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Consumers Snap Up Big-Screen Bargains

NEW YORK – From a TV perspective, Black Friday proved to be another busy, if not bountiful, year for U.S. consumer electronics, leading analysts covering the market told TWICE.

As predicted prior to the start of the mayhem week, by analysts from NPD DisplaySearch, Quixel Research and IHS iSuppli, consumers turned out in droves to snap up aggressively priced flat-panel TV sets that were bigger on average than a year ago, but offered basic feature sets with few bells or whistles.

“U.S. consumers love a bargain, but could care less about buying a stepup product,” Paul Gagnon, DisplaySearch’s North American TV sales director, said in a Black Friday blog posting. “Listening to custom- ers waiting in line for some of the bigger TV promotions during the dark hours of Thursday night and Friday morning, I noticed a trend to the comments that matches up well with the observed mix of shipments for the [North American] TV market over the last year. Namely, those consumers were focused on the price first, size second, brand third, and all other features were not of interest.”

Among the big retail winners of the day was Walmart, which offered 32-inch Emerson-branded CCFL LCD TVs for just $148. In the same venue, a Samsung DLED 32-inch LCD TV was offered at $100 off, but still had plenty of inventory the next day, he said.

Best Buy attracted a crowd with a 40-inch Toshiba LCD TV priced at $179, but had less than 20 units onhand to meet the stampede.

Tamaryn Pratt, Quixel Research principal, told TWICE that many of the biggest specials of the day in the Southern, Calif., market were gone before Black Friday even arrived.

“The Target I visited at 9 p.m. on Thursday was sold out of the Black Friday TV specials in 10 to 20 minutes, and traffic was brisk on Friday as well at both Target and Best Buy. The 50-inch models were a big draw all over,” she said.

One of the bigger trends that appeared to emerge was a tendency to be “trading pre/early Thanksgiving shopping for Saturday and Sunday activity. It is already becoming Black Friday Month, and I question if it is better for a retailer’s overall profitability to spread sales out,” she said.

“Even putting aside an insane Proscan price of $97 for a 32-inch LCD TV at Sears, prices have certainly not bottomed out,” Pratt continued. “There were significant discounts for entry and top brands.”

In comparing the same retailer, same brand and fea- tures, Quixel spotted a 25 percent decline in 32-inch prices, including an Emerson 32-inch at Walmart at $188 last Black Friday, reduced to $148 this year.

Emerson’s 40-inch LCD was down 20 percent, and Vizio’s 60-inch LCD was selling for $688, which Pratt called “untouchable” by the competition, even with the top-tier brands slashing prices.

Pratt pointed to a 40-inch Samsung leader at Walmart that was down 10 percent from a year ago.

“Another way to look at it, a consumer paid $10 an inch more for a Westinghouse model this Black Friday or $349 for a 50-inch this year vs. $298 for a 46-inch last year,” Pratt said. “Even plasma TVs stayed relevant on Black Friday. Consumers could get a 50/51-inch 1080p model for less than the same screen size 720p offering last year.”

Panasonic was the featured brand of the day in Sears’ 4 a.m. sale, which included a 50-inch 720p plasma set at $299. A 50-inch Samsung was also shopped at $478 on the day.

“Many of the consumers buying large sizes mentioned replacing 32-inch sets or similar-sized flat-panel TVs,” stated Gagnon. “Because of the pricing, many are jumping 10-inch or more in size when trading up, which is good for industry stakeholders focused on selling by the square meter.”

One of the biggest Black Friday specials was a 70-inch Sharp bigscreen LCD at $1,798.

He observed a shopper missing out on a TV deal saying: “ ‘Oh well, there’s always next Black Friday,’ This indicated to me that the purchasing of a TV was done less on the basis of wanting a TV as much as scoring a great price, which should be a wake-up call to the industry to not focus so much on promoting shocking prices to drive traffic.”

Gagnon said he didn’t observe many shoppers taking better features like smart TV, 3D or LED.

“In all three of these features, North America ranks near last in the world in terms of unit shipment share,” he said … “Are retailers not doing an effective job of educating customers about the technology? Are the prices too high? Probably some combination of all of these factors is at play.”

Among the apparent big TV brand winners of the day, according to Gagnon, was Funai (which makes TVs under Funai, Emerson and Philips brands in the U.S., among others).

“Given the demand for the two major Emerson TV promotions (32 and 50 inches), it looks like Funai moved a lot of boxes during Black Friday as well,” Gagnon recorded in his blog account. “In the recently published Q3 ’12 TV shipment results, Funai’s unit shipment share of LCD TVs in North America rose to No. 1, a position they’ve never held, and reaching their highest-ever share at 19.6 percent. Many of those units were destined for Black Friday at Walmart, as Funai shipped over 1.2 million units of 32 inch, with whom Funai has had a strong relationship for years.”

Regarding Walmart’s apparent success in TV retailing on the day, Gagnon said: “Amid all the turmoil surrounding Walmart’s Thanksgiving Day opening, and the labor relations controversy, something striking occurred. Walmart seemed to dominate advertising for TV Black Friday promotions in the run up to Thanksgiving and their multi-event waves of promotions did a very effective job of spreading the traffic out through the night and keeping lines flowing smoothly.”

He also added that Best Buy traffic seemed higher than a year ago; a lot of shoppers were buying computers and tablets. Walmart, he said, seemed “more effective at pulling shoppers looking for TVs this Black Friday, reporting today that it sold more than 1.3 million televisions since 8 p.m. on Thursday.”