By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
TWICE: What were the key takeaways of Black Friday 2012? What have we learned?
Stephen Baker, The NPD Group: We definitely see some new trends emerging, the promotional activity at the beginning of the holiday clearly moving stuff into the beginning of the holiday. We can make an argument as to whether that’s good or bad. Certainly the Thanksgiving week, Black Friday week, is now a much different selling season and selling period than it was just a couple of years ago. Black Friday sales weren’t tremendous, but Cyber Monday week was actually the best of the five holiday weeks. We definitely see a bright opportunity there in terms of just the management of the sales during the holiday.
TWICE: Maybe we need to officially move the holiday season from December to November.
Daniel Pidgeon, Starpower: It’s almost laughable. Now Halloween is the kickoff of the holiday season, which is interesting when you think about how that skews the purchases. Consumers get tired of hearing the promotion about electronics. They know that Q4 is the electronics time, and the earlier we end up promoting, the more we tire them out. By the time we get to December, they really don’t want to talk about flat panels anymore. They want to talk about clothing or other things that they want to get.
Warren Chaiken, Almo: We were up about 15 percent on Black Friday. It was partly due to the online customers we serve, but also because of the independent dealers who realized that they needed to be open, made sure they had tablets in their stores, opened up their short supply of product, and advertised. We had one dealer who had 200 people at their stores at 6:00 in the morning, and that is not typical for an independent dealer.
Another real success for us was Small Business Saturday. Our dealers had good traffic and ended up really increasing from that.
Pidgeon: We had a very solid Q4. It was the best in our history, but we sold the fewest number of flat panels that I can remember. We used to be able to rely on that as a segment that would always bring home Q4 or make things happen in the latter part of the year, but now a lot of the growth is coming from areas other than flat panels. Overall we are extremely pleased with how we are trending, but it is a different ballgame now.
Fred Towns, New Age Electronics: A lot of the customers we were servicing were into getting the new technology statement out there earlier in the season as much as they could. For example, the Touch panel product was on fire for us. We couldn’t get enough of it. It seems now like Christmas begins the day after Halloween, and everybody is looking for excitement about the newest stuff that is coming out.
In contrast, Black Friday seems more and more like it’s not about the newest technology, but the things that they kind of need to move on, offers and deals, besides the normal doorbusters.
TWICE: Speaking of doorbusters, were the promotions a little more controlled last November?
Tom Hickman, Nationwide Marketing Group: There was certainly some activity around certain brands, but other than that it was a little tamer I would say.
Dan Schwab, D&H Distributing: I think it was because it was more spread out. It wasn’t as obvious because some people were very aggressive on Thursday, others on Friday, and others on Monday. From a consumer’s standpoint, it almost leads to some confusion. “Is this the best deal I’m going to get, or is the Cyber Monday deal going to be better? Or are the pre-Christmas deals or the closeouts after Christmas better? When is the right time to buy?”
Mark Shaw, Nebraska Furniture Mart: We actually found with the change to the traffic pattern that, wow, we did something right. We were concerned in 2011 because our traffic counts, particularly on Friday, were down. But the end result was with the assisted selling support for sales on Friday, and actually the whole holiday season, we were better able to service the customer. Whereas a customer would typically rush in on those days, buy the doorbusters, get in the long cashier’s line and leave the store, now we are able to service them, sell them a lot more goods, and do the demos.
We have found it to be advantageous with this change in the pattern of it not all being on that Friday. The counts were down, but the actual sales improved because we were better able to service the customer.
Joe Hartsig, Sam’s Club: We continue to see the compression that is taking place, and it’s not just in December when you get the lull that happens after Black Friday and Cyber week. The lull seems to get bigger at times. People wait, and whether it was exacerbated by the fiscal cliff, or the uncertainty, whatever it may have been, it felt like the trough gets deeper, and then all of the sudden they race to the last weekend to really make those purchases.
You get a peak right before Christmas, but you get the same thing in November. If you plot the dots over the number of years, the peak in November gets bigger as well. Consumers with more access to information are getting trained. It is an industry issue that we have to tackle somehow in terms of getting them off the needle of just buying things that are on sale and waiting for those two times a year.
Schwab: It’s like the old Macy’s One-Day Sales, which were once a month.
TWICE: Amazon keeps pushing its Christmas delivery cutoff closer and closer to that last-minute peak.
Ben Hartman, Amazon.com: Our customers are more and more looking for fast and free shipping, and so we are seeking to offer them that. Overall, we had our biggest holiday season ever. On our peak day worldwide we did 26.5 million units ordered. According to Forrester, we were the No. 1 online retailer in the U.S. and grew faster than any of the other top five.
TWICE: Aside from Kindle, where else was the strength in CE?
Hartman: We saw strength across the board, in everything from PCs to TVs, and frankly some home audio products were also pretty exciting, particularly connected home products like Sonos.
TWICE: Scott, how was Best Buy’s holiday?
Scott Anderson, Best Buy: I don’t think there was any significant surprise. Some of the news that we did have is that we did a very good job last year on our web site, and we probably couldn’t have said that in previous years. We’ve had some glitches with shipping and down time, and we didn’t have that last year. We had a very successful seven-day period from the Monday before Cyber Monday to the Monday of Cyber Monday. That was a good success for us in the business that we did online, and to the in-store pickup that certainly is a homerun for us. The percentage of people that buy something online and yet select in-store pickup is overwhelming.
TWICE: Is a lot of that same-day pickup?
Anderson: Not everybody selects same day. You can select anything from “I’ll be there in 20 minutes” to “I’d rather come in tomorrow.” We’ve done a lot in our test stores, of which there are not very many, of placing in-store pickup in a very relevant position right in front of the store, so right as you walk in you get serviced, especially if you are an in-store pickup customer. The percentages are very high in everything from Amazon Kindle products to everything else. The overwhelming majority of consumers that buy from us online prefer to come into the store and pick it up, and we think that is a good sign.
TWICE: Any afterthoughts on your holiday price-match policy?
Anderson: We think it worked well for us, although quite frankly I’m not sure how many customers know that we do that or did that. I’m sure a lot of them don’t.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.