The DealNews Black Friday Predictions for 2011
By Lindsay Sakraida, Louis Ramirez, and Daniel de Grandpre
Your mind may still be swimming with thoughts of summer vacations and relaxing by the pool, but it's time to snap out of it. The holiday season is right around the corner, and you've got some serious work to do. Black Friday is less than 70 days away, and we all know that the best way to make the most of the savings is to be prepared. So we're kicking off the holidays early at dealnews with our fourth annual Black Friday deal predictions, compiled by our expert staff.
Three quick clarifications before we start prognosticating. First, these are predictions of the best deals for the Black Friday season. They're the lowest of the lows, not averages. (See our Methodology section on the last page.) Second, some of these deals will involve mail-in rebates. However, the good news is that most won't. Best Buy, OfficeMax, and Walmart have long given up on mail-in rebates after numerous customer complaints. Third, we're predicting that these deals occur during "Black Friday Season," a dealnews euphemism for mid-November to Cyber Monday.
Now, on to the predictions!
HDTVsAs we've said before, the best time to buy a new HDTV is usually around the holidays. That will hold true again, and numerous sizes will hit new definitive lows this Black Friday. In fact, as a general trend, most sizes will drop 15% to 20% below their previous lowest price in the months leading up to the shopping holiday.
Before we begin, let's get some conventional wisdom out of the way:
1. Think twice before buying a 3D TV. We made this argument last year, and it still holds true — although with slightly less severity. 3D TVs overall have significantly dropped in price since last year, but when you take into account our price predictions for a 55" 3D HDTV and a standard 55" HDTV, the deluxe 3D will still cost you almost double. Additionally, 3D content is scarce (and more expensive than standard content) and 3D glasses are another additional expense if you want more than what's usually bundled with the set.
2. Don't worry about whether you should buy a TV that streams Netflix or YouTube. A slew of media receivers are available that will do the same but cost less than $100. Buy the best TV you can, and if it's missing this feature, add a cheap media streaming box. Besides, you may regret tying your TV to something as fleeting as Netflix, a company that's recently raised customer ire via a price hike and the splintering of its DVD business.
3. Experts advise you to buy the biggest TV you can afford. Penny pinchers look at such advice with skepticism, but in this case, the conventional wisdom is right. Have you ever heard a friend complain about his or her new TV being too large? Of course, a 60" TV in your guest bath might be a little gauche, so buy something that's appropriate for its room.
4. You don't need to see a TV to judge its picture. The bright overhead fluorescent lights at a Best Buy or Costco — and we've all seen those lousy, grainy signals those stores send to 20 TVs at once — make it nearly impossible to discern differences. Rely instead on reviews and your social networks.
5. LED-Backlit LCD HDTVs may be more expensive than standard LCD HDTVs, but they're quickly becoming the standard. Moreover, some LED models offer a superior picture (deeper blacks and truer colors) and thinness (down to 1" thick). These benefits vary by model and manufacturer, so we suggest doing a little bit of research before jumping on a deal just because it's for an LED-backlit LCD HDTV.
On to the predictions! As consumers become more interested in buying spare flat-screen HDTVs for secondary viewing rooms — like bedrooms, dens, etc. — there will be more interest in trim 32" 1080p LCD HDTVs. Last year, we didn't see enough sets of this size throughout the year to generate a prediction. But in the relevant months leading up to Black Friday last year, and throughout the year since then, there have been a plethora of these budget-friendly models. Thus we're able to confidently predict that you'll find one for $199, about a 15% drop from the lowest prices we saw this summer.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the mega 60" 1080p LCD HDTV for some serious home theater entertainment. Again, we weren't able to offer a prediction last year, but this time around, we've got the data to go aggressive: Believe it or not, we estimate that these sets will drop to as low as $699. Sounds too low? Although several of this year's very best deals have hovered just above the $1,000 mark, we saw a deal in August for $800 at your local Best Buy (since expired). This would suggest that prices will get even lower for the rock-bottom holiday, and hence our mouth-watering prediction. If it pans out, it'll be nearly a 50% drop from last Black Friday.
But perhaps you're looking for a TV sized somewhere in between. For a 40" to 42" 1080p LCD HDTV, we expect to see prices starting at $319, which is a slightly more modest drop from the prices we've seen over the summer, but still an all-time low. Prices on 46" 1080p LCD HDTVs for most of the year have nicely paralleled those for the smaller 42" sets last year, which would suggest we'll see a comparable Black Friday price of $399.
As for 55" 1080p LCD HDTVs, which generally provide the best TV bang for your buck, our data is a bit trickier to interpret. The price lows we saw this summer are about equal to those for 46" sets last year, so we are inclined to predict that 55" models will start at $549 this year. However, we did see one for $559 already in August (an outlier amongst every other deal we've seen), so there's a slight chance they could go even lower around this shopping season.
So how successful were our predictions for these three categories last year? Well, our prediction for the smallest size was exactly on the money, and we were just a dollar over with our prediction for the largest. Our guesstimation for the 46" to 47" range was off by 10%, just barely within our accuracy tolerance.
Some closing words: 3D sets have dropped in price significantly since last Black Friday, but they're still an expensive premium. Our data suggests that 55" 1080p 3D LCD HDTVs will fall to only $999 this Black Friday, which is 45% more than a standard set of the same size.
This may change however if you opt for 3D plasma. In fact, we saw a 60" 3D Plasma HDTV for just $979 in August, which is already below our prediction for 55" 3D. You'd be wise to keep in mind plasma options in general while shopping for large TVs. They may represent the best bargain for something sizeable, as the above 3D example illustrates, but we haven't seen enough deals to be able to make a definitive prediction. But there's a good chance that 60" plasmas may dip lower than comparable LCD models, and in some cases they may rival some 55" LCD HDTV deals pricewise, all while offering greater screen real estate.
Summary: Black Friday Predictions for HDTVs
- 32" 1080p LCD HDTV for $199
- 40" to 42" 1080p LCD HDTV for $319
- 46" 1080p LCD TV for $399
- 55" 1080p LCD HDTV for $549
- 55" 1080p 3D LCD TV for $999
- 60" 1080p LCD TV for $699
LAPTOPSThe iPad will be high on Santa's checklist this holiday season, but when it comes to productivity, nothing tops a laptop. As a result, we expect laptops to remain a big ticket item for most shoppers this Black Friday.
The good news is that prices on standard 16" laptops have been in decline for the past six months, reaching an all-time low of $230 in August (a price we saw repeatedly during the early days of September). Additionally, because laptop specs are constantly changing, last year's workhorse model has become this year's "basic" model. These laptops include a dual-core processor and enough horsepower for everyday tasks like Web surfing, checking Facebook, and streaming all the cat videos you can find on YouTube. For Black Friday, we predict these laptops will start at $189. That's 38% lower than last year's best holiday laptop deal. And while we agree that $189 sounds unbelievably inexpensive for a dual-core 16" laptop, remember that they've already hit $230 with roughly 10 weeks to go until Black Friday. Furthermore, AMD's Fusion chips (such as the E-350) have helped lower prices on these dual-core machines.
If you require a laptop with a little more muscle, we predict 16" notebooks with a minimum Core i5 processor and 4GB of RAM will drop to $325. That's 35% lower than last year's best deal and roughly $24 under the best deal we've seen for such a system this year.
However, the news isn't so good for all systems, and ultraportable fans should take note: Prices for 12" Core i5-based laptops have been significantly higher this summer than they were during last Black Friday. Furthermore, deals aren't as abundant for these systems as they are for, say, a mainstream 15" system. That's partly due to the fact that Intel has yet to ramp up manufacturing of its ultrabooks, all of which will compete with Apple's MacBook Air.
On the other hand, a laptop that's becoming increasingly popular is the 17" desktop replacement. We predict these systems will drop a whopping 52% from last year's best price, coming in at $720 this November. These well-equipped systems include a minimum quad-core Core i7 CPU and 8GB of RAM. If $720 still sounds too pricey for you, 17" desktop replacements with AMD's A6 quad-core CPU hit an all-time low of $480 this summer and may be worth keeping your eye on. (Though keep in mind that the A6 competes more directly with Intel's Core i3 than the Core i7.)
How did we do on our predictions from last year? For the mainstream 15" model we were off by 18%, but in a good way; we predicted $379 and saw a $308 deal roll in.
Noticeably absent from our predictions this year are netbooks, which have been slowly phased out and replaced by basic 15" laptops. But if you have your heart set on an Apple laptop, don't worry — we didn't forget Macs. We have a more extensive Apple predictions section if you read on.
Summary: Black Friday Predictions for Laptop PCs
- Basic 15" to 16" Laptop with dual-core processor for $189
- Mainstream 15" to 16" Laptop with Core i5 CPU & 4GB RAM for $325
- 17" desktop replacement with Core i7 & 8GB RAM for $720
Bottom image credit: DeclanTM via Flickr
APPLEApple's Black Friday sale always generates speculation and media hype. After all, it's Apple's only sale of the year. For the fourth consecutive year we expect it to have modest discounts of 5% to 10% off new iPods, MacBooks, and iMacs and sitewide free shipping with no minimum (a $50 minimum is traditionally required). However, Apple shocked the world — well, the world of deals — last year by cutting its price on the brand new, hot-selling iPad by 8% on Black Friday. That smashed our prediction that there would be no Black Friday deals on the iPad.
So what of the ever-so-tantalizing prospect of a discount this year on the soon-to-be-released iPhone 5? Does Apple's surprise from last year embolden us to make such a prediction? Not a chance. We predict that there won't be a discount on the iPhone 5. However, expect the factory-refurbished iPhone 4 at a substantial discount, either from Apple's online store or from AT&T.
For substantial Apple Black Friday deals, however, we highly recommend turning to Apple authorized resellers like Amazon, MacConnection, and MacMall. For the past two years, these vendors have undercut Apple at its own game with discounts that are double what Apple has offered.
For instance, during Black Friday of 2009 both MacMall and Amazon trumped Apple's 10% off sale with discounts of up to 25% off. In 2010, it was MacConnection that slashed up to $240 off new Mac systems, whereas Apple was discounting just $101. This year we expect more of the same and urge the Apple faithful to find alternatives to the Apple Store if they're looking to score a deal.
How did we do with last year's Apple predictions? We nailed it, predicting Mac prices and most iPod prices within 5% accuracy.
Summary: Black Friday Predictions for Apple
- Free shipping with no min at Apple Store online
- The newest Apple iPods for 5% to 10% off
- iMac and MacBook computers for 5% to 10% off
- No deal on the new iPhone 5 (that's 0% off in dealnews vernacular)
- deals on refurbished iPhones from Apple and AT&T
- better discounts than Apple's from an authorized Apple reseller
TABLETSWe covered the iPad in our Apple predictions, but what about those cheaper Android options? Since their manufacturers don't control pricing as tightly as Apple, you're more likely to see a sizeable discount this Black Friday.
The top Android tablets include the Motorola XOOM and Samsung Galaxy Tab, both released in the past year. We expect to see the WiFi versions of both at all-time price lows during the Black Friday season, with the the XOOM falling to $319 and the 7" Galaxy Tab dropping to $239.
And what about the myriad generic Android tablets? They may provide an exceedingly cheap alternative to the name brand slates above when 7" options hit $75 this holiday season.
Summary: Black Friday Predictions for Tablets
- Motorola XOOM WiFi Tablet for $319
- Samsung Galaxy Tab 7" WiFi Tablet for $239
- Generic Android 7" tablets for $75
If last year's predictions are any indication, the Kindle and Nook are two tricky devices to nail down. We predicted that the Kindle 3G would drop to $169, but in actuality we didn't see any deals on this model. And as for the basic Nook, we saw a far better deal than we had anticipated — it dropped to $100, when we had expected just $129. (That's off by 22%, but it's a happy mistake, in our opinion.) But we're going to suck up our pride and try again: We predict the Kindle 3 WiFi reader will drop to $99 while the Nook Color will start at $179.
Keep in mind with the Kindle that there's a rumored upgrade in the works in coming months, which could drop prices on the older model even further. And even if the pricing proves to be unpredictable, you're still likely to encounter these readers bundled with book credits of about $25. (Last year we predicted $50 credits, which unfortunately didn't materialize.)
Summary: Black Friday Predictions for eBook Readers
- Kindle 3 WiFi eBook reader for $99
- Nook Color eBook reader $179
- Bundles with at least a $25 credit
Bottom image credit: jardenberg via Flickr
BLU-RAY PLAYERSAlthough they were once considered premium models, Blu-ray disc players with the ability to stream Netflix and other apps are now considered standard.
Unfortunately, prices on Blu-ray players with Netflix support have remained significantly higher than they were last holiday season. That said, prices stabilized in the $80 range this past spring and summer, and for Black Friday we're predicting a price of just $45. That's nearly identical to what we expect for standard, no frills devices too, so you might as well spring for the added features. And considering our prediction for Blu-ray players last year was on the dollar, you can follow our advice with confidence.
In addition to the players, last year we also saw an abundance of deals on Blu-ray disc movies, to the point where it was nearly impossible to track them all — just as we had predicted. This year we expect a repeat, with titles that you actually want starting at $5. Also, expect to see discounts on Blu-ray bundles and sets.
For 3D enthusiasts, we expect to see more deals on 3D Blu-ray disc players this holiday season. In fact, we expect deals on 3D players to be where deals on Netflix players were last year. Meaning, they could drop as low as $69. However, these players are only worthwhile if you own a 3D TV, and our stance on 3D remains unchanged. (See: the HDTV section.)
Finally, last year we saw Roku's highly-praised — and not often discounted — Roku XD 1080p Media Player chopped to $68 (although we predicted it would drop more than that). We expect the new Roku HD 2 player to see a similar discount this year, falling to $60.
Summary: Black Friday Predictions for Blu-ray
- Blu-ray player with Netflix support for $45
- Blu-ray movies you want from $5
- Roku HD 2 box from $60
HARD DRIVESExternal hard drive prices have fallen aggressively over the last two holiday seasons. This summer, prices for a 2TB external hard drive plateaued at $70, which is still $5 under our best deal from 2010. That said, this November, we expect deals on 2TB external hard drives to start at $49. If you don't require the extra storage space, we predict deals on 1TB external drives will start at $39.
How did we do on our hard drive predictions last year? We aced it, coming within a dollar of a perfect score.
New to our predictions this year are solid state drives (SSD). Thanks to the MacBook Air's success, laptops with SSDs have become quite popular. And, as a result, we've seen an influx of deals on SSD laptop kits. With that influx have come much lower prices, and this November we predict 64GB SSD laptop kits will start at $45 while larger 128GB SSD kits will go for $109.
Summary: Black Friday Predictions for Hard Drives & SSDs
- 1TB external drive for $39
- 64GB SSD laptop kit for $45
- 2TB external hard drive for $49
- 128GB SSD laptop kit for $109
It's been five years since we've seen the debut of a new mainstream gaming console. That said, no new models will be here by Black Friday, so we don't expect to see a lot of interest in deals for the Sony PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, or Microsoft Xbox 360. Sure, you'll see bundled offers that sweeten the purchase, and there might be aggressive discounting on those, but for the most part, most people who want one of these consoles already have one.
What you will find are deals on newer accessories (relatively speaking) like the Xbox Kinect and Sony Move. But even these accessories are starting to show their age. Last November we saw the Kinect Sensor for as low as $135. Since then it's dropped to $115. We expect to see another modest cut on the sensor, but nothing overly aggressive. Likewise, the Sony Move Starter Bundle dipped to $100 last November and is now $49, over 50% off. But again, these accessories are not in high demand as they've been around for quite some time.
Although we've covered a wide range of gadgets and electronics, you'll see great discounts on more than just tech items during the Black Friday shopping holiday. Last year, numerous apparel stores offered their best online coupons of the year in the weeks leading up to (and around) Black Friday. As a result, we naturally marked them as a dealnews Editors' Choice. This year, we predict to once again see an abundance of "best of the year" coupons that take 20% to 40% off, with some reaching even higher discounts. In fact, 57% of those Editors' Choice coupons from last year took 30% off or more, and most stacked with existing sales and markdowns.
One particular store to keep an eye on for coupons is Target. Last year, the merchant offered some of its doorbusters online (we predicted the opposite), and we expect to see that again. But the real deal here is that Target also offered a 10% off coupon that stacked with those items, which meant that several doorbusters were available online for less than they were in store. Considering Target has had a stacking coupon of some sort every month since last November, it seems likely to occur again.
Some vendors will sweeten their online offerings by giving free shipping to all orders. This was particularly true of luxury retailers like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. There was also a trend last year for stores to offer free shipping on numerous specific items, instead of no-minimum shipping sitewide. Such stores included Amazon, Walmart, and Best Buy. We predicted last year that both Office Depot and Staples would offer free shipping for customers, and we got it half right; Office Depot did, but Staples did not. Look for continued free shipping offers this Black Friday, with no minimums, at big stores and luxury retailers.
IN CONCLUSIONAs usual, you can expect some very aggressive deals this Black Friday season across the board. And even if you avoid the deluge of people in stores, shopping online can be overwhelming too. There's deals, sales, and discounts coming at you from every direction at all times. We thus recommend keeping an eye on our Black Friday deals page and consider setting up an email alert for the items that you're most interested in. The best advice we can give you is the same that we gave last year: Be choosy about when you buy.
This article was compiled by Lindsay Sakraida (Features Director), Louis Ramirez (Senior Features Writer), and Daniel de Grandpre (dealnews CEO). For information on our methodology, please click through to the next page.
Image credits, from top to bottom: lululemon athletica and The D34n via Flickr
For its Black Friday predictions, dealnews uses up to three years of historical data based on deals listed on dealnews.com.
To make a prediction, dealnews takes these measures:
- How much have prices fallen this year to date?
- How much did prices fall at this time last year?
- How much more did they fall on Black Friday last year?
- How much did they fall the preceding year?
Using that data, we extrapolate prices for this Black Friday by applying current trends to historical Black Friday price drops. In so doing, we correct for anomalies like outliers, floor effects, and disruptive new technologies that influence pricing trends. We also usually round to the nearest dollar amount ending in a "9" since retailers overwhelmingly do the same.
ACCURACYdealnews defines accuracy for its Black Friday Predictions of 2010 in the following manner:
- The predicted price was within ±10% of the observed price
- Predictions with no data are excluded (e.g., retailers had no notable desktop PC sales during Black Friday 2008, so the accuracy of dealnews' 2008 desktop PC prediction was not evaluated)