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Electronics Move on Black Friday

27 Nov, 2010 By: Chris Tribbey

TEMECULA, Calif. — It was the night of Thanksgiving and Luis Mateo, 27, was wandering the electronics department of the 24-hour Walmart here, about an hour north of San Diego, deciding whether or not to pull an all-nighter.

“I want that TV,” he said of the Emerson 32-inch HDTV the retailer was offering for less than $200 starting at 5 a.m. Nov. 26. “I want two of them.”

He wasn’t the only one: By the end of the day, that TV was the No. 1 Black Friday electronics seller from Walmart, followed by the $98 Sansui 19-inch HDTV at No. 2. Mateo did say he’d probably get started shopping at 12 a.m., when Walmart offered nearly 100 DVDs for less than $2, and more than 60 Blu-ray Discs for $5 each.

Nearly 10% of early shoppers started shopping at 12 a.m. Black Friday, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), triple the number of consumers who reported starting that early in 2009. The NRF said 24% of Black Friday shoppers were in stores by 4 a.m., and 22.3 million total had started shopping on Thanksgiving both online and in stores. In 2005 that number was 10.3 million.

NRF reported 212 million shoppers visited stores and websites over the Black Friday weekend, up from 195 million in 2009, and consumers also spent more, with the average shopper shelling out $365.34, up from $343.31 in 2009. The percentage of people who shopped online was up 15.2% year-over-year to 33.6%.

Internet retail tracking firm comScore pegged online Black Friday sales at $648 million, a 9% increase over 2009 and the heaviest online spending day of 2010. Thanksgiving Day saw excellent online spending as well at $407 million, a 28% jump.

“Although Black Friday is known for the flurry of activity occurring in brick-and-mortar retail stores, online shopping is increasingly becoming the refuge of those preferring to avoid the crowds and long lines,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “Interestingly, we are also seeing consumers beginning to buy online in a more meaningful way on Thanksgiving Day, which has historically seen low buying activity.”

Amazon.com led all online retailers with more than four million unique American visitors on Black Friday, with Web sites for Walmart, Target and Best Buy also passing the four million mark.

“Amazon, with a sizeable increase in traffic on Black Friday, continues to experience remarkable success during the holiday season,” Fulgoni said. “We will be watching closely to see if the leading online retailer is able to sustain this momentum through Cyber Monday and into the heart of the online shopping season.”

But online spending was only a drop in the $45 billion bucket consumers spent during the weekend, NRF reported.

“While Black Friday weekend is not always an indicator of holiday season performance, retailers should be encouraged that a focus on value and discretionary gifts has shoppers in the spirit to spend,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “As retailers look ahead to the first few weeks of December, it will be important for them to keep momentum going with savings and incentives that holiday shoppers simply can’t pass up.”

Retailers kept introducing electronics deals through the weekend: Walmart Nov. 27 priced Sony Blu-ray players for as little as $98, a Sony 46-inch Bravia HDTV under $700, and a Vizio 37-inch HDTV at $378, with $40 worth of gift cards thrown in for good measure. And from Nov. 28-Dec. 3 the retailer is holding an online savings event, featuring a Viore 24-inch HDTV for $199 and a PlayStation 3 bundle for $388.

“This year, we’ve increased our online specials by 25% to offer big savings on top items throughout Cyber Week so our customers can bring home more for less this Holiday,” said Steve Nave, SVP and GM of Walmart.com. “We are also kicking off Cyber Week one day early to give our customers more time to save and the majority of items are available for free shipping.”

Walmart may be the biggest retailer, but it wasn’t the only one reporting brisk sales, with Target noting long lines at many of its stores, and Best Buy reporting HDTVs, games consoles and laptops moving quickly.

However, Phil Rist, EVP of BIGresearch, warned retailers that the positive Black Friday numbers didn’t necessarily reflect confidence in the economy.

“It’s certainly encouraging to see an increase in traffic and sales from the four-day holiday weekend, however, consumers still have concerns about the economy, jobs, and paying down debt,” he said.  “It was the consumers’ search for deals and bargains that drove the weekend traffic rather than their confidence in the economy.”

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