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PNDs Were Hot Black Friday Items

Portable navigation devices saw a dizzying Black Friday with lowball pricing of $59 helping catapult TomTom PNDs to one of the top selling items over the long holiday weekend.

The research firm Retail Decisions said TomTom GPS units were the most heavily purchased electronics items online on Black Friday, followed by a Kodak camera and Nintendo Wii.

Tom Murray, marketing development VP for TomTom, added that the company’s PNDs were one of the most popular items on on Cyber Monday. Garmin also said its PNDs were one of the top five searched items over the holiday weekend.

TomTom’s $59 Black Friday PND special at Walmart stunned competitors and analysts, many of whom suspected it was a loss leader as its price was about half that of a TomTom PND heading into the holiday season.

Murray stated, “The Walmart opportunity … was for us an attractive business opportunity and financial opportunity, giving the TomTom brand more exposure to consumers in the U.S. It served its purpose.”

TomTom has stated it wants to gain market share in the U.S. at recent financial meetings.

Garmin PNDs hit a floor of $89 over Black Friday/Cyber Monday period. Both TomTom and Garmin said prices will rebound partially in December.

“Black Friday is the exception to the rule, and we like to see the category go back to normal. We’ll reduce some retails on the 2×5 series to $119 to $199. The price was previously $149 to $249,” said Garmin mobile navigation sales director Jon Peckman.

He said sales over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday period met Garmin’s “optimistic expectations” and retailers that supported the category with advertising sold through inventory. The season is on track to match industrywide sales of last year, he added.

Murray said overall PND sales in North America will likely exceed last year in units for the fourth quarter and full year, rising to more than 18 million units for the year, up from just more than 17 million last year. Dollar sales, however, are tracking about 24 percent below last year, according to the NPD Group, he said.

TomTom offered the $59 price tag on a One 125 SE PND with 3.5-inch screen. Also, a refurbished TomTom 130S was offered at Pep Boys after a $20 mail-in rebate. Heading into Black Friday, the lowest price on a TomTom was $119.

Last year, Black Friday prices were approximately $99 and $110 to $120, from TomTom and Garmin respectively. A Garmin spokesman noted, “We’ve always expected Black Friday 2009 to be very competitive, and it’s indeed turning out that way.”

iSuppli said this is the first year that a name-brand PND was the lowest priced deal; usually second- and third-tier brands act as price leaders. “It’s definitely a loss leader,” said analyst Danny Kim of the $59 TomTom special.

ABI analyst Dominique Bonte noted, “I think it’s amazing to see a $59 TomTom PND knowing the TomTom iPhone app costs $100.”

Nextar business development and operations VPAndy Frankel called the TomTom special “truly astonishing.” Nextar said it offered 3.5-inch PNDs at $69 after a $10 rebate during the holiday weekend.

Nextar said it expects PND prices may even rise in 2010. “This year, everyone’s been so careful I don’t think you’re going to see the blood-letting in the first part of next year. The pools of potential cost savings are really dry, so there’s nothing fueling a lot lower retail prices. So I think the big guys will try to put the retails up,” said Frankel.