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Holiday GPS: Will Tough Times Lead to Good Electronics Deals?

This economic slowdown couldn’t come at a worse time for retailers and electronics manufacturers — The holidays are typically their biggest earnings period.

Garmin Nüvi® 350
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Garmin Nüvi® 350

But you know what that means: Sales!

Several analysts say with consumers cutting back and weak projections for business spending, there could be some good deals on consumer-technology products this holiday season.

"We’re definitely seeing the trend lean toward prices coming down," says Doug Bell, an analyst with the research firm IDC.

Analysts say we could start seeing some aggressive electronics promotions later this month — definitely by early November.

"You want to get people to buy earlier rather than later — especially in this kind of environment. Nobody knows what’s going to happen in six weeks," says Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis at NPD Group.

And, consumers have sent the message to retailers loud and clear: Sales and promotions were the No. 1 reason shoppers cited for where they choose to shop this year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.

It will likely be a shoppers' market but let the buyer beware: If you're waiting for a big sale on an Apple iPhone or Sony 50-inch flat-screen TV, it might not happen.

Analysts say the best deals this year will be on entry-level items with fewer features made by manufacturers you've probably never heard of — not the big names.

Indeed, Wal-Mart (www.walmart.com) has an entertainment-system package consisting of a 32-inch plasma TV and DVD player for less than $550.

Televisions could turn out to be one of the bright spots this season, NPD says, because the digital-conversion deadline is coming in February and prices are coming down.

Bell says this could be the year of the low-cost notebook computer, which start at $250 and up. They’re perfect for a second or third computer in the home, for a more mobile option or for the cost-conscious consumer, he says.

GPS devices and digital-photo frames were some of the best door-buster sales on "Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving, last year. These categories still have a lot of growth potential and they appeal to cash-strapped consumers, so maybe they’ll make a repeat performance this year.

Right now, Wal-Mart is offering a 7-inch pink digital-picture frame for $42 and Geeks.com (www.geeks.com) has portable GPS devices as low as $65.

Of course, the deals always get better as it gets closer to the holidays, so keep your holiday-deal tracker on at all times!

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