Black Friday TV Sales Draw Bargain Hunters



TV market analysts were still processing Black Friday sales data to determine the overall success of the critical holiday selling period as this story went to press, but anecdotal eyewitness accounts told a positive tale for floor traffic and doorbuster specials.

General observations were that retail sales were up 8 percent to 10 percent, year over year from 2009 Black Friday levels, with CE sales proving to be second only to clothing for the heaviest activity.

“Whether it was a successful Black Friday or not is tough to say for TVs,” noted Paul Gagnon, Display- Search North American TV market research director. “Since there are so many weeks of pre-Black Friday sales, it dilutes demand on Black Friday proper. We’ve had four weeks of run-up sales before Black Friday for consumers interested in TVs to satisfy that need.”

From informal observations in the San Diego market area, Gagnon said: “It seems to me that customers in general went after the basic featured, advertised SKUs and didn’t do much trade-up substitution when the ad SKUs sold out.”

Observations from several markets around the country seemed to indicate that while activity was brisk for key hours on Friday, it appeared to have dropped back significantly at several Best Buy locations on Saturday, to what could be best described as a typical heavy Saturday in the New York and Dallas areas.

And at several Best Buy locations on Saturday, activity appeared to be more heavily concentrated in the  PC section than in TV areas.

Riddhi Patel, iSuppli television systems principal analyst, said “rock bottom prices” kept TVs moving fast at Costco, Walmart and Fry’s Electronics outlets in the San Jose, Calif., area over the post-Thanksgiving period.

“During the 35 minutes at Walmart, I must have seen at least 45 to 50 TVs being checked out — the biggest mover seemed to be a Samsung 32-inch model at a $328 price. Samsung had prime location in the aisles along with Vizio 42-inch and Panasonic Blu-ray Disc players,” Patel said.

A San Jose area Costco “ran out of a 55-inch Vizio model priced at $900, pretty quickly,” Patel observed. “I talked to the person on the floor, and he said that they had about 50 units and all ran out pretty early in the day.”

Similarly, she said a Fry’s outlet in the area appeared to be moving Blu-ray Disc players and TVs at a healthy pace.

In the Dallas market area, traffic appeared to be up in several locations, but a $198 special on a 32-inch Emerson LCD TV was the apparent runaway hit of the weekend, noted Randy Lawson, iSuppli display electronics principal analyst and manager.

“The deal of the day was the $198 32-inch Emerson TV. I must have seen at least 100 of them toted out while I waited in line … I saw many people with two of them in their cart,” iSuppli’s Lawson said.

DisplaySearch’s Gagnon reported higher average turnout at electronics stores in the San Diego area over the Thanksgiving weekend.

“The traffic at a couple of Best Buys I visited was up from normal levels for sure, but one location had a pre-opening line about the same as a year ago and another had a much bigger line,” he said. “Most of the people at the front of the line were going for laptops. Inside, it seemed like the two best Samsung deals were doing well — the 32-inch 720p for $327 and the $1,000 46-inch LED with Blu-ray package. Aside from that, a 24- inch LED Dynex was sold out by mid-morning ($189).

“I would say at Best Buy most of the people were buying 32-inch CCFL [backlit] and mid-range 40- to 46- inch CCFL and LED LCD TVs. Plasma wasn’t selling as strongly it seemed at Best Buy — the $699 early-bird special 1080p 50-inch from Panasonic still had stock at 9:00 a.m., four hours after opening,” Gagnon said.

As for better-featured sets, Gagnon said 3D and IPTV models “didn’t seem to have a lot of traction at Best Buy based on what was in shopping carts in the morning, but may have picked up as the advertised specials got lower on stock,” he noted.

Gagnon reported significant traffic flow at TV departments of major mass merchants in San Diego.

“Target definitely seemed busier than a year ago, but with only three advertised TVs, and those selling out within a short time after opening, most people were probably at Target for other things,” he said.

“At Walmart, traffic seemed on par with a year ago, [with] customers obviously going for the $199 32-inch and $398 40-inch 1080p from Emerson, but those sold out quickly. Costco wasn’t much busier than a weekend, but the Vizio coupon models were selling very fast in-store — mostly CCFL [backlit] models,” Gagnon said.

In the Beaverton, Ore., area, “Ultimate Electronics had a grand opening that was wild. Cars lined up and down the street and all the typical madness,” said Tamaryn Pratt, Quixel Research principal. “Most models were only guaranteed with eight units.”

Pratt said she heard of small-screen LED TV sellouts, but she personally witnessed sellouts of CCLF backlit LCD TV SKUs.

“The Westinghouse 40-inch CCFL at $288 was a sellout at several of the Targets I was in,” Pratt said. “I even saw a heated altercation with a customer and store manager — they ended up subbing in an Apex 46-inch for the same price — what a deal.”

Pratt said one electronics manager estimated that “the 42-inch Samsung LCD model at Fred Meyer sold out in five minutes at all locations. I also heard that DLP was strong at the regionals with their doorbuster pricing.”

As for online specials during and after the Black Friday period, Sears was aggressively pushing Samsung TVs in a wide range of screen sizes and feature sets.

Sears offered a pair of Samsung 3D TV models online to set the table for the holidays. These included the brand’s threshold- setting 720p 3D HD TV plasma model PN50C490B3DXZA at an $899 sale price, down from “the regular price of $1,099.” Also offered by the retail chain was the Samsung 55-inch 3D-ready 1080p LED LCD TV UN55C7000WFXZA at $2,199, down $1,100 from $3,299.

Walmart’s online specials included Saturday- only specials: a $94 Sony BDP-S270 Blu-ray Disc player, and $698 for Sony’s Bravia 46-inch 1080p/60Hz LCD TV, model KDL-46EX400.

Costco’s holiday TV promotions focused heavily on Vizio and Hannspree brands, including a 32-inch 720p HD Hannspree model at $270 and a 55-inch 1080p CCFL 120Hz LCD TV at $1,090, $90 off the regular price.

Similarly, BJ’s offered a Vizio 55-inch 1080p CCFL 120Hz LCD TV model at $990.


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