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Web sites get the scoop on holiday sales

Shoppers can turn to the Web for a torrent of potentially juicy details on holiday deals--if they know where to look.

As retailers gear up for the opening day of the holiday shopping season, one enterprising and Web-savvy high school student is offering bargain hunters advance information on where to find deals.

San Francisco's Michael Brim, 17, launched the site BF2004.net as an online clearinghouse for information on this year's Black Friday sales. Black Friday is a retailers' nickname for the Friday after Thanksgiving, which marks the beginning of each year's holiday shopping season in the United States.

Aside from being one of the busiest sales periods of the year, the weekend after Thanksgiving often sets the tone for the rest of the season. Last year, U.S. revenue from computers and other electronics equipment totaled $631 million during the Thanksgiving week, including Black Friday, according to market researcher the NPD Group.

Bargain hunters hoping to catch clearance sales on Black Friday can turn to several Web sites, including BF2004.net, FatWallet and Bargainshare to find Black Friday information in advance. The Bargainshare site, for example, offers a Black Friday forum.

For his part, Brim aims to make it easier to find potential deals on electronics by collecting Black Friday sale information, mostly for national retail chains. Many shoppers home in on "door busters," limited early-morning deals that retailers offer to get shoppers in the store early on Black Friday. BF2004.net lists information on a number of stores offering deals, from tricycles at Tractor Supply to a low-price plasma-screen television at Best Buy.

"I figured a complete site with all the ads would be a beneficial resource" Brim said.

Brim says he gets the information he posts from a number of sources, including people who e-mail him what they say is advance information on stores' Black Friday sales fliers. The teen also clearly says he can't guarantee the accuracy of the information. He classifies as rumors all of the information he offers on BF2004.net.

Despite the fact that details on Black Friday sales are supposed to be kept secret until Thanksgiving, they often leak out early. Retailers must print advertisements and stock product inventories well in advance of their sales, and that means secrets can get spilled.

Regardless of the disclaimers, thousands of bargain hunters have visited BF2004.net, which Brim launched Oct. 31. On several recent days, the site got 300,000 or more page views.

Many visitors have e-mailed Brim questions or requests for new information. "There's a lot of anticipation for these ads," he said.

But BF2004.net has also raised the hackles of at least one retailer, which threatened the young Webmaster with a lawsuit over information he posted regarding the chain, Brim said. Brim removed the offending information.

"I think they just want to protect the ads until they're ready to go," he said.

But Brim is already planning a BF2005.com site for next year.