Updated! With Labor Day now a fond memory, all eyes are looking ahead to November when the nation’s biggest — and for many, most important — event will take place.
Sorry, we’re not talking the presidential election here: The subject at hand is Black Friday.
With Thanksgiving just 77 days away, and many of the week’s promotions already locked and loaded, it’s not too early to begin the conversation.
And the discussion, argued Stephen Baker, The NPD Group’s consumer technology industry analysis VP, should start with nomenclature.
“Black Friday is not the operative term anymore,” he told TWICE. “Now it is a full week of deals as the expansion of retailers to online and the needs of online retailers to compete with off line has extended the time frame past just one day.
“That said,” he continued, “the question should not be about how promotional Black Friday or Thanksgiving Week is going to be, because it is going to be as promotional as every retailer, and brand, can make it. With the overall business remaining challenging, no business can afford to sit on the sidelines and not compete that week and expect to be successful.”
But for Dave Workman, president/CEO of the ProSource buying group, the degree of discounting, and its impact on profitability, are paramount. “Last year’s Black Friday hurt,” he acknowledged, particularly in TV. And against a backdrop of ramped-up 4K production and 30 percent price-point declines, he fears a repeat of November, should vendors and retailers go rogue.
Unfortunately, the outlook isn’t promising, with Baker forecasting “a continuation of the aggressive pricing trends we have seen in televisions.
“They remain the best product to promote, with the widest appeal and the most demand, and pricing and sales will reflect that,” he observed.
Beyond TV, “We would expect the usual [Black Friday] suspects, from headphones and speakers to hard drives and printers, to be an integral part of the promotional environment,” Baker continued.
The biggest wild cards in his estimation: smart home and drones, two emerging categories where “mass consumer awareness and demand remains uncertain, and the payback for aggressive tactics are unclear.”
A major category not typically associated with Black Friday is major appliances. According to industry consultant and longtime Home Depot majap chief Bob Baird, dealers can triple their typical white-goods sales during the period now know as Black November. "This is now a four-week event that can easily [generate] over 20 percent of the total annual volume for an appliance retailer," he told TWICE.
“In addition,” the site projected, “the Xbox One S and Sony’s rumored PlayStation Neo … will lead to Black Friday bundles on consoles both new and old.”
Going further out on a ledge, fellow ad-leak site BlackFriday.fm made the following retailer- and price-specific predictions based on past promotional behavior:
Best Buy: Name-brand 50-inch TVs in the $500 range and off-brand models below $200, plus deeply discounted laptops, tablets, cellphones and Apple products, all to be announced by Nov. 13.
Amazon: The e-tailer’s Deals Week is expected to begin the Friday before Thanksgiving (Nov. 18), with thousands of limited-time Lightning Deals. Price prognostications include the Fire TV set-top box for $70; Echo for $139; Fire tablets starting at $35; and TVs starting under $100.
Walmart: Projected doorbusters include Xbox One bundles (console plus game and extra controller) for $229; a 15.6-inch HP laptop with 4GB RAM, 500GB hard drive and Intel Pentium-class processor for $199; and Samsung’s Galaxy S7 smartphone for $1 with 2-year contract. [Note: BlackFriday.fm also forecasted a $749 starting point for Samsung 70-inch 4K TVs, which Samsung told TWICE was completely inaccurate.] The fun begins a week out with thousands of pre-Black Friday sales, and formally kicks off online on Wednesday, Nov. 23, at midnight, followed by a 6 p.m. store opening on Thanksgiving Day.
And speaking of store openings, Bfads.net posted a reader’s photo that reportedly reveals a test of Black Friday store-hour signage at a Milwaukee Kohl’s, indicating another 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day start. — Additional reporting by Steve Smith