As exciting as Beats headphones and iPads are, it is giant, cheap
TVs that get people to camp outside for days or brave surging crowds
for "doorbusters" on Thanksgiving Day and the busy shopping day
after known as Black Friday. Experts say this year's TVs on sale are
bigger and cheaper than ever before, and they expect eager shoppers
to snap them up in higher numbers than the last few years.
Unit sales are already up this year so far, says Stephen Baker, vice
president for industry analysis at NPD Group, which tracks TV sales.
Baker expects holiday sales to be robust, after several years of
The drivers of this year's TV frenzy are mostly above 40", whereas
the last few years, the best deals were on 32" sets.
"There are now 40" to 55" sets in the $200 price range, which is
unbelievable," says Paul Gagnon, director of global TV research for
DisplaySearch. "People say 'Dang it, it's half the price I paid for
a 32" five years ago."
A 40" Element flat-screen for a mere $119 graces the front of
Target's Black Friday ad booklet. Best Buy is featuring a 50"
Panasonic for $199.99. Even Kohl's, primarily a clothing and home
goods retailer, has a TV on the front of its circular - albeit a 32"
model - for just $99.99.
Replacement cycles are still shortening for TVs, now at less than
seven years in the United States, according to NPD, but holiday
shoppers are mostly shufflers, who jump at an opportunity to snag a
bigger TV for their main space and move smaller ones off to
While a TV might function for 10 years, "it will probably be
outdated within a year," says Louis Ramirez, a senior feature writer
for dealnews.com (http://dealnews.com).
BEHIND THE BOOM
Gagnon sees this year's sales bump as a little bit of pent-up demand
now that the economy has improved, but he doesn't think the growth
will be sustained. Once shoppers upgrade, they'll be set for a
This is partly because cordcutters and device-shifters abound. These
are people like Julia Scott, a 36-year-old retail deals blogger
(http://bargainbabe.com) in Rhode Island who just ditched her
television completely because she didn't want it ruling her home as
her two young children grow up.
Ramirez of dealnews says video game players should more than make up
for cord-cutters: "Gamers are a huge crowd, and these are people
paying $400 for a console, so they will pay $900 for a new TV to
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This year's extra features include sets with smart TV apps built in
- meaning that the TV connects to wi-fi networks and can connect
seamlessly to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.
There's also 4K - which refers to a resolution that is much higher
than the current HD standard of 1080p. Some models also feature
Most shoppers dismiss all of these elements in favor of price and
size, though. "Screen size is the most important factor in the
U.S.," says DisplaySearch's Gagnon.
That often leaves people not really considering whether they are
truly getting a good deal or what the quality of the item is, says
Matthew Ong, a senior retail analyst for Nerdwallet.com (http://nerdwallet.com).
Many retailers show a sale price and a "regular" price, noting a
huge percentage discount to entice consumers. But they could be
using a false starting point for that original price, Ong says. For
instance, Ong analyzed a Sears deal for a $599 55" Samsung TV with
the original price listed as $1,199, but earlier in November is was
selling for $807. A $200 discount is pretty good but does not sound
as impressive as a $600 one.
Another tip from Ong is to look carefully at the specifications of
the TV on sale, because many Black Friday deals are for
stripped-down knock-offs. "They'll look similar, but they won't be
as advanced," Ong says. The tip-off is whether you recognize the
brand and if there is a model number, so you can compare prices and
(Editing by Lauren Young and Cynthia Osterman)
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