NEW YORK —
Black Friday is no longer the bastion of electronics, toys and apparel alone.
For the past three years major appliances have joined the pantheon of Thanksgiving Weekend promotions, as manufacturers and retailers sought to lend some holiday oomph to sluggish white-goods sales.
Though not a traditional fourth-quarter category — majaps largely remains a replacement business, particularly during the recession — refrigeration and laundry products vied with TVs and jewelry for share-of-wallet on Black Friday weekend. Sales promotions included rebates, two-for-one laundry pairs, and refrigeration price cuts on Whirlpool-, LG-, Frigidaire-, GE-, Samsung- and Kenmorebranded products.
“Major appliances are now an important part of Black Friday,” observed Betsey Owens, VP of Sears’ privatelabel Kenmore brand. Sears helped establish the tradition of hot appliance promotions three years ago, Owens told TWICE, and since then, “We’ve seen cost-competition on the day after Thanksgiving become something consumers anticipate. They know there are great deals out there.”
This Black Friday weekend did not disappoint, as earlybird shoppers found a plethora of aggressive majap discounts in stores. At Sears, Kenmore led the charge with washer-dryer pairs that were essentially packaged as twofor- one doorbusters, while a 25 percent-off sale on the premium Kenmore Elite line reduced the retail of a 28-cubic- foot three-door refrigerator from $2,700 to $1,500.
At Lowe’s, Whirlpool took center stage with a mail-in rebate program that offered up to $625 in savings on select kitchen appliances. Other Whirlpool incentives included a free cooktop with the purchase of a single or double wall oven, and front-load laundry pedestals for $99 each.
Within the specialty channel, hhgregg offered two pedestals for the price of one with the purchase of any front-load laundry pair, including a 4-cubic-foot Whirlpool washer and companion electric dryer for $799. Sisterbrand Maytag was also represented, with a 25-cubic-foot stainless-steel three-door fridge that was reduced from $2,200 to $999.
In contrast, Best Buy put LG, Samsung and Frigidaire front and center on Black Friday morning. Sales included an LG front-load laundry pair at a two-for-one price of $1,000; 30-percent off a 28.5-cubic-foot Samsung three-door, stainless steel fridge, priced at $1,890; and a 5.4-cubic-foot Frigidaire stainless electric range for $400, a savings of $300.
The doorbusters apparently hit their mark. According to online shopping comparison site
, appliances was the fourth most popular Black Friday category visited on the company’s iPhone shopping app that day, after electronics, computers and cameras, and followed by toys in fifth place. What’s more, PriceGrabber analytics data showed that refrigerators, vacuum cleaners and washers were among the top five non-tech growth categories on Black Friday. Refrigerators enjoyed the greatest growth, up 168 percent in PriceGrabber searches year over year, followed by third-place vacuums (up 100 percent) and fifth-place washers (up 60 percent).
Mark Delaney, director of The NPD Group’s home division, anticipated that the promotions would spur a big turnout by bargain-conscious customers. “Now that consumers have become accustomed to look for appliance deals on Black Friday, the current economic climate should give this industry a much-needed shot in the arm this month,” he said.
Delaney’s forecast is supported by recent sales trends. According to NPD’s point-of-sale leader panel, Black Friday has played an increasingly important role in annual major appliance sales since 2007. Among its findings, sales of white goods increased during Black Friday week of 2008 despite lower November sales overall, while industrywide unit sales in both 2008 and 2009 nearly doubled during Black Friday week over the preceding weeks of November.
Beyond price, “innovation and color have been the driving trends in major appliances over the past few years,” Delaney observed. According to NPD’s Economy Tracker, dollar sales of three-door refrigerators grew by more than 50 percent during each Black Friday week between 2007 and 2009.
In terms of finish, stainless steel was the shining star of Black Friday 2007 for refrigerators, but the spotlight turned to black and stainless-look exteriors over the last two years. While still the largest segment, stainless steel may continue to lose some of its sheen due to its high price point, NPD said, amid the uncertain economy.
Top-load washer sales similarly took a hit in November 2008, as front-load models tripled in unit growth and doubled in dollar growth during Black Friday week. However, top-load models regained lost ground last year as greater wash capacities and higher energy and water efficiency helped bring sales back to 2007 levels, which contributed to a 20 percent decline in front-loader sales compared with Black Friday 2008.
Color as well as drum configuration also played a role in Black Friday week laundry sales in 2008, and even more so in 2009. Color washers and dryers are heavily promoted categories on Black Friday, and while white remains king of the laundry room, with the highest sales volumes overall, color models tripled their dollar sales during Black Friday week 2009, NPD said.