Even for a tradition as reliable as Black Friday, no shopping season is the same. You know you’ll get great deals, but new trends and shifts emerge every year, driven by retailers and consumers alike. By taking a look at what set last year’s Black Friday sales apart, we can better know what to expect from the shopping holiday in 2014.
Doorbusters, or extremely low-priced products, are usually available only within a limited time frame. Usually, it’s been within several hours of doors’ opening – fewer, if supplies run out. But last year marked a shift away from this tendency.
- What happened last year: A number of stores introduced “rotating” doorbusters, a system in which new deals were offered every hour. This strategy helped space out shoppers throughout the day and ensured that stores were packed beyond the first hour of business. Last year, Amazon, TigerDirect and Dell were among stores offering this option. Although some retailers advertised their rotating doorbusters ahead, Amazon made them a surprise, encouraging online customers to refresh the website every hour to discover what new items would be marked down.
- What this means for this year: We’re likely to see an expansion of rotating doorbusters this year. Amazon, TigerDirect and Dell are likely to go this route again, and we can expect a number of their competitors to jump on the rotating bandwagon as well.
Sometimes a price is just too good to be true. Retailers often advertise such unbelievably low prices that crowds will flock to grab the advertised items. But when a very limited number is available, shoppers are far less likely to actually get them, making the deals meaningless for shoppers who can’t afford to line up hours before doors open.
As shoppers have grown suspicious of this promotional strategy, retailers have adopted another approach.
- What happened last year: Most notably, Walmart and Toys R Us were among the stores last year that offered “guaranteed” doorbusters. This deal ensured that shoppers would receive an item they lined up for even if supplies ran out before their turn. At Walmart, customers who missed out on getting the item in the store received an access code to redeem the item online, as long as they were standing in the designated line within the one-hour window for that product.
- What that means for this year: A hit with consumers, this strategy is likely to return this year and apply to a wider selection of products. Walmart already has a history of broadening its “guaranteed” selection. In 2012, the store offered only three guaranteed doorbusters; in 2013, that number grew sevenfold to 21. We can expect to see more stores offering guaranteed doorbusters, and Walmart and Toys R Us are likely to provide a larger selection of guaranteed doorbusters than in 2013.
The Growing ‘Holiday Creep’
Sales used to start on Black Friday, then started “creeping” earlier on Friday, then crept even earlier, to Thursday evening.
- What happened last year: An increasing number of stores pushed back their opening hours. Thanksgiving, now known as “Gray Thursday,” marked the start of many sales, with major retailers Walmart, Best Buy, Sears and Target among the stores opening their doors early. The incursion of consumerism into the November holiday was not without controversy. Wal-Mart faced criticism for opening its door at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Midwestern retailer Menards released a statement explaining why it chose to forgo the trend and open on Black Friday: “As a family-owned company, Menards believes that Thanksgiving is a time for togetherness, which should be celebrated with all those we hold dear.”
- What this means for this year: Unfortunately for family dinners, the holiday creep is expected to only get worse, as stores that opened on Gray Thursday last year will continue to do so and new stores will join the trend. Serious shoppers should consider opting for a Thanksgiving lunch rather than dinner if they want to be among the stores’ first customers this year.
Televisions and Tablets
TVs have usually been popular Black Friday buys, but typically 3D TVs were still much pricier than other models. Likewise, tablets had not been discounted much in the past: Since tablets are often featured in sales throughout the year, Black Friday prices tended not to be especially low.
What happened last year:
- TVs: Unlike in previous years, Black Friday sales of 2013 featured 3D televisions at prices comparable to non-3D devices. For example, Overstock offered the LG 42-inch 3D 1080p TV for $469.99, a remarkably low price for a category of TV that usually goes for over $1,000. Although 3D TVs stood out, last year offered great deals on televisions across the board. For example, the Seiki 32-inch 720p LED LCD HDTV sold for $98 at Amazon, and the Insignia 39-inch 1080p LED LDC HDTV cost only $170 at Best Buy. Walmart increased its inventory of televisions by 65% from the year before, and other great deals on TVs could also be found at Target and h.h. gregg.
- Tablets: Bucking the earlier trend, stores offered excellent deals on tablets last year, especially devices from Microsoft. Walmart, a major trendsetter when it comes to Black Friday sales, doubled the number of tablets featured in its Black Friday sale from the year before.
- What this means for 2014: Low prices on tablets and televisions, especially 3D TVs, are expected to continue into 2014, with a growing selection of tablets included among the bargains.
Written by Melinda Szell
Crystal ball image via Shutterstock