Retailers Launch Pre- Black Friday Promotions Following Tepid October

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Holiday promotions couldn’t come soon enough for retailers, as discount chains cited sagging sales of TVs and other CE products in October.

In an effort to kick-start demand, Sears and

used Halloween weekend as the starting point for their seasonal CE sales, followed by a salvo of TV and PC discounts by Walmart and Best Buy. Others, including Target, will hold their fire until Thanksgiving week, when retailers are expected to unleash a fierce barrage of deep CE promotions leading up to Black Friday.

Target will need the holiday activity to stimulate sales after October’s tepid results. Revenue rose 2.2 percent to $4.6 billion and same-store sales rose 1.7 percent for the four-week period. “October sales were near the low end of our expectations,” acknowledged chairman/president/CEO Gregg Steinhafel, although business improved in the back-half of the month and sales of non-discretionary items — with the exception of prerecorded music and movies — continue to outpace other categories.

“While the environment remains uncertain, we’re entering the fourth quarter with exciting holiday marketing and compelling merchandise,” he said, including the Nov. 7 rollout of the iPhone and a 5 percent discount on all purchases made with Target’s private-label credit card or debit cards.

Within the wholesale club channel, Costco said net sales rose 11 percent to $6.3 billion for the four weeks ending Oct. 31, while U.S. same-store sales rose 3 percent excluding the favorable impact of higher gasoline prices.

Comp-store sales of CE slid by the low single digits, due largely to a mid-teens percentage drop in TV unit volume year over year. The decline was partially offset by comp increases in majaps, navigation and wireless, the company said.

TVs also faltered at BJ’s Wholesale Club, where net sales increased 6.3 percent to $812.7 million last month and same-store sales rose 2.2 percent excluding gasoline. The chain achieved the sales gains without the help of TVs and pre-recorded video, which were among its weakest performers compared to the year-ago period, BJ’s said.

In an effort to jumpstart seasonal sales, other national retailers began launching CE-specific promotional events before Halloween. Sears,

and Dell fired the first salvos last month, followed by an early November CE sale by Walmart.

Amazon said it will offer a selection of CE deals each Friday through Thanksgiving at

, while Sears and sister chain Kmart are holding weekly CE sales events that will continue through Christmas.

Sears’ program began with a $300 discount on a 50- inch Panasonic 1080p plasma TV that regularly retails there for $1,199. Combined with a new monthly payment plan, which allows customers to manage their spending over a 48-month period on qualifying in-store purchases of $750, customers were able to purchase the TV for $899 or $25 per month.

The current CE sales event, running Oct. 31-Nov. 6, includes a 52-inch, 240Hz Sony Bravia LED-TV for $1,600, reduced from $2,800, and a 10-inch ViewSonic Viewpad Wi-Fi tablet with Android 2.2, reduced $20 to $380.

Next week’s promos will include price cuts and loyalty program points on purchases of TV bundles and video games, including a 42-inch 120Hz 1080p Panasonic LCD and an unspecified home-theater system for $750, reduced in-store from $1,100 at Sears, along with 70,000 rewards points.

Sears’ CE-specific discounts are in addition to a weekly “Black Friday Now” sales event that will run each Friday and Saturday through Christmas. Parent company Sears Holdings said the CE holiday promotion comes in response to increased demand from consumers “seeking the hottest deals and must-have electronics this season.”

Dell’s Halloween-themed event ran through Nov. 2 and included free shipping on a pair of discounted Vizio 1080p LCD TVs. The 37-inch E370VA sold for $480, a savings of $60, and its 47-inch counterpart was reduced by $150 to $780, Dell said.

Vizio was also the focus of the first in a series of CE holiday sales events by Walmart this past weekend. The discounter’s “Amazing Walmart Electronics Event” also included reduced pricing on Vizio TVs, a Compaq laptop and a Sony PlayStation3 Move bundle, plus discounts on iTunes gift cards.

“We know our customers are starting their holiday shopping now, and they are looking for consumer electronics gifts that the entire family can enjoy together,” said Gary Severson, entertainment senior VP for Walmart U.S. “This is the first of many holiday savings events around the hottest consumer electronics gifts, and we are committed to continuing to offer families incredible savings on the best gifts they want throughout the entire holiday season.”

Discounts on Vizio TVs included:

• $100 off a 26-inch 720p LED model, sale price $198;

• $50 off a 32-inch 720p LCD model, sale price $298;

• $50 off a 42-inch 1080p LCD sale price, $498;

• $100 off a 47-inch 1080p, 120Hz LCD, sale price $698; and

• $200 off a 55-inch 1080p, 120Hz LCD, sale price $898.

The Compaq laptop, on sale for $288, features 2GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive, a 15.6-inch display and an Intel Celeron processor.

The Sony PlayStation3 offer included a 320GB console with Move Bundle and a $50 Walmart gift card for $399.

Walmart also offered $50 iTunes gift cards for $35. The sale items were available while supplies lasted, and most were also offered online at, the discounter said.

Not to be outdone, Best Buy held a “Shop Early, Save Big” sales event last weekend that included discounts on Samsung and Sony products, smartphones from Verizon Wireless and private-label Dynex and Insignia devices.

Deals included an exclusive eMachines laptop configured with an AMD V-Series Processor for $280; a 32-inch Dynex 720p, 60Hz LCD for $260; a Samsung Blu-ray Disc player for $120; HTC’s Droid Incredible for Verizon Wireless for $100 with contract; Sony’s PSP go handheld game console for $150; and an imaging package that includes an Insignia HD camcorder, Lowepro Edit 110 bag, Dynex 60-inch tripod, and PNY 4GB memory card for about $220.

Best Buy will also offer a $20 discount on select Disney Wii Family Games and 20-percent off MP3 speaker docks.

 “We know that customers are looking to get a jump start on their holiday shopping,” said Drew Panayiotou, Best Buy’s senior VP U.S. marketing. “By offering them the opportunity to save on the latest and greatest technology gifts now and throughout holiday, we’re reinforcing our commitment to provide an unmatched shopping experience both in-store and online this season with some of the best prices in the industry.”

The chain said it will continue its “Shop Early, Save Big” sales event the following weekend with a new slate of discounted items.

Meanwhile, Target announced plans for a four-day pre- Thanksgiving sale beginning Nov. 21 that will include deep discounts on CE, and said it will offer doorbuster deals on 25 items on Black Friday, its most ever. The retailer will also mount an online-only sales event on Thanksgiving, and will offer free shipping on all purchases of $50 or more from Nov. 21 to Dec. 11.


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