Bleak Times for Black Friday Deals?

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After a tough summer and bleak back to school sales period, online and brick and mortar personal computer retailers are looking to upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday activities to kick start holiday buying.

However, early projections indicate there may be dark clouds hindering any Black Friday deals.   There is also the possibility that traditional Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounts and sales offers may be negatively impacted by the daily deals and price discounts offered throughout the year by organizations like Groupon.

PC sales and shipments worldwide have been struggling for some upward momentum since the early days of the recession and for the first time in more than a decade are expected to decline this year, according to market researcher iSuppli.  The total global PC market will decline by about 1.2% — a drop not seen since the Internet bubble burst in 2001, notes analysts for the firm.

“There was great hope through the first half that 2012 would prove to be a rebound year for the PC market,” said Craig Stice, senior principal analyst at iSuppli, in a report. “Now three quarters through the year, the usual boost from the back-to-school season appears to be a bust, and both AMD and Intel’s third-quarter outlooks appear to be flat to down.”

Despite early enthusiasm for new systems and platforms like Ultrabooks and convertible PCs (that combine the best features of both notebooks and tablets), these activities have not resulted in any sizeable sales — at least not enough to push up flagging shipment figures.

Most of the major system manufacturers have been hard hit by flagging sales and tight spending by consumers and business users who are experiencing financial shellshock or have delayed purchase plans in anticipation of new devices and new operating systems, such as Microsoft?s Windows 8 scheduled for release this week.

Lenovo was the only major PC maker to experience growth this year, with shipments rising about 10 percent worldwide in Q3, notes researchers IDC and Gartner. It was also the only PC vendor to show gains in the U.S., with shipments rising anywhere from about six to a little more than 9 percent, depending on who is doing the forecasting. HP’s U.S. shipments declined by about 19 percent , while Dell and Apple fell about 16 percent and just under 7 percent, respectively, according to Gartner and IDC research.

Windows 8 also played a major role as vendors held back on new introductions until its official release on October 25. “So, shipments were less vigorous as vendors and their channel partners liquidated inventory,” said Gartner analyst Mikako Kitagawa in a report posted on CNET.

Saturated by Sales

Despite the expected buying bump created by the introduction of Windows 8 and arrival of the much-anticipated Apple iPad Mini, Back Friday and Cyber Monday activities may be adversely impacted by an online world that is saturated with 24/7 deals and discounts.  The three days following Thanksgiving and the weeks leading up to them are traditionally a time when tech customers look for mostly online  bargains on desktops, notebooks, tablets, printers and digital cameras.  But, subscribers to online deal sites such as Groupon are accustomed to steep daily discounts on products and services so a Black Friday deal would have to be really exceptional to attract any attention.

Roughly 70% of Black Friday shoppers last year reported they are also members of online deal sites, notes online shopping and tech review site Retrevo.   And about a third of these people admitted shopping on Black Friday weekend. Most, if not all of these deal-hardened individuals will be looking for relatively steep discounts from tech retailers this time around, with a large portion sniffing out discounts from 50% to 70%, according to a Retrevo Gadgetology report posted in 2011.

“Deal addicts don’t have to wait for Black Friday any longer,” points out Retrevo’s Andrew Eisner in the research summary. “They can get a deal fix whenever they want from companies like Groupon and other deal sites of the world.”

The “Groupon Effect” will become more pervasive as online discount and coupon trends continue and manufacturers that are sitting on excess inventory turn to these sites to quickly unload tech products, the report points out.

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