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Procrastinators Push Holiday Season Past Christmas

New York — Holiday pricing on consumer electronics recovered from the promotional depths that marked the start of the season, but remained sharply competitive in the last days of December as CE dealers drew large swells of last-minute shoppers and post-Christmas bargain hunters.

Following the earnings drubbing from Thanksgiving weekend, the markdowns, promotions and finance offers planned for the last two weeks of December appeared more rational than the opening salvos on Black Friday. Panasonic’s now famously footballed 42W-inch plasma TV, for example, was still being touted at $1,000 on Christmas Eve — albeit for enhanced rather than high-definition models.

Still, with 50 percent to 60 percent of retailers’ annual revenue generated in the fourth quarter according to Goldman Sachs, and 50 percent of that garnered in the final two weeks of the year, dealers put on a full-court press for last minute business. “It’s a wrap” promotions included:

  • Maxent’s 50W-inch plasma HDTV monitor for $1,500 at Best Buy
  • Sylvania’s 42W-inch plasma HDTV for $1,000 at Circuit City
  • Haier’s 42W-inch plasma HDTV for $1,000 at Nebraska Furniture Mart
  • Samsung’s 42W-inch DLP RP-HDTV for $900 at Samsung
  • Olevia’s 37W-inch LCD HDTV for $800 at hhgregg
  • Toshiba’s 32W-inch LCD HDTV monitor for $600 at Conn’s
  • Westinghouse’s 20-inch LCD TV for $300 at J&R Music World

The extra shopping weekend, which Goldman, Sachs expected would boost comparable store sales into the plus column, also extended the annual game of chicken between merchants and shoppers angling for the best and final sales advantage. Best Buy’s doors stayed open until 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve, while Kohl’s, which has been encroaching the CE sector with promotionally priced LCD TVs, digital photo frames, iPod docks and other gifts, kept its stores open until 6 p.m. that night.

The extended shopping period was welcomed by many customers, if not sales associates. According to a poll by the National Retail Federation, more than 33 million consumers (15.4 percent) had not started their holiday shopping by the second week of December. A similar survey commissioned by Circuit City showed that more than half of respondents would still be shopping for gifts within a week of Christmas, and one in five did not expect to finish until Christmas Eve.

Preliminary sales results confirmed the last-minute crush. According to ShopperTrak, which charts shopper movement and retail revenue, Dec. 23 or “Super Saturday” was the second-busiest shopping day of the season, coming up just shy of Black Friday with total sales of $8.7 billion, an increase of 61.7 percent over the prior-year period. “The total dollars spent indicate a very strong close to the holiday shopping season,” said ShopperTrak co-founder Bill Martin, “as procrastinating shoppers proved they were willing to spend.”