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Black Friday ’09 Reporter’s Notes

Black Friday 2009 began for me by putting on local TV around 8:00 a.m. to see, to my surprise, one of Channel 11’s reporters at the Best Buy I have visited for the past several years on this day, in Long Island City at Northern Boulevard and 50th Street.

After saying, “Great, now why do I have to go there?” I’m glad decided to take a look for myself.By the time I got there at 10:45 the TV guys were gone but the crowds remained. I couldn’t get a parking spot in the store’s lot, usually a good sign for business. Lines stretched from the door on 50th Street around the block to Northern Boulevard, and I thought I would have a long wait, but I got into the store in 10 minutes.

That’s not because there were fewer people in the store – the place was packed – it was because, as the store’s GM James Diaz told me, they changed their strategy. Instead of having a “racetrack” approach of closing certain aisles and having all customers come to the front registers to pay for their purchases, they got more people in the store by having people pay at registers in the individual departments.

Plenty of people were in the store and there were deals to be had, even at 10:55.

32-inch 720p LCD HDTVs were attention getters – Dynex was priced at $299, Insignia for $399. And the Insignia 4-foot HDMI cable was $39.95, side by side with the Monster version at $49.99.

When asked about popular products this Black Friday, Diaz said, “Computers have been very popular, not just doorbusters. TVs are flying out of here … the best have been 32-inch to 46-inch sizes.” He noted that netbooks were very popular, along with video games, and based on the crowds in those departments, I didn’t doubt him.

A few notable bargains, at least from my perspective, that I noticed on Friday: $44.95 DVD player from Toshiba; $449 Panasonic Viera LCD 720p TV; and $499 Dynex 40-inch 1080p HDTVs. Pioneer plasma TVs were still in stock, at least at this store, with the PDP-6020FP 1080p unit at $3,599. There was also a 50-inch Samsung plasma 720p TV at $1,059 and a 52-inch Toshiba LCD TV 1080p at $1,299.

I also have been a regular visitor of the P.C. Richard & Son store a few blocks away on Steinway Street during Black Fridays past, and, like at its Best Buy neighbor, I had to park on the street, not in the parking lot, at 11:45. One of the key salespeople I know at the store was too busy for an interview, but noted, “There was a good line outside the store this morning and we didn’t expect it. There has been steady traffic all day so far,” and then he looked up to the sky for divine intervention to keep the traffic coming.

This store – as did the Best Buy I visited – had more traffic than last Black Friday. Even the appliance department was busy.

And there were deals aplenty: $99 Panasonic Blu-ray DMPBB60; a 52-inch Mitsubishi LCD for $2,349; Samsung’s 55-inch LED LCD for $2,469; an Acer netbook that drew plenty of attention as part of the 16-hour sale at $229; and a Nikon point-and-shoot camera featuring 12.1 megapixels at $299.

Of course, the prices for HDTVs were lower than ever before, and one wonders about profitability. But if these two very unscientific visits are any indication, this could be a good start for the holiday selling season, at least in terms of traffic.

TWICE is very interested in your comments on what happened with your stores and your brands on Black Friday. Please let us know by email and using the Talkback feature of our site.