Remember the good old days of Black Friday shopping, when shoppers checked for leaked deals, made lists and action plans, and even camped out in front of certain stores hoping for the biggest savings? Every year a crop of articles would come out giving advice and listing strategies for finding the best deals and snagging them. Among all the secrecy and battle planning, shoppers would frequently read the advice to keep an eye out for special Black Friday products that manufacturers placed in stores for the big day. These products were typically cheaper versions of regular-season goods, designed for headline-grabbing prices and to move volume. Now that Black Friday has morphed from a one-day shopping scrum into a weeks-long battle for distracted shoppers’ cash, I wondered: are Black Friday products still a thing anymore?
I primarily cover the television market, so I can tell you that yes: some manufacturers release models built specifically for the Black Friday / holiday shopping season. These TVs are typically the most entry-level options you will find from that particular brand, and feature a stripped-down set of specs that allow those products to be sold for bargain prices during this time of year. Samsung regularly releases a new TV model for the holidays, which comes in a range of sizes and offers the most competitive prices from the brand all year. This year is no exception for Samsung, but there are also a few other models advertised in Black Friday preview ads. For example, Polaroid has a 43” 4K TV at Target for $229, while Walmart is offering a 39” 720p Smart TV from Element for $125. Both models are likely to generate a lot of sales during Black Friday weekend with their low prices.
But what about other product categories? Do they do the same thing? Fortunately, I happen to work with a stable of analysts who know the ins and outs of the CE market so I was able to gather some info about what special products they’re noticing on the shelves this year.
Holiday “burst SKUs” (the industry term for special, short-term products) have always been a strategy for cameras, but are becoming less of a focus given the point-and-shoot market's decline. Retailers would promote store-exclusive models at low prices as holiday doorbusters, but these coveted spots now go to items from in-demand CE categories. However, multi-lens bundles for interchangeable lens models are still deployed for holiday shoppers.
This year, Canon, Nikon, and Fujifilm have each unveiled one-off holiday products, which often come in the form of special bundle deals. Nikon’s D3400 dual lens set (normally $599) will be bundled with a free case and a $100 instant savings for a net price of $499 at Target. At Costco, Canon is offering a unique triple lens bundle for its Rebel SL2 camera, which will go for $779. And Fujifilm pulled together four different bundles for its popular Instax camera, which will be available at Best Buy and Walmart for prices ranging from $55 to $114.
Desktop and Notebook PCs
New desktop and notebook PCs typically arrive in stores at various times throughout the year, which means that new products often debut around the holidays. This year’s assortment includes 5 desktop models and 11 notebooks, all of which hit the shelves for the first time sometime in November.
HP is the clear winner with this strategy, offering 69% of all holiday PC products (3 desktops and 8 notebooks). These HP products can be found across retail at Best Buy, Staples, Target, Walmart, and one model exclusively at OfficeDepot.com. Acer, Dell, Microsoft, and Samsung will each contribute at least one new product to the mix this holiday season as well.
The most noteworthy new PC comes in the form of the VR-ready HP Pavilion desktop gaming PC at Walmart. Priced at $499, the new tower is Walmart’s only desktop product on ad for this year’s Black Friday event. The product is gaining attention for its budget approach to gaming; Walmart only recently began stocking gaming desktops when it added a $1,399 HP Omen model to its shelves. The new $499 HP model is attacking from the opposite end of the market and will likely compete against the new Xbox One X gaming console, which was released earlier this month for $499.
Tablets used to be the hot Black Friday product, with new models popping up each year from brands no one had ever heard of. These low-cost models would last only a short time in stores before disappearing forever. This year, however, only one new tablet product has been seen so far: a 7” Smartab model being offered at Walmart for $28. Obviously aiming to compete with some of the more popular inexpensive models such as Amazon’s Fire tablets, the new Smartab tablet will generate some buzz at Walmart this year.
Overall, the number of “burst SKUs” has gone down over the years, but the practice still exists. If you spot a product on the front page of a Black Friday ad and it has a ridiculously low price, or is available only in very limited quantities, it is likely a Black Friday-only model. Consumers should be aware to expect a lower end item than the rest of a brand’s range of products for these particular purchases, but remember that great deals can be had on a range of items from entry-level through premium, so it’s always best to do some research and know what you want before heading to stores.
Cheers to a safe and successful Black Friday for all!