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Black Friday prices not always lowest for our recommended models

Consumer Reports News: November 16, 2011 12:23 PM

Are the deals worth the hassle of getting up early to shop on Black Friday—or heading out late for midnight sales on Thanksgiving? When it comes to buying the TVs, laptops, and cameras recommended by Consumer Reports, you might just want to catch up on your sleep instead, according to a price analysis by Decide.com.

We asked the price-prediction website to compile and analyze prices from mid-November to mid-December of 2010 for a representative list of Consumer Reports–recommended models in those key categories. In a significant proportion of cases, Decide.com data showed, the lowest prices of the season on those items were not on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, the day following the Thanksgiving weekend.

Specifically, more than a quarter of the recommended TVs and cameras were at least 5 per cent cheaper between Cyber Monday and December 13 than they were earlier, including during the Black Friday weekend. With laptops, we provided Decide.com with a smaller sample of models, but the resulting data indicated that consumers would have been at least as likely as with TVs and cameras to save on recommended models by waiting.

The graph below shows how the average prices for the TVs, cameras, and laptops fluctuated. However, the averages shown in those charts suggest several other trends that are worth noting:


  • Prices for any given model may fluctuate a lot. For examples, see the graph at the bottom of the post, which shows some of the more volatile models.

  • Not every model dropped in price post-Thanksgiving. Decide.com says the trend to stable or dropping prices after Thanksgiving held for a strong majority of recommended models. But there were exceptions. One example is the Canon PowerShot G11, an advanced point-and-shoot camera that gradually went up in price over the course of last year’s holiday season, rising from about $450 in mid-November to around $500 in mid-December.

  • Some product categories and segments are more volatile than others. In particular, in 2010, TVs over 50” had much greater price volatility than did TVs in the 40-42 inch and 46-47 inch categories.

Holiday-season price fluctuations for CR recommended models, 2010 (click to enlarge)
BlackFridayChart1_electronics_lg.jpg
Based on online prices—generally lower than those in store, says Decide.com—for a representative sample of Consumer Reports' recommended laptops, flat-panel TVs (42-50+ inches), and cameras (point-and-shoot and SLRs), gathered by Decide.com during the time period shown in the charts. Prices are the lowest online price from a seller Decide.com considers reputable.

The bottom line from these findings: Don’t assume Black Friday prices will necessarily be lowest. That was certainly true for Consumer Reports’ recommended models last year. Of course, you may find Black Friday weekend and Cyber Monday bargains, especially when it comes to door-crasher sales. But those loss-leader deals may not be for models Consumer Reports has evaluated. As our TV reporter Jim Willcox notes, "One thing I’ve noticed is that many of the lowest prices this year are on secondary and tertiary brands such as Element, Sansui, Seiki, and Dynex, that we don't typically cover."

Holiday season price fluctuations for 7 CR-recommended electronics devices, 2010 (click to enlarge)
BlackFridayChart2_electronics_lg.jpg
Based on online prices—generally lower than those in store, says Decide.com—for 7 of Consumer Reports' recommended electronics devices, gathered by Decide.com during the time period shown in the charts. Prices are the lowest online price from a seller Decide.com considers reputable.

Paul Reynolds

   

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