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CE Deals Help Entice Bigger Black Friday Crowds

12/07/2009 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Deals on consumer electronics remained a top Black Friday draw, helping lure a larger number of shoppers over the Thanksgiving weekend.

According to a poll by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and BIGresearch, nearly two-thirds of Americans, or 195 million shoppers, visited stores and e-commerce sites over the holiday weekend, up from 172 million last year.

More than 77 percent of shoppers said they bought CE, computers, video games, music and movies, or books over the weekend, the survey showed, up from 75 percent last year. Apparel was the next most popular purchase at 51 percent, followed by toys at 32 percent.

CE's disproportionate share of discretionary dollars on Black Friday was also confirmed by PriceGrabber.com. A survey by the comparison shopping site found that the 10 most popular products on the day after Thanksgiving were all electronics devices, led by the Wii console (No. 1), Nuvi's 265WT portable navigation device (No. 2) and the 8GB Apple iPod Touch (No. 3).

The biggest growth categories included cellphones, up 26 percent; laptop computers, up 17 percent; PlayStation consoles and accessories, up 12 percent; and laundry pairs, up a whopping 70 percent, PriceGrabber said.

Anecdotal accounts supported CE's drawing power on Black Friday. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) reported heavy traffic at many major CE retailers over the weekend, based on shopper sampling at several CE retail locations by CEA and Gladstone, Ore.-based retail consultancy ChannelForce. Nearly 40 percent of consumers believed traffic this year was heavier than last Black Friday, CEA said, and nearly 80 percent believed it was at least as busy, if not more so, than last year.

“Consumers found attractive technology offerings this weekend, consistent with CEA's earlier Black Friday predictions that consumers are making this holiday a digital one,” said Shawn DuBravac, CEA's chief economist and research director. “Research by CEA and ChannelForce confirms that TVs, digital cameras and Blu-ray players were the top attraction on Black Friday.”

Retailers also continued to benefit from the marketplace absence of Circuit City, whose Black Friday volume was divvied up among remaining CE dealers, most notably Best Buy. CEO Brian Dunn told Bloomberg News that lines outside company stores were longer, and Web site visits greater, than Black Friday 2008, while Toys “R” Us chairman/CEO Jerry Storch told the news service that his stores had an average of 1,000 shoppers queued up before their midnight openings and sold “a significant number” of Apple iPods.

At a Best Buy store in Woodbridge, N.J., the crowd at 4 a.m. on Black Friday morning was already larger than last year, general manager Dinesh Ramchandani told TWICE. He wasn't surprised, based on the store's double-digit comp-sale gains for November, and had accordingly stockpiled the most inventory ever for that location, he said. Once the doors opened at 5:00, the crowds flocked to the computer and digital camera departments, and many shoppers could be seen toting away private-label Dynex LCD TVs.

At a nearby Sixth Avenue Electronics store, manager Vinny Gujral said the Black Friday turnout was “bigger and stronger” than 2008. “People were holding out for too long because of fear and uncertainty, but they're finally coming out of their shells,” he said. Big sellers that morning included 40-inch LCDs (“Very hot,” Gujral noted), and netbook computers (“They're on fire,” he said).

As in past holiday seasons, online sales appeared to outpace spending at brick-and-mortar stores. According to Reston, Va.-based ComScore, e-commerce sites rang in $595 million on Black Friday, an increase of 11 percent year over year. Chairman Gian Fulgoni attributed the gains to heavy discounting, creative promotions, the use of social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and a preponderance of Web sites posting advance Black Friday pricing.

The five most heavily trafficked online stores on Black Friday, each with more than 4 million unique visitors, were Amazon and its related sites, up 28 percent in visitors; Walmart.com, up 22 percent; Apple.com, ahead 39 percent; Target.com, up 2 percent; and Best Buy and its related sites, up 24 percent.

Online sales extended to Nov. 30 during so-called “Cyber Monday,” a marketing invention of the NRF's online arm, Shop.org, although discounts appeared to have retreated from their Black Friday lows.

Broken out by channel, department stores drew the largest crowds over the Thanksgiving weekend (visited by 49 percent of shoppers), followed by discount stores (43 percent), CE specialty stores (29 percent) and online stores (28.5 percent), the NRF said.

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