NEW YORK –
Although TV sales growth has slowed in the past year, holiday bargain shoppers demonstrated on Black Friday weekend that the category still rates highly on their electronics wish lists, albeit, at less- than profit -healthy price points.
Top consumer display analysts who shopped store floors during the Black Friday weekend found TVs — particularly big-screen models — as some of the strongest traffic movers of the period.
Stephen Baker, NPD Group industry analysis VP, said in a Black Friday blog that TVs saw a 30 percent increase in purchasers this year over last year and passed computers as the most popular electronics category (excluding video games.)
“While the advertising focus seemed to be on the smaller screen TVs, that emphasis seemed to be a bit misplaced, or at least redirected by the consumer towards the deals available on larger screen TVs,” Baker said. “..We saw a lot of small screen (under 40-inches) products available at retail long after the doorbuster rush had passed. The earlier buyers this year were clearly the big spenders.”
According to research from online shopping aggregator PriceGrabber and from anecdotal accounts by other market analysts, Samsung’s 55-inch UN55D6000 FullHD LED-edge-lit LCD TV appeared to be one of the top sellers in the TV category for the day.
PriceGrabber had the set ranked first among topsearched for consumer electronics products in all categories.
Among the most compelling product attributes of the 55-inch Samsung set, PriceGrabber said, was the inclusion of Samsung’s Smart TV technology that allowed users to easily search for movies, TV shows, and explore Samsung apps.
Paul Gagnon, DisplaySearch North American TV market research director, said shoppers in the Southern and Northern California markets appeared to hit the stores in waves throughout the day on Friday, with the heaviest surges waiting for doors to open at midnight before thinning somewhat by daybreak, and intensifying again later in the day.
Of the TV specials that remained on the floor by 7 a.m., Gagnon said he saw more than 100 units of 32-inch Emerson LCD TV for $188 at still stacked in a Walmart, along with many other TV specials seven hours after going on sale.
Some supplies also remained for specials on 40-inchand- larger versions, but the bigger-screen specials appeared to be more heavily favored than the deals for 32- inch goods this year, Gagnon said.
“One Best Buy had 20 units of a $199 42-inch Sharp LCD TV in-store special. As opposed to the 10 advertised, they sold out within an hour, and the 60-inch Sharp LCD TV for $799 sold out right by 7:30 a.m.,” Gagnon reported in a Black Friday blog.
Overall, he said, holiday TV demand looked strong.
“We expected to see more in the way of 40-inch-plus promotions for TVs, and the huge volume of 32-inch inventory still remaining later in the day is perhaps an indication that consumers indeed want larger sizes,” he wrote.
“The shipment share of 32-inch LCD TVs was much higher in Q3 ’11 for North America than we expected, so hopefully the later crowds will help clear the inventory of smaller sizes, but it might have been an error to lean so heavily on those 32-inch promotions when the pricing wasn’t drastically different from a year ago,” Gagnon observed.
Gagnon later told TWICE that it was still too early to call any big winners and losers on the day after such a narrow sampling of stores, but “I did see a lot of the Samsung 55-inch LED (several friends bought it). The big volume seems to have been from Funai (Emerson 32-inch LCD) and Samsung (especially with 32-inch and 55-inch model specials).”
Sharp, he said, “had the big showy promotions, like the 42-inch and 60-inch models at Best Buy, but I don’t think the volume was very big. Also, Panasonic’s plasma promotions seemed to be selling well.”
As for 3DTV, which has dominated much of the TV buzz for the past two years, Gagnon said sets offering the feature were “definitely not in people’s carts.”
Vizio, which has been a big Black Friday promoter in the past, “was nearly absent with few promotions, even at Costco,” Gagnon observed. “LG seemed to do OK as well.”
The allure of popular tier-one brand names didn’t appear to carry as much weight this year as no-name models moved heavy volume at aggressive price points, Gagnon said.
“I was pretty impressed by the number of Dynex and Insignia private-label sets in people’s carts at a few of the Best Buys I visited. I remember those were not strong last year during Black Friday,” he offered.
Tamaryn Pratt, Quixel Research principal, said she observed heavy shopper turnouts in both the Los Angeles and Palm Springs areas at Target and Best Buy stores on Thursday evening. Nearly 600 people lined up outside of a Best Buy location in Manhattan Beach, Calif., to await the official start of the sale.
Best Buy staff attempted to alleviate temper tantrums by taking shoppers’ item requests as they stood online, informing them when supplies had run out on an item. The move proved to be prudent, she said.
“A person on our team was told by a Target employee that a fight broke out in their San Francisco store over a TV early Friday morning,” Pratt said.
Pratt cited a Sharp 42-inch LCD TV at $199 as “the most talked about model” by her teams’ observations. She estimated that 36,000 units sold during the doorbuster hours.
“Of course, the 60- and 70-inch Sharp models were a great deal, but those in the industry were expecting the Black Friday price points in advance,” she added.
In large screen, a Toshiba 65-inch model advertised below $1,000 on Amazon “almost trumped the Sharp prices,” she said.
Other great TV buys on the day included a Panasonic 46-inch 720p plasma set at $299, Samsung’s 32- inch LN32D403 LCD at $279, and Emerson’s 32-inch LC320EMI-SF at $188.
“It was interesting that the alternative channels advertised LCD TVs this year compared to last year,” Pratt said. “Office Max and Staples both had LCD TVs in their Black Friday circulars, and we haven’t seen much action in office superstores in quite some time. I also saw no-name models at RiteAid and Toys ‘R’ Us.”
Pratt also cited a common theme on the day that big-screen sizes still rate highly with many TV buyers.
Mitsubishi reported sales were even better than expected for their DLP rear-projection TVs.
Regional retail accounts sold out of the 73- inch Mitsubishi DLP models for $999, which Walmart had success with at $1,198.
Pratt pointed out that the Mitsubishi DLP prices beat out Toshiba’s under-$1,000 65- inch LCD price point as the big-screen bargain of the day.
As for any projections that could be drawn from the pre-holiday activity for the year ahead, Pratt said, “Most retailers and manufacturers are still very cautious. Many are not sure if they should celebrate the Black Friday weekend success.”
She added that many worry that consumers may have made their big expenditures on Thanksgiving and are done for the year.