Black Friday shoppers make off with some serious bargains. Photo: Getty Images

It's coming.

In less than three weeks, many of us will be lining up in the darkness to get what should be the very best in holiday shopping deals on Black Friday.

Or will they be?

With retailers still feeling the after-effects of the recession and consumer belt-tightening that may or may not loosen in the near future, they're not keen to miss any opportunity to make a sale. For example, Best Buy front loaded its holiday season by offering its "Shop Early, Save Big" sale event this past weekend, and it saw crowds lining up like on Black Friday. The "Amazing Walmart Electronics Event" took place this weekend too, as well as the retailer's "Amazing Online Specials" which included its top holiday toy picks.

And the list of current sales goes on and on – Old Navy's outerwear is 50 percent off as is Lord & Taylor's, Macy's is having its "Big Sale," JC Penney is offering its "Biggest Sale," complete with door busters over the weekend, Kohl's is having its Power Shopping Sale and it goes on.

"The holiday shopping season now extends one to two weeks prior to Black Friday," retail consultant Tom Julian told StyleList. "Retailers want more selling days than just those limited to between Thanksgiving and Christmas."

This is particularly true for this year when there are only four weeks between the holidays (depending on the calendar, there can sometimes be almost five). Julian, the president of the Tom Julian Group, was recently in malls in Atlanta and Phoenix and "was amazed by the holiday promotions already being pushed."

With holiday spending projected to be the same or less than last year, consumers are getting wise to the retailers' tactics, which are now being changed up.

"I'd encourage any shopper to start online and learn items and prices," Julian added. "The big box retailers start early and aggressive."

So if there are specific items on your list, it may play better to be the early bird, shop now and skip the hype of Black Friday – it could save you money (not to mention sleep).

In related news, if you're already in the holiday shopping mood check out these HSN celebrity-designed ornaments that benefit St. Jude.

For more news and information on Black Friday steals and deals, check out WalletPop.