NEW YORK – In years past, Black Friday meant newspaper flyers stuffed with the latest point-andshoot camera doorbuster specials offering the perfect inexpensive new tech gifts for family and friends.
But in recent years, the evolution of the smartphone has rendered the entrylevel camera segment a tiny fraction of its former self; camera manufacturers have shifted focus to more advanced and more expensive enthusiast models, in addition to DSLRs and mirrorless interchangeablelens cameras (ILCs).
At the same time, consumers and manufacturers have come to rely on the Internet for their camera needs more than ever this year, industry observers told TWICE.
Chris Chute, IDC Research digital imaging VP, said for the imaging category in particular, the 2014 Black Friday period “indicated consumers are moving more of their holiday shopping to e-commerce channels, including photo products.”
“On the camera side, the deals we’ve seen are very low prices on enthusiast point-and-shoot models like Canon’s S110 for less than $200 (introduced in 2012 for $449) or low prices on entry-level ILC models. Sony has strong promotions on its ILC cameras, such as the Alpha a3000 for $299, and $149 for a telephoto lens that would normally list for $349 or higher,” he said.
As for photo services, Chute noted that Shutterfly featured more aggressive discounting of 40 percent or more for its photo products during the Thanksgiving weekend and Cyber Monday.
“These trends are in line with year-end tactics we’ve seen in the past,” Chute noted. “However, in 2012 and 2013, only around 25 to 30 percent of annual camera sales are now occurring in the fourth-quarter time frame. In the past, it would be 35 to 45 percent.”
Ben Arnold, NPD executive director and industry analyst, noted that pre-holiday activity in the action camera areas of several leading retailers appeared to show stronger consumer engagement than the still cameras on sales floors.
Arnold said the rugged nature of action cams helped grow sales 69 percent for the past 12 months ending in October, with the Black Friday kick-off to the holiday shopping season becoming increasingly important to action cam sales.
According to NPD’s Weekly Tracking Service, 28 percent of action cam holiday sales occurred during Black Friday week in 2013, up from just 12 percent in 2012.
“This holiday season, action camcorders topped my list of winning product categories, and I expect even more sales will occur during Black Friday week,” Arnold said.
The 800-pound gorilla in the category is its founder GoPro, which has “built a tremendous amount of buzz, both with their IPO this year and as the go-to camera for some interesting online video projects that have helped take their brand mainstream,” Arnold observed in a recent blog. “They also have a compelling new product that launched this fall (the Hero 4) and a few attractive promotions on their earlier model cameras for Black Friday.”
“While GoPro accounts for 60 percent of the camcorder market, and more than 90 percent of action cams, competing action cam brands are gaining traction, Arnold said.
Comparatively, the NPD Group’s Retail Tracking Service found action cam sales from brands other than GoPro grew 5 percent in the past year while ASPs have risen by just over $20.
“At several retailers I visited this weekend, I saw prominent displays from Sony, iON and HTC directly adjacent to GoPro’s eye-catching end cap. For the most part, the action camcorder section in the stores had a high level of traffic (much more than what I saw in the still camera section), an indication the category, beyond the GoPro brand, is interesting to consumers,” Arnold said. “Looking at the success of the category this year, I expect we’ll see more competitors — from traditional camera manufacturers to smartphone OEMs — crop up in 2015 hoping to disrupt the market on price, accessory selection, or in some other way.”
Therefore, the growth prospects for action camcorders are strong “as the intended use of the camera is really up to the user. Action camcorders can be mounted to a snowboard helmet, dog’s collar or a car’s hubcap, making them a suitable gift for just about anybody,” he said.
Scott Peterson, Gap Intelligence camera industry analyst, said digital camera advertising for Black Friday 2014 declined a whopping 36 percent compared with last year, with a total of 65 print ads vs. 102 in 2013.
He said 12 brick-and-mortar retailers within Gap Intelligence’s panel promoted digital cameras for Black Friday 2014, which is two less than last year. He noted that both Fry’s Electronics and Staples did not advertise any models.
“Best Buy emerged as the most aggressive advertiser with a total of 22 ads, doubling its involvement from 2013 (11 ads),” Peterson said.
Contrary to years prior, DSLRs represented the most common camera format advertised for Black Friday 2014, reversing the historical dominance of ultracompact and compact cameras, according to Gap.
Combined with mirrorless models, ILC camera types accounted for 45 percent of the Black Friday ads this year (vs. 26 percent last year), while basic compacts and ultra-compacts fell to just 29 percent of all ads (vs. 56 percent last year).
Although the bridge camera ad count declined by one this year, the segment’s presence in the smaller ad population grew to hit a 26 percent share (vs. 18 percent last year), almost equal to all basic camera ads combined, Peterson said.
The form factor break down of Black Friday 2014 shows the direction that the industry is going as the appeal of ultra-compacts wane, causing a shift toward megazoom and ILC as the preferred camera types.
By camera brand, Gap found that Canon continued to hold the top ranking as a Black Friday advertiser this year with 27 ad hits, followed by Nikon with 23.
Sony ranked a distant third with its seven ads this year, notably overtaking FujiFilm (one) and Samsung (three), which placed ahead of the brand in 2013.
Nikon placed the two most-frequently promoted digital cameras of Black Friday 2014 with its D 3200 dual lens SLR kit and its CoolPix L830 bridge camera, both tied at five ads, Gap said.
Black Friday Trend Watch
Gap Intelligence identified some key trends in Black Friday 2014 promotions:
• Nikon’s D3200 bundle represented a repeat buy this year as six chains offered the same kit for the same $499 net during Black Friday 2013.
• Nikon’ D7000 SLR surfaced for the third year in a row in Best Buy ($799 for the second consecutive year) Black Friday ads.
• Canon’s Rebel T5 garnered four ad hits as a single lens kit ($399 net), and the four hits it scored as a dual lens bundle ($449 net).
• Best Buy associates indicated that Canon’s Rebel T3i dual-lens bundle was an extremely popular buy among shoppers at a $499 net.
• FujiFilm and Nikon both continued to advertise store-exclusive SKUs for Walmart’s Black Friday. Nikon promoted its $47 Cool- Pix L29, while FujiFilm promoted its FinePix S8630 (deriviative of the S8600) bridge camera ($119 net).