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Best Buy, Kmart Reveal Black Friday Plans

Minneapolis — Best Buy and Kmart have officially posted their Black Friday circulars online.

Best Buy’s door-buster specials include a 42-inch, 720p Panasonic plasma TV for $900 and a Sony Vaio laptop computer for $400. The chain is advising shoppers to arrive early, as tickets for limited quantity sale items will be handed out at 3 a.m. Doors open at 5 a.m., and any remaining Black Friday inventory will be released to the general public at 9 a.m.

Kmart’s lead CE item is a 20-inch Sylvania LCD TV for $197. The five-hour sale will run from 6 a.m. am to 11 a.m., although stores will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, when a 32-inch Olevia LCD TV will be available for $420.

Retailers’ promotional plans for Black Friday were once a highly guarded secret, released to the public on Thanksgiving morning in newspaper circulars. But the advent of Web sites that post illicitly obtained inserts, plus this year’s tendency for retailers to jump-start the weekend with pre-Black Friday sales events, may have prompted the two national chains to show their hands early.

Among those stirring up the pot is Wal-Mart, which began a series of pre-Black Friday promotions earlier this month that included a controversial $99 price point for Toshiba’s HD-A2 HD DVD player. Yesterday the retailer announced a series of online Thanksgiving Day specials, including a $99 Zune media player and $299 Garmin Nuvi, in an attempt to move Black Friday one day ahead.

Other retailers are responding in kind, including Circuit City with its four-day “Thanksgiving countdown” Web-only specials, and CompUSA, which will open its doors on Thanksgiving evening from 9 p.m. to midnight, followed by a seven-hour Black Friday sale beginning at 5 a.m.

Others are taking a harder tack. The Home Theater Specialists of America buying group (HTSA) issued a press release yesterday taking big-box retailers to task for selling low-priced flat-panel displays with inferior resolution, glass, video processors and warranties. “Consumers are so enamored with low price that they don’t see the risk of buying an inferior flat panel TV,” stated David Berman, HTSA’s training and public relations director. “It’s buyer beware, and cheap is costly in flat panels over the long term.”

Nevertheless, millions of shoppers are expected to heed the siren’s song of promotional pricing this weekend. According to a new poll by Consumer Reports, nearly a quarter of all consumers plan to hit the stores on Black Friday, up 4 percent from last year. Of those, about 12 percent are expected to wait on line for early-bird specials.

The survey showed that consumer electronics is the No. 2 gift on Black Friday shopping lists, behind only apparel.