November 21, 2010 in Business

Retailers pushing the limits to bring in hoards of buyers

Andria Cheng MarketWatch
File photo

Cashier Ashley Galliher wrangles a giant radio-controlled car into a bag at 4:30 a.m. at Toys R Us in Spokane Valley at last year’s Black Friday sale.
(Full-size photo)

All about Black Friday

• So named because it’s the day many stores move into the black of profitability.

• Stampedes at “doorbuster” sales sometimes turn tragic. In 2008, an employee at a New York Walmart store was trampled to death when shoppers burst through glass doors before they opened.

• Accenture, the consulting firm, sees signs of Black Friday apathy. In a survey earlier this month, Accenture found that 47 percent of consumers intend to shop on Black Friday, compared with 52 percent last year.

• Frightened by a still-stumbling economy, retailers this year have stretched Black Friday to Black November – a monthlong carnival of consumerism.

• An iPhone app and other mobile maneuvering devices now permit consumers to find the latest sale prices.

NEW YORK – With just days before the official kickoff of the year’s biggest shopping season, consumers are hitting the dozens of websites that track holiday sales and finding TVs, eBook readers and other items at their deepest discounts of the year.

The day after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday, No. 1 electronics retailer Best Buy Co. will offer its $150 Nook eReader from Barnes & Noble Inc. for $99.99. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will sell the “Ice Age” Blu-ray movie for $5.

Target Corp. will have a 40-inch Westinghouse LCD HDTV on sale for $298, a discount of over $250.

Black Friday “doorbuster” specials, sometimes at a loss for stores, have become a big feat for retailers to grab the attention of consumers in the hope they will spend their money on things beyond what’s being promoted and shop with those stores the rest of the season.

“It’s an important holiday,” said Home Depot Inc. Chief Financial Officer Carol Tome. “We want to get our fair share. We are expecting more sales this year than we had last year.”

Black Friday is again expected to rank as the top sales and traffic day this year after holding the top spot in at least the past five years, according to mall traffic-tracker ShopperTrak.

Still, Black Friday does not the season make, analysts said. While shoppers have increased their budget for the day, it still only represented 6.4 percent of sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas last year, according to ShopperTrak.

“It’ll set the tone for the rest of the holiday season. But you still have the rest of the season,” said Morgan Stanley analyst Michelle Clark. “You have to have strong December sales as well.”

This year, retailers’ hot categories for Black Friday include flat-panel TVs, e-readers, mobile phones and tablet computers. As the price of Blu-ray disc player has declined to under $100, the doorbuster specials from retailers including Wal-Mart and Target also focus on Blu-ray movies for $5 to about $15, well below their regular prices.

Other deals include a $140 7-inch Android tablet computer from Kmart, a discount of $40, and cashmere sweaters for $35 from an original ticket of $100 at Kohl’s Corp. Gap Inc.’s Old Navy chain will give away a Dance Central Kinect game for the Xbox 360 console with a $25 purchase.

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