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Deep Discounts Arriving Early This Year

Credit crunch, housing slump, soaring oil prices -- they all add up to a worrisome economy.

But they also mean deep discounts greeting holiday shoppers much earlier than usual this year, reports The Early Show consumer correspondent Susan Koeppen.

The consumer blitz that is "Black Friday" is still 11 days away, but store shelves reveal big bargains already, Koeppen observes.

The nation's biggest chains reported their weakest October in 12 years, prompting a grim picture from analysts peeking at the upcoming holiday season.

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"I don't think it's going to be pretty," analyst Steven Platt told Koeppen. "We're looking for seasonal holiday sales to be off, probably on a five year low."

But while mega-retailers such as Target and Wal-Mart brace for a Wall Street fallout, shoppers can set their sights on big holiday savings, Koeppen points out.

Says Platt, "The good news for the consumer, of course, is that sales are breaking early. There's a lot of excellent pricing."

To boost holiday sales, some shopping malls are opening their doors as early as midnight on Thanksgiving, while many stores are moving up their Black Friday bargains.

"Wal-Mart, for example, broke (began) Christmas already, in late October, on toys," Platt says. "They're running what they call 'black light specials.' You can get a lap top for under $400."

That's good news for worried consumers looking for some much needed relief.

"You gotta be more cautious," one shopper told Koeppen. "You gotta look for better deals; maybe you're not going to shop as much as we did last year."

That, says Koeppen, is exactly what Wall Street doesn't want but, as shoppers line up, it's the discounts that are the draw.

"We shop for special sales, early sales, things like that; coupons, anything we can do to help save," another bargain-hunter explained to Koeppen.

More than 58 million people are expected to hit the stores for sales on Black Friday, Koeppen says, but they way things are going, you don' t have to wait that long to get some great sales.