According to early anecdotal accounts, the 2019 Black Friday promotional weekend, which ended with Cyber Monday, generated a good amount of foot traffic at brick-&-mortar electronics and discount chains across the country, but the over-arching trend found much of the frenetic in person shopping activity has shifted to ecommerce.

At the same time, much of the chaos that has traditionally awaited dirt-cheap prices on 32-inch HD and Full HD TVs has gone to larger models – sometimes much larger–both in screen size and resolution levels.

IHS Markit, which observed the selling activity in various regions of the country, said many shoppers exhibited greater demand for larger screen sets this year. Historically, 32-inch models had been doorbuster specials that were eagerly snapped up for a song. But this year, despite 32-inch models being offered for under $100, many shoppers were opting for heavily promoted bigger and better models like 55- and 65-inch 4K TV sets.

Pre-Black Friday predictions from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) showed overall tech spending reaching $97.1 billion in revenue in the U.S. – on par with last year’s actual spending. But much of that was expected to go for wireless earbuds (8 million unit sales were forecasted); smartwatches (9 million units), smart speakers (11.3 million).

TVs where ranked third overall, but that was on consumer holiday wish lists, and not necessarily on shoppers’ purchase lists.

We continue to await CTA’s Black Friday results.

In the meantime, CNBC reported preliminary data from traffic monitor ShopperTrak showing Black Friday sales at physical stores fell 6.2 percent year over year, and Adobe Analytics reported that online revenue posted a record $7.4 billion, which would be the second-biggest digital shopping day ever according to them.

As for the physical world, a post Black Friday blog from IHS Markit analyst Paul Gagnon, who canvased the rainy San Diego retail scene over the post-Thanksgiving period, “the vast majority of key TV promotions this year were for very large screen sizes, from 55 inches and larger.”

Gagnon also reported strong promotional activity in stores for 50-inch TV models, resulting from very attractive LCD panel prices enabled by new large-scale 10.5 Gen LCD factories in China.

As for the accounts of violence on sales floors that have traditionally marred the weekend activity, retailers appear to have mediated any fistfights over doorbuster items very well. Gagnon observed that Best Buy handed out tickets to shoppers waiting in line before store openings, while Walmart organized in-department waiting lines to parcel out available supplies.

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As for the good old DVD, Blu-ray or Ultra HD Blu-ray players that traditionally have been on hand for value-seeking gift givers, the arrival of digital streaming has taken its toll.

NPD will report its Black Friday tabulations on Friday, but year-to-date (January-October) units sales of Blu-ray players (both standard and 4K UHD) were down 27 percent from the same period in 2018 and dollars were down 17 percent, NPD industry analysis VP Stephen Baker told us.

Baker said that “year-to-date numbers would suggest that average selling prices have stabilized, and they have, at $192 up from $169 in 2018.”

NPD’s 2019 forecasts for overall Blu-ray sales (the firm doesn’t forecast specifically for Ultra HD Blu-ray)  called for a 25 percent unit decline and a 23 percent decline in retail dollar spending.  NPD’s forecasts for 2020 call for similar results to 2019, with units down 25 percent and dollars down 24 percent, Baker said. 

“Clearly the remaining brands have been able to manage discounting and are likely harvesting the category, making sure that ASPs don’t fall,” Baker said of the Blu-ray player category.

By Greg Tarr

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