It’s shaping up to be the best holiday shopping season for consumers since 2009, and Black Friday is still a week away.

Earlier this week, Wal-Mart announced that it’s matching prices on nearly 100 Black Friday specials a week early, starting Friday. The prices on electronics and toys are from ads already released by rivals Target, Best Buy and Toys ‘R’ Us, including LeapPad 2 for $39.99 (regularly $79) and LG 50-inch HDTVs for $448, regularly $598.

Late Thursday, Best Buy volleyed back, announcing that it will add more doorbusters Friday including a Vizio 50-inch TV for $449.99, regularly $650, a Toshiba laptop for $299 and a free Best Buy gift card for $75 with the purchase of a fourth-generation Apple iPad with Retina display. The sale runs through Saturday.

“These kinds of price wars are unprecedented a week before Black Friday,” said Mark LoCastro, a shopping expert at Adding to the “shoppers-never-had-it-so-good” feeling, Target, Best Buy and Toys ‘R’ Us will honor Wal-Mart’s price match if the prices are advertised or posted at Typically, big-box stores will not match prices from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, but with the deals being offered a week earlier, prices are eligible for matching.

Price matching kicks in

Representatives from the three retailers confirmed that they will match Wal-Mart’s advertised prices Friday, although most of the items being matched will only be advertised in Wal-Mart stores. Target and other retailers generally won’t match without proof online or in a current print ad.

What could go wrong with the early deals? Finding out that an item is out of stock, said Burt Flickinger, ­managing director of the Strategic Resources consulting firm in New York City. “Inventory levels at Wal-Mart and Target have been deplorable,” said. “Even if they do price-match, there’s a lower chance of ­finding it.”

Buying on impulse

LoCastro said the Black Friday early price match is smart strategy on Wal-Mart’s part because the promotion will attract shoppers who will look for price-matched items but buy impulse items too. “It’s a solid way to increase sales,” he said.

Analysts say that in the past few shoppers have asked for a match. Wal-Mart and Target won’t confirm how frequently they price match, but only about 5 percent of shoppers ask for a match during the holidays, said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group.

Wal-Mart also announced that it is lowering the minimum amount for free shipping at to $35 from $50 starting Friday. Target offers free shipping on all orders to its Redcard holders. Best Buy offers free shipping to its My Best Buy Elite members.

It’s another example of a retail environment that’s more competitive than ever, said Flickinger.