By Nicole Bode
DNAinfo Associate Editor
MANHATTAN — Black Friday got started early this year, with online sales rivaling those in city stores.
Retailers are blanketing the Internet with deeply-discounted sale offers — like at Amazon.com, where AMC’s "Mad Men" season 2 is priced at $20.49 — down from $49.99. BestBuy.com touts a 46-inch Samsung flat-screen LCD high-definition Television for $999, $400 off of the retail price.
The pre-Friday sale offers fit industry expert predictions that retailers are going to have to work hard to attract shoppers in this economic downturn.
“Two-thirds of Americans said the economy will affect their holiday plans this year, with the majority of these consumers saying they’re adjusting by simply spending less,” predicted the National Retail Federation’s 2009 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey.
Holiday retail industry sales are expected to decline this year to $437.6 billion, as the average shopper’s budget shrinks from $705.01 to $682.74, the report says.
"In anticipation of weak demand, many retailers scaled back on inventory levels to prevent unplanned markdowns at the end of the season," NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin said in a statement. "Once the most popular items are gone, retailers won’t have anywhere to get them, so if there was ever a holiday season to buy early, this is it."
The electronics Web site DealNews.com — whose catchphrase boasts "where every day is black Friday" — encouraged shoppers to scour online coupons and "secret" sale offers posted online on Thanksgiving Day to prepare for Friday’s onslaught.
Some of the highlights they found include a HP Intel Celeron 16-inch laptop for $300 — down from $550 — at Staples and a Microsoft Xbox 360 Elite, plus two games and a $60 gift card — for $300 at Radio Shack.
The online deals come as retailers try to make their “doorbuster” ad campaign safer this year, to prevent tragic crowd surges like the one that killed a WalMart security guard in Long Island last year.
Jdimytai Damour, 34, was stampeded to death at the Valley Stream WalMart when he tried to control the impatient crowds around 5 a.m. last Nov. 27.
"What happened is tragic, and we're still saddened by it," Daphne Moore, spokeswoman for Wal-Mart Stores, told the Associated Press. "We are committed to looking for ways to make stores even safer for our customers and associates."
Under an agreement this summer with Nassau prosecutors, WalMart agreed to overhaul security at its 92 New York locations. Changes include staying open 24 hours to dampen opening-day chaos, and scattering the hot sale items to prevent crowding, the AP reports.