By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
In pursuit of a first-hand account of Black Friday (and, let's be honest, the chance to snag a great bargain or two), TWICE hit the bricks the morning after Thanksgiving along with tens of millions of Americans. Here's our report on what's become an annual holiday ritual:
2:00 a.m.: Store personnel arrive at a suburban Best Buy in Central New Jersey. A queue has already formed outside the entrance, the first on line having arrived the afternoon before.
3:00 a.m.: The line is now about 200 strong. Sleeping bags, lean-to's, folding chairs and empty coffee cups are strewn about. Unlike past years when mostly teens and college kids braved the cold, baby boomers are well represented this morning.
Among the latter is a middle-aged mom who was driving home from a distant Thanksgiving dinner and decided to pull into the parking lot. Her goal: a $250 Toshiba satellite notebook, one of several "unadvertised specials" that she wants for her daughter, who's asleep in the car. "This is the first time I'm doing this," she says. "I'm hoping to get a good deal on something I wouldn't buy otherwise."
Standing next to her is another first-timer, a forty-something dad who also wants the Toshiba for his daughter. "I couldn't justify spending $700 on a 12-year-old, and I can't give her just a laptop and nothing else," he said. Would he do this again next year? "We'll see."
Their queue-mates include a teen and her dad, on line for a 15-inch Advent LCD TV ($130) for grandma and a $15 Motorola Bluetooth headset for herself, and a student who wants to buy an unspecified iPod for his girlfriend.
4:00 a.m.: "Blue shirts" begin handing out tickets for limited supply door-busters and to advise shoppers on product locations and availability. The Toshiba dad takes a ticket for a 42W-inch Westinghouse LCD TV, sale priced at $1,000. The line now stretches past the building to the strip mall's main entrance, about 100 yards away. Police from multiple jurisdictions arrive to monitor the situation, although the crowd is orderly.
5:00 a.m.: The doors open, the crowd trundles in, and controlled chaos ensues. Numerous queues for various products snake around end-caps and up and down aisles.
7:30 a.m.: The first wave of shoppers dissipates, giving store services manager Frank Baeli a chance to chat with a reporter. This is his fifth Black Friday with Best Buy, he says, which helps explain his coolness under pressure. Indeed, spirits run high for him and his team, which has rehearsed this day in dry runs. Aside from the larger crowds, was anything unexpected? "Nope," he smiles.
1:30 p.m.: Best Buy's "7-hour special" sale ended 90 minutes ago but every spot in the parking lot of the Astoria, N.Y. store is filled. Observers have "never seen it this crowded," owing perhaps to the fine weather and even better prices, and sales volume is already nearing the million-dollar mark, a supervisor says.
Asked about availability on the 42W-inch Panasonic HD plasma, which earlier in the day sold for an unprecedented $1,000, the supervisor says "That's impossible. That's obliterated. None left."
2:30 p.m.: Most of the action at a nearby P.C. Richard & Son is centered at the back of the store where the HDTVs are displayed, including a 46W-inch Sony Bravia LCD TV, advertised for $2,000; a 50W-inch Sony Grand Wega LCD rear projection TV, advertised for $1,300; and a 50W-inch Toshiba DLP advertised for $1,250.
Traffic is brisk, but Bruce, a 15-year salesman with the chain, says the store is expecting another large wave after 5:00 pm as workers return from their jobs. He recalls how the queue was already "outside the parking lot and down the street" by the time he arrived at 7:00 that morning. "I never saw anything like it," he says.How Low Did They Go?
|ABC Warehouse||Canon MiniDV camcorder||$155|
|Amazon.com||Xbox 360 core system||$100|
|American TV & Appliance||Zenith 50W-inch plasma HDTV||$1,688|
|Best Buy||Panasonic 42W-inch plasma HDTV||$1,000|
|Boscov's||Haier 15-inch LCD HD-ready TV||$170|
|BrandsMart USA||Panasonic 42W-inch plasma EDTV||$899|
|Circuit City||Olevia 32W-inch HD LCD HDTV||$475|
|CompUSA||Xbox 360 core system||free***|
|Costco||Vizio 42W-inch plasma HDTV||$1,000|
|CVS/pharmacy||Coby DVD player||$20|
|Electronics Expo||Audiovox 42W-inch plasma HDTV||$944|
|Five Below||GoStereo portable speakers (iPod compatible)||$5|
|Fry's||Olevia 37W-inch HD LCD monitor||$697|
|GameStop||Xbox 360 w/game and 1-yr. replacement coverage||$400|
|hhgregg||Toshiba 42W-inch plasma HDTV||$1,000|
|Home Depot||32W-inch LCD HDTV (indeterminate brand)||$478|
|J&R Music World||Westinghouse 37W-inch 1080p LCD monitor||$800|
|JCPenney||Viore 20-inch LCD HDTV||$300|
|Kmart||Sylvania 20-inch direct view TV||$70|
|Micro Center||Acer Aspire notebook (512MB/60GB)||$200|
|P.C. Richard & Son||Sony 42W-inch Grand Wega LCD RPTV||$877|
|Pep Boys Auto||Mintek portable 7W-inch DVD player||$50|
|Plesser's||Haier 42W-inch plasma HDTV||$999|
|RadioShack||Motorola GoPhone prepaid handset||free|
|Rite Aid Pharmacy||Memorex DVD player||$15|
|Ritz Camera & Image||Nikon CoolPix L4 4 megapixel digital camera||$100|
|Sam's Club||Vizio 46W-inch LCD HDTV||$1,650|
|Sears||Toshiba 42W-inch DLP RPTV||$1,000|
|Sixth Avenue Electronics||JVC 52W-inch LCOS RPTV||$988|
|ShopRite supermarkets(Wakefern Food Corp.)||Venturer 17-inch HD-ready LCD TV||$190|
|Staples||Samsung 20W-inch LCD computer monitor||$180|
|Target||Trutech 19W-inch HD-ready LCD TV||$179|
|Toys "R" Us||Coby 1 GB MP3 player||$30|
|Walgreens||Aiptek flash memory camcorder/camera||$60|
|Wal-Mart||RCA 52W-inch CRT RPTV||$474|
|*Lead items in Black Friday circulars and unadvertised early bird specials|
**Price after rebates, rounded to nearest dollar
***With purchase of any unadvertised TV $1,800 or higher
Source: TWICE market research ©TWICE 2006
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.