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Black Friday: Where’s the Blu?

11 Nov, 2013 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Loss-leader pricing on Blu-ray Disc players has become a holiday tradition. Will 2013 break the streak?

Black Friday is less than 18 days away, and the door-busting, drastically reduced Blu-ray Disc player — the quintessential post-Thanksgiving (Nov. 29) must-have consumer electronics item — is no where to be seen, yet.

It’s been 10 years since Walmart infamously ushered in the traditional start to the Christmas retail season by offering a $39 DVD player. The ensuing stampede at some stores garnered national headlines, and helped jumpstart consumer migration to packaged media sellthrough.

Walmart still hasn’t unveiled its Black Friday ad, preferring to stick with “early bird” online specials, including a Samsung BD-E5400 BD player with a $10 gift card for $78. That’s not quite the $49.99 price tag Walmart sold a LG BD player for last year on Black Friday.

In a 2013 Black Friday preview, Target made no mention of Blu-ray, preferring to tease big discounts on a bundled PS3, Samsung and Vizio HDTVs. It will open at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving for pre-Black Friday deals.

Meijer offered a Sony Smart Wi-Fi Blu-ray player for $54.99, about 55% off SRP. Meijer’s “big deal” included TV on DVDs such as “Duck Dynasty” ($6), the hottest selling disc in the country, according to Lionsgate.

Walgreens is offering Black Friday shoppers a free Redbox rental from 9 a.m. to noon local time. The convenience store is also selling a LG 3D BD player for $64.99, which is a modest 35% off SRP.

The Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), the 43rd largest retail organization on the United States, is selling military members the Sony Smart BD player for $54.99, in addition to DVD and BD movies priced from $5.95 each.

Best Buy continues to leak Black Friday deals daily, including a 55-inch LG HDTV for $499 — 50% off SRP. No mention of Blu-ray, however.

Russ Crupnick, SVP of industry analysis with The NPD Group, doesn’t appear worried. In a Nov. 8 blog, Crupnick says gift cards, specifically iTunes, Netflix, Amazon, Spotify, etc., offering access to digital entertainment will be hot sellers.

“In an increasingly digital world, it’s nigh impossible to put ‘the cloud’ into a stocking, so we’ll do it with gift cards for digital music, for downloading TV shows and for streaming movies,” Crupnick said.

The analyst contends DVD and Blu-ray box sets will — as usual — be popular gift items.

“I predict Blu-ray Disc unit sales will rise in the neighborhood of 10% for the holidays. Despite the fascination with Netflix streaming, and a growing electronic sellthrough market, there is also a huge physical disc market,” Crupnick said.

Indeed, NPD estimates the number of physical video-disc buyers in the United States at more than 50 million. Between bins with reduced price catalog movies, Black Friday deals on new releases and “catch-up” buying for titles missed in the theater, physical content will continue to compete with “on-demand” this season, according to Crupnick.

He expects attractive pricing and floors selling low-cost players to help make Blu-ray grow this holiday season. Top-selling titles will include Man of Steel and Prisoners. And for kids, Monsters University, Turbo, Despicable Me and Planes, among others.

“In fact, children’s titles may help drive double-digit growth for Blu-ray,” Crupnick said.



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