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By Ben Popken

Is Black Friday worth it? You've got your eye on a hot new gadget, a major appliance upgrade, and gifts for all those deserving friends and family members. Should you buy now and get it over with — or really try to hunt for deals on the epic shopping holiday?

Are there really deals?

"Wait until Black Friday for anything Apple, and I would be looking to Walmart, Target, or Best Buy for those deals," wrote Rebecca Lehmann, a senior marketing manager at BradsDeals.

"Apple keeps a tight rein on the discounts they can offer, but they'll often run deals bundling them with gift cards that offer extra value."

This holiday could be a good opportunity both for shoppers and retailers. Spurred by a healthy economy and strong consumer confidence, the National Retail Federation predicts that holiday retail sales will increase by a total of about $720 billion this year, a jump from the average annual increase over the past five years.

Retailers are concerned they've got too much inventory on hand and need to unload it before the holidays, said Dr. Larry Chiagouris, a marketing professor at Pace University.

Retailers and brands have "overproduced and have been essentially hiding the excess product in the off price channel, which could become apparent over the holiday," wrote Simeon Siegel, a retail analyst at Nomura Securities.

"It will likely lead to some big bargains for consumers," said Chiagouris.

Do your research

The holiday can be a good time to replace a major consumer appliance, with retailers offering from 12-40 percent discounts last year on items like refrigerators, according to a review of last year's circulars.

Just be sure that the deal you're finding is on the version of the product or gadget you really want. Many retailers will use the holidays to cut prices and move sales of older items, especially in the consumer electronic world, said Chiagouris.

The best way to see if you should wait to plan out a big Black Friday buying spree is to Google for a copy of last year's circular ad.

"If the price is lower there than it is now, then you're better off waiting," until Black Friday, said Lehmann.

Track prices

Savvy and dedicated shoppers can start using services like Amazon price-tracking site CamelCamelCamel or WikiBuy to start watching the long-term price fluctuations on items they're interested in. That way, when you start getting hit with all the deal promotions, you'll have a much better sense of the "real" price and whether that deal is legitimate: Some retailers will raise the prices just before the promotions kick in so that their discounts look even steeper.