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Black Friday means lots of TV deals

Lisa Finelli and Kyle Gaddie do not know each other and live nearly a continent apart. But they are on the same quest: the Black Friday hunt for a bargain big-screen TV.

“I’ve been waiting two months to buy a flat-screen TV,” says Finelli, 31, a Black Friday first-timer who plans to scout a Boston-area Best Buy for a 40-to-46-inch replacement for her small Samsung.

Meanwhile, Gaddie, 22, of Laramie, Wyo., has been “looking around a bit” for an even bigger TV, 47 inches to 55 inches, and hopes to find a Black Friday bargain for less than $600. “I’ll buy a TV for the right deal,” he says.

The good news for both of them – and the rest of the holiday shopping horde – is that TV bargains should be plentiful on Black Friday and during the rest of the holiday season. Right now, retailers from Best Buy to Walmart are dangling TVs of all sizes as Black Friday bait.

TVs remain a hot gift, second only to tablets, says Steve Kidera of the Consumer Electronics Association.

“Part of that is that TVs are still a shared experience and tend to be gifts the whole family can enjoy,” he said.

Most eye-catching are the historic sub-$100 lows on small HDTVs. Kmart and Sears have 32-inch LCDs that are doorbuster-priced at $97 or less. As the displays get larger, the prices grow, too, but not by much. Amazon.com and Best Buy both are advertising a 40-inch 1080p Toshiba display for $179.99.

In the 50-inch category, Target has a Westinghouse display priced at $349. Elsewhere, other 50-inch sets might be found for less than $500. And Walmart has a 60-inch Vizio with built-in Wi-Fi and apps for $698.

For retailers and TV makers, “Price is really what they have to sell this year. There were some really good deals last year, but they keep coming down,” says Jordan Selburn, analyst for research firm IHS. When sets get below the $200 mark, he says, “That becomes an impulse buy price. You start thinking, ‘You know, we could use a TV in the bathroom.’”

Black Friday shoppers need to remember that quantities of the super bargain sets are typically limited, says Phil Swann, who tracks Black Friday deals on his news site TVPredictions.com. The sub-$100 TVs “are going to go pretty fast,” he says.

To that end, Walmart has a new one-hour guarantee deal for a 32-inch Emerson LCD TV priced at $148. The retailer guarantees that anyone in the store and in line seeking that TV before 11 p.m. on Thanksgiving night will either get one then or a card guaranteeing it will be shipped before Christmas.

“This is what Black Friday is all about,” says Walmart spokeswoman Sarah Spencer, “providing really great deals on TVs.”

And the good TV deals go beyond the doorbuster promotions. With current regular prices on 60-inch displays from Vizio and Sharp coming in at $999.99, shoppers can watch for better deals over the coming weeks.

A sign of the times when it comes to prices: The average retail price on a 50-inch flat panel TV has fallen to $631 from $833 in 2010, according to market tracking firm The NPD Group.

Price has become the killer app for TVs because newer features – such as smart TV and 3-D – have not caught on with the masses, even though TV makers have made them standard features on most sets.

Fewer electronics shoppers, 33 percent down from 41 percent last year, said they wanted smart TV features – apps that connect you to streaming movies, social networks, games, news, weather and even exercise, a recent survey by Parks Associates found.

But when asked whether they wanted a set that connected to the Internet and had 3-D, consumer interest rose to 29 percent, compared with 23 percent last year.

That small increase could be a sign that shoppers aren’t clear what a smart TV is – or that many sets also have built-in Wi-Fi capability.

“If the price is comparable, go ahead and get the smart TV with Internet capabilities,” says Parks analyst Heather Way.

Still, size is what’s on most shoppers’ minds – and the bigger the better. Nearly three-fourths, 72 percent, of consumers who said they plan to buy a TV this holiday season will buy one 40 inches or larger, up from 65 percent last year, according to the CEA.

© 2012 USA TODAY. All rights reserved.

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