Is Halloween the New Black Friday?


Retailers aren't waiting around until mid-November to slash prices.

Oct. 31, 2008 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

A quick look at the recent A/V sales circulars, backed up by in-store visits and analyst interviews confirm that at least during this topsy-turvy financial season, it is all treat and no trick for consumers looking to cash in on manufacturer and retailer woes.

From Boston to Los Angeles, consumers are being rewarded for the horrible Wall Street performance by steep pre-Black Friday sales in major consumer electronics items like HDTVs, home theater equipment and home computers.

Regional stores like Bernie’s in New England and PC Richard and Son in the metro New York area already jumped the gun on Thanksgiving by cutting audio-video prices as much as 35-percent in new models to almost 50-percent on older models.

Another A/V specialist, Electronics Expo opened its doors at 6 am yesterday, while Kohl’s the national retail chain had DVD players, and GPS devices and other mainstream products, way below cost for first come first service customers….a practice usually reserved for Black Friday.

For instance, Bernie’s normal price on a 50-inch Samsung HL50 is just under $1,200. The chain launched an ad campaign a few days ago dropping the price to $849. It also lowered the price on a Boston Acoustics Sound Bar (with subwoofer) from $369 to $299 three weeks before Thanksgiving.

PC Richard’s took out flyers in the New York, New Jersey, Westchester and Long island newspapers yesterday advertising pre-holiday sales of as much as 50-percent off many TVs.

Best Buy in Los Angles and on Long Island were already offering as much as $1,700 off of a late model 55 inch Sharp Aquos and $700 off a Mitsubishi 72-inch 1080P model… and nearly $1400 off of a Samsung LCD. In fact, the hot selling VuDu HD movie player was on sale at Best Buy with $200 of free movie rentals making the player only $99.

“We have clearance models at this time of year, too but I don’t think we’ve ever discounted late models products in audio-video especially with our new 60 day price guarantee that will take customers through the holidays, no matter what happens on Black Friday,” says one Best Buy official who did not want to be identified.

At a Circuit City near the Massachusetts-Connecticut border, a TiVo (Series III dual tuner model) was selling for $100 less. The HD model was down $40.

PC Richard’s jumped the gun on their holiday flyers in newspapers and on the web by offering as much as $500 off selected Sony, and as much as $300 off selected Panasonic and Samsung TVs…. more than $100 to $200 off of many camcorders and home theater systems.

“This is the type of flyer that they usually run right before Thanksgiving,” says technology analyst Bob Orbach. “We had a feeling Thanksgiving would come on Halloween. And by the looks of these early sales you may seen this trend continue right through the holiday season.”

Orbach contends, and sources at Best Buy and Circuit confirm, that in order to generate consistent sales, these steep discounts by the national chains will not stop after Thanksgiving.

“The publicly held national chains have to meet their sales goals and to get people into the stores during this financial crisis, any and all means of generating traffic are in force,” adds Len Wanger, senior analyst with William Harris @ company, a Chicago based investment firm.

Wanger expects that all-around retailers like K-Mart and Target will hold the line until Black Friday. “They are selling non electronics essentials that keep cash flow during slow times.” A saleswoman at a New York based Target backs Wanger’s claim. “Our Black Friday will involve lots of audio and video equipment not on sale right now,” says the unidentified saleswoman.

While CE makers would not comment about their pricing plans, major home computer makers have started to add rebates to their holiday mix already. HP is now offering from$50 to $100 off of selected notebook PCs, printers and monitors and when combined with almost double those rebates from regional and national chains the savings on those products is reaching 35-percent way before Thanksgiving.

Costco, BJs and selected Sam’s Clubs have knocked another $100-$300 off of many new desktop and laptops.

Almost every consumer survey and poling company is predicting a steep downturn in major CE and appliance sales this holiday season, and nearly all of these services do agree that customers will still shop but probably purchase fewer products or products that can entertain or serve the entire family. “This actually might be a boon to the video game hardware and software makers and especially the reasonably priced Wii,” says Wanger.

“Consumers are cutting back spending across the board. While growth for consumer electronics will not be as high as in years past, consumer electronics should outpace other consumer categories that are seeing significant deterioration,” says Shawn DuBravac, CEA Economist. “Our research finds that 80 percent of consumers buy at least one technology product each and every year.”

Circuit City struggling to survive what has been its worst performance in years also pre-empted its usual post Thanksgiving bonanza and already marked down home theater in a box packages from Sony and Panasonic and high-end audio components from Onkyo up to 40-percent on some name brands.

While officials from Circuit City would not comment on specific Black Friday plans, local Circuit City managers interviewed by Electronic House, believe there could be even more price drops on that Friday. “This is the lowest some of these TVs have sold for this year, so we might be giving them away if we are asked to really have our traditional Thanksgiving sale,” says one Circuit City manager in northwest Connecticut. 

“We won’t tell you what other specials, we’ll have for Friday after Thanksgiving,” says a spokesman for Best Buy. “But whether the economy is good or bad,” we always have an exciting Friday after the holiday.”

Irwin Kellner, senior economist with Market Watch said yesterday on public radio that he expects this to be a rocky shopping season. “Sales and promotions may be commensurate with Wall Street’s ups and downs.”

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