Black Friday competition heating up this week

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Consumers already being offered sizable discounts

With Black Friday a week away, retailers are trying to beat each other’s door-buster deals by getting an early jump on the competition.

Amazon today began marking down toys and electronics, including $20 off the Echo Dot, dropping the price to $29.99. It's also taking $20 off the Echo and $30 off the Echo Plus.

Amazon has also started selling a 40-inch smart TV for $279.99 and a Sony 55-inch 4K Ultra smart TV for $999.99. The sale prices are good now until Black Friday, when the retailer will roll out another set of deals.

Walmart has also cut prices on TVs a week ahead of the official kickoff to the holiday shopping season. It's now selling a Samsung 55-inch class curved 4K smart TV for $597.99, more than $400 off the regular price.

It has also cut prices on laptop computers, with the Lenovo Ideapad 320, with a 15.6 inch screen, selling for $259. For those needing more computing power, the Acer Aspire VX 15 gaming notebook is $899, $111 off the list price.

This week Target and Sam's Club showed their Black Friday hands, publishing deals that will be available on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. Best Buy is advertising a "beat the Black Friday rush sale," with up to $200 off the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus through Saturday, November 18.

Black Friday now a “season”

"Black Friday is now a season and it seems like the season starts November 1," Tom Arnold, professor of finance at the University of Richmond, told ConsumerAffairs. "The ones that seem to jump right in there seem to do the best. I thought Target did a very good job rolling out their early deals."

Arnold has been watching the growing competition between Walmart and Amazon that has heated up with Black Friday's approach. So far, he gives Walmart high marks.

"They want to take a significant swipe at Amazon and so far it looks like they've been reasonably successful," Arnold said.

This competition is likely to work in the consumer's favor as the holiday shopping season unfolds. Holiday shopping site BestBlackFriday, which has obtained leaked ad slicks, says Black Friday prices for TV sets this year are the lowest it's seen.

Challenge for local merchants

Local merchants can sometimes get overlooked in the competition between big box retailers, but Arnold says they still have the opportunity to compete, especially with online retailers.

"The local business has to offer something the online vendor can't," he said. "It could be in the form of service or better shopping experience."

He said that may be especially important to consumers making last minute gift purchases, worried about potential delivery issues.

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