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Black Friday Aftermath

12/06/2010 12:01:00 AM Eastern
Black Friday has come and gone, and from all accounts there was more traffic and slightly higher sales volume than last year. That’s good news. But you’ve got to put all the sales volume and consumer enthusiasm described during the holiday weekend in perspective.

What is the aftermath of all the deeper-than-normal Black Friday price cutting for the CE industry?

CE sales for Black Friday and the entire Thanksgiving weekend, especially including Cyber Monday, were thankfully higher than 2009. But 2009 was down dramatically from the heights of the middle of the decade.

Our coverage of Black Friday, led by senior editor Alan Wolf with additional reporting by executive editor Greg Tarr on TV and digital camera sales, provide dramatic details on what went on at retail that day.

What is telling about Black Friday 2010 were the deals available, of course, and how — with the help from online research by PC or phone — it has changed consumer behavior.

The special deals and packages, available since Halloween weekend, built to a crescendo through Black Friday and the holiday weekend and were tremendous.

There were double-digit drops in LED TVs, computers, home theater and other categories. Packages were available for 3D TV that featured instant rebates. The consumer was a bigger winner this season than ever before.

If consumers were well-informed, avoided impulse buys and kept to their shopping plan either in stores or on line, they got historic bargains. A comment from Jon Jovel, general manager of the Costco in Long Island City, N.Y., that I visited on Black Friday by midday, stuck with me. He said in the CE department, “It looked like [this morning] consumers knew what they wanted and did their research. They were well-informed.”

His observation was confirmed by Monday when more than one media report I heard on TV said that while traffic was up and sales volume rose, many who were polled said they passed on certain categories if the specific deal they were looking for was sold out.

So, please, turn back the hype a couple of notches and remember what Black Friday was originally supposed to be about: Retailers offer the consumers a few incredible deals to get them in the door in hopes of selling them higher end goods.

Now it’s incredible if you can find fully featured products with legitimate margins available in stores or online during Black Friday.

Training consumers to wait for the lowest price in CE has been going on for decades, and they have learned their lessons well. With shoppers still concerned about the economy and only focused on bargains, one wonders if the rest of the holiday selling season will be about generating some profits — or just about moving inventory out the door before Jan. 1.

As some CE Hall of Famer once said to me years ago (maybe Elias if not Gold), “You can’t make a meal on a bowl full of volume.”
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