(Black Friday deals article updated with Macy's promotion.)
NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Retailers are going punch-for-punch this holiday season, trying to one-up each other with discounts ahead of the Black Friday rush.
But will these deep discounts, Black Friday ad "leaks" and offers of free-shipping really woo customers and boost the top line?
While the goal is to capture consumers' dollars before their holiday budget runs out, the question is, are these deals actually desensitizing shoppers?
On the one hand, retailers have spent the past year unintentionally "training" shoppers to hold out for the best deals. Now, they are expecting consumers to open their wallets earlier. But shoppers are savvy, and most realize these sales (and potentially some even bigger deals) will still be there the closer it gets to Christmas.
The biggest problem is that there isn't enough newness out there (think Tickle Me Elmo and Nintendo Wii) to entice shoppers, so retailers need to find other ways to drum-up excitement, says Craig Johnson, president at Customer Growth Partners.
And those items that are considered must-haves, like Apple's (AAPL) iPad, are being sold everywhere, reducing the normal level of frenzy that ensues post-Black Friday.
Overall, holiday sales are expected to rise 2.3% to $447.1 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.
(AAPL) For Black Friday, IBISWorld estimates sales will grow 1.9% from last year, to $11.68 billion. The weekend following Thanksgiving, is expected to generate $41.7 billion in sales, a 3.4% jump from Black Friday weekend in 2009.
Macy's (M) will offer free shipping for the first time this holiday season.
The department store will provide free shipping on all orders of $99 or more on its Web site from Nov. 18 through Dec. 20.
(M) Starting at 4 a.m. on Black Friday, Macy's will offer discounts on everything from electronics to beauty items. Deals include: Literati E-Reader from Sharper Image for $99, Martha Stewart Collection Enamel Cast Iron 2.75qt Casserole for $19.99 and $99.99 Tommy Hilfiger Leather Jackets.
(M) Macy's has already said it will hire 65,000 seasonal workers to deal with the holiday rush.
So far, the retail giant has slashed prices on flat-panel televisions and will continue to offer electronic deals throughout November, courtesy of its "The Amazing Walmart Electronic Event."
Wal-Mart also introduced its first 52-page toy catalog, and further cut prices on toys it predicts will be big sellers this holiday season.
On Black Friday, itself, Wal-Mart will open its doors at midnight for its "Open House." In the wee hours it will offer deals on popular toys, apparel and home goods. Discounts will include: Nintendo Wii for $199 with $50 Wal-Mart gift card, Zhu Zhu Pets for $4 and Wrangler jeans for $9.
At 5 a.m. its electronics event will kick off, with huge discounts on HDTVs, laptops, gaming systems and cameras. Wal-Mart will be offering a 15.6" HP laptop for $298, Kodak C183 Digital Camera for $59 and Sansui 19" LCD HDTV for $98.
Wal-Mart said shoppers can receive pricing updates via its Facebook page or on its Web site starting Nov. 16.
Target will also offer free shipping when customers spend $50 or more from Nov. 21 through Dec. 11, and will host sales Thanksgiving day at Target.com that will feature 50% off electronics like cameras, televisions, Blu-ray players and video game consoles.
The company previously said it will be running a four-day sale in stores beginning Nov. 21, that will include up to 50% discounts on more than 170 gift items like toys, electronics and entertainment. It is also cutting prices on the iPod touch and offering two-for-one video games.
On Black Friday, Target will have 25 early-bird specials, compared with 11 last year. There are also rumors circulating that the retailer will be offering $3 appliances and 50% off clothes and toys on Black Friday, after a possible circular was leaked.
The electronics retailer held a similar sale last weekend, slashing prices on an eMachines laptop with AMD V-Series CPU for $280, undercutting Wal-Mart's price on a similar laptop by $8. Best Buy is also sold selling Sony's PSP Go for $150 from $199, HTC's Droid for $100 (half the original price) and Samsung's BDC-5500 Blu-ray player for $120 from $180.
"It's all about the customer this year, and we're listening to what they want," Drew Panayiotou, senior vice president of U.S. marketing, said in a statement.
The department store, which is still struggling to return to a profit, is hoping to do so this holiday season, with several promotions.
Sears will open for the first time ever on Thanksgiving Day from 7 a.m. until noon, hoping to capture shoppers with appliance discounts. The retailer offered door-buster deals last weekend on flat-panel televisions, washer and dryer combos, cookwear and appliances.
It's Kmart stores also announced it is expanding its shipping offers on its Web site and providing free shipping on select purchases. The company also said customers can now buy items through the Kmart2go mobile web site or smart phone applications and select in-store pickup.
The Internet retailer will continue to feature specials through its "Gold Box" section, and this weekend (Nov. 12 and Nov. 13) Amazon will feature a 48-hour sale on HDTVs and video. The sale will include savings on select LED, LCD, and plasma HDTVs -- as well as additional items from top brands including Samsung, LG and Panasonic.
Promotions at the value-priced department store include a "Secret Sale" that will feature an additional 15% to 30% off everything in store and online.
Kohl's Black Friday ad has also been "leaked," and while we can't count on the promotions, some possible deals include: 50% off all toys, $10 Kohl's cash for every $50 spent, Sharper image e-reader for $99.99, and up to 60% off select jewelry.
The retailer is expected to open at 3 a.m. Black Friday morning, with the sale running until 1 p.m. During that time there will be more than 400 early-bird specials.
The department store started on Nov. 6 with the "Biggest Sale of Them All," offering 60% off select items before 1 p.m. last Saturday. The next one-day sales will be on Nov. 17, then its "Huge Sale on Nov. 20, and on Nov. 24 its "Day Before Thanksgiving" sale.
Staples (SPLS) wants to be considered a go-to holiday destination, releasing sneak peeks into its Black Friday sales via Twitter and Facebook.
The office supply retailer will run its specials on Black Friday from 6 a.m. until noon on Black Friday, with an emphasis on electronics.
(SPLS) Some deals include: Kodak MD30 camera for $69.99 from $139.99, HP Laptop with Intel Celeron 900 Processor for $299.98 from $499.98 and 40% off office supplies.
(SPLS) Ahead of Black Friday, Staples will offer up to 50% off laptops, printers, cameras and other items, from Nov. 21 through Nov. 24.
Besides a first-look at deals, Lowe's also gave away 5,000 coupons for up to 90% off select items, on the social networking site.