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Black Friday Camera Promos Expected To Dip

NEW YORK – The 2013 Black Friday period has taken on a different complexion from prior years when it comes to advertising and promoting digital imaging products, analysts told TWICE.

Instead of focusing on entry point-and-shoot cameras at the lowest price points, camera manufacturers are promoting more advanced offerings, including compact system cameras (CSCs), DSLRs and better-featured pointand- shoots than in the past.

“Generally, we’re seeing that cameras are less prominent than in previous years’ Black Friday circulars,” noted Chris Chute, IDC Research global imaging analysis director. “The key takeaway is that the tradition of focusing on low-end point-and-shoot models to drive sales on Black Friday is no longer relevant as this type of camera has been the hardest hit by the smartphone disruption plaguing the camera industry.”

Benjamin Arnold, The NPD Group consumer technology industry analyst, agreed, adding that he expects Black Friday camera promotions to register a slight shift away from entry point-and-shoots in favor of interchangeablelens cameras.

“Nothing huge, but if point-and-shoot was around 86 percent of sales last holiday season, I could see that come down to around 80 percent with many of the cuts coming from opening price point products,” he noted.

Camera makers should be motivated more than ever to aggressively promote higher-margined Black Friday and holiday specials to make up for lower-than-anticipated demand over the first three quarters of 2013, said Arnold.

“In 2012, 35 percent of camera sales occurred in November/ December,” he said. “I would expect the share this year to exceed last year’s given the unexpected declines in capture devices earlier this year. What I think this means is that camera companies will be price aggressive in an effort to fuel demand and make up for a disappointing January through October.”

Arnold added, “The increased affordability of DSLR, as well as its mediocre performance this year, I think puts a greater focus on that segment for retailers and manufacturers.”

Among some of the more aggressive brands this holiday season have been Nikon and Sony, according to Arnold.

“Sony and Nikon have a high share of mirrorless cameras on the market. This year should have been the year of the CSC but the sales growth wasn’t there,” the NPD analyst said. “I would expect these companies to be fairly aggressive in their promotion of mirrorless this holiday.”

IDC’s Chute added: “Nikon seems to be well featured, with $300 ultra-zoom models going for $99 at Target, and a very aggressive D7000 going for $749 at Best Buy, a camera that is usually priced well above $1,000.”

In addition, Chute pointed out that Samsung mirrorless and ultra-zoom models, and Canon Rebel DSLRs, are also featured in Black Friday circulars.

Retailers selected as being among the most aggressive Black Friday promoters in the imaging category include Best Buy and Walmart, Arnold said, adding the discount chain behemoth would likely continue to focus its promotions “on point-and-shoot deals as the changing point-and-shoot market lines up pretty well with their core consumer.”

As the season advances, Arnold called for more DSLR promotion to step up.

“I think we will see a lot of promotion around DSLR and especially around mirrorless,” he said. “DSLR did not have the sales growth this year that the industry expected, so I can make a case for some pretty attractive discounts this holiday as a way to move some inventory.

“Mirrorless as well did poorly this year considering it’s a new technology and there were high hopes that it would re-energize the imaging market and engage a new group of consumers,” he continued. “Those things didn’t happen this year, and the sales on mirrorless were disappointing for the most part. I expect to see a lot of promotion around mirrorless.”

This year, Arnold said cameras not only have to compete with recent smartphones, they are also going into “a holiday season crowded with tons of new products. Game consoles, 4KTV, wearables, wireless speakers, big discounts on headphones, big discounts on tablets will all vie for gift dollars this season. Cameras are in that discussion, but there are an unprecedented number of new product categories this season that will get attention from retailers.”

With fewer ads, Arnold said, retailers should have ample opportunity to step customers up to better-featured DSLRs and mirrorless CSCs. The season should also generate sales opportunities for photo finishing services.

“I think heavily discounted DSLRs will drive some traffic to retail. Photo output is an opportunity as well,” he said. “Thinking of all the uploads to Instagram and other sharing sites, there is a definite opportunity to get users to engage with those photos off of the screen. I see this as a chance to advance output opportunities, but I’m not sure how deeply retailers will wade into it.”

Another hot imaging segment this season will be socalled point-of-view or action video cameras, Chute said.

“GoPro and other action-camera price points are relatively unaffected by Black Friday promotions, and those promotions tend to revolve around accessory discounts,” said Chute. “This indicates that demand for these POV camcorders remains strong, and vendors in this segment do not necessarily feel the need to deeply discount.”

As for popular camera accessories this holiday season, Arnold said: “If image capture device sales are slower than expected, I could see accessories like lenses and flashes getting some attention. And if you talk about accessories, you also have to talk about all the new lenses and stands that are coming out for smartphone photographers. With the growth of photography on mobile devices, I think there is a big opportunity this holiday to feature some of those products.”