitter feed (or have the kids do this for you!). In return, you'll likely receive money saving coupon codes and heads up on sales.

2. Check in with deal spotters:
There are bargain hunters online that do the deal-hunting all the time, so no need to do the legwork yourself. Go to sites like WalletPop.com or GottaDeal.com, where they've invested the time, checking prices from store to store and site-to-site, and have posted the best deals -- often with coupon codes to save you even more. You can search the deals by category: electronics, apparel, sporting goods, etc. Another thing we're seeing more of this year - bargain hunters "tweeting" about sales. Chances are, your favorite sales site is also on Twitter, so sign-up to receive those tweets.

Expect the discounting to remain hot and heavy online - now, all the way through Cyber Monday and that includes Thanksgiving Day. Retailers know shoppers looking to get a jump on their Black Friday shopping will be online hunting for deals while waiting for the Turkey to roast - and back on again after the big meal is over. Look for deep discounting to actually start Thanksgiving morning. To give you an idea of the kind of online shopping that happens on Thanksgiving Day: In 2009, shopping online Thanksgiving Day totaled $318 million. In some cases, the discounts you see online Thanksgiving Day will be limited-time, "web-only sales." But some of the deals are the same ones you will see in store on Black Friday, so either way it can be a good way to get a jump on your bargain hunting.
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