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Saving $$ This Holiday Weekend

The National Retail Federation predicted this week that holiday sales will drop one percent on top of the 3.4 percent decline we saw in 2008 -- the first back-to-back decline in four decades. It's bad news for retailers, but good news for shoppers. Retailers are marking down prices for the holiday season earlier than ever.

It's Christmas -- in October?

"Early Show" financial contributor Vera Gibbons shared some of the great deals that are available to shoppers this weekend.

Columbus Day Weekend used to offer unremarkable deals, but this year it's different. Where should consumers expect to see bargains?

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With the national unemployment rate at 9.8 percent, a 26-year high, deals are pretty much across the board, Gibbon said. Sales wars are really heating up, she explained, with everyone fighting for the consumer dollar, and that consumer today is extremely value-oriented.

Clothing discounts are especially extreme, Gibbons said. All sale items at Ann Taylor are an additional 40 percent off. The Ann Taylor outfit Gibbons showed on "The Early Show", which originally cost $415, now costs just $155.97.

"It's a classic suit that can last a long time," she said.

Another outfit she featured by Kenneth Cole, originally cost $147.50, but now costs just $83.63.

"Everything in the store -- including sale items -- are an additional 30 percent off this Columbus Day weekend," Gibbons said, adding, "Name brand items (are) at deep discounts, from shirts to jackets to cardigans. We're seeing a lot of two-for-one sales."

Gifts will also be deeply discounted this weekend, Gibbons said.

"The toy wars are in full force," she said.

Last week, Gibbons said, Wal-Mart announced it was kicking off its holiday season in October by unveiling a list of 100 toys for just $10, a number up from a list of just 10 items last year. Target responded by announcing its own discounts, including a $5 Barbie. and opened "Christmas Lane" this July.

In addition, electronics' prices are being cut. Nintendo announced at the end of August that the Wii, previously $250, would retail for $200. A 32-inch flat screen television from Toshiba, now retails online at for $380. That's down, Gibbons said, $220 from $600.

Gibbons pointed out government figures released this week show that, in 2008, consumers tried to cut costs, except when it came to kids. Consumers cut spending on apparel in all age groups, but spent almost the same amount for children younger than 16. They also spent $144 more on toys, hobbies, playground equipment and pets in 2008 than the previous year. Gibbons said it's likely retailers will probably try to lure shoppers by offering deep discounts on entertainment.

So, should people wait for deeper discounts -- or should they buy now?

In this economy, deals aren't going anywhere, Gibbons said.

"It's a buyer's market. But there's less inventory. Retailers are not caught off guard this year," Gibbons said. "They know the consumer is strapped, so they're more prepared. Bottom line -- (If it's) something you like, go for it."

But how do you determine the good deals from the bad ones?

Gibbons recommended comparison shopping.

"Use sites like, before you head out the door," she said. "Although the $10 deals at Wal-Mart and bargain prices at other toy outlets were all very affordable, some toys are discounted more heavily than others. Check ads, paper circulars, search for coupon codes for additional savings. Keep in mind there's a lot of price matching going on. Stores don't want to lose your business. So if the guy down the street has that TV for $20 less, let it be known, bring the evidence, and chances are, they will match that competitor's price."

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