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It's that time of year again where local merchants are pushing autumn and Thanksgiving decor and simultaneously stocking Christmas-oriented trinkets. Ah, how quickly the holiday shopping season — and Black Friday weekend — arise! Last year, we ranked the top five merchants that produced best-ever online deals and sales during Black Friday weekend (the 5-day span from Thanksgiving Thursday through Cyber Monday) 2010, and this year, we'll be revisiting the list to see how much — or how little — has changed in 2011.
Throughout the year, the dealnews staff will label the site's best deals as Editors' Choice, and chances are high that one (or several) of us have purchased these deals ourselves. An item or sale marked "Editors' Choice" on Black Friday or Cyber Monday in particular, deems it cream of the crop.
Therefore, in creating our list, we decided that the top Black Friday vendors should not be judged based on the volume of all deals, but rather on which offered the greatest number of Editors' Choice-caliber bargains. Last year during the Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday period, we posted 1,867 deals, a 13% increase over Black Friday Weekend 2010. Of those deals, 749 were tagged Editors' Choice. (Meanwhile, in 2010, 537 deals were Editors' Choices.)
It should be noted that many Editors' Choice deals sold out almost as soon as they hit our site. (Some definitely sold out too fast. We're looking at you, Amazon Lightning Deals.) Others, unfortunately, were deemed invalid due to snafus on behalf of the retailer. (Best Buy was a major culprit here and subsequently received a "jeer" from us.)
But now, without further ado...
The king of the online-shopping jungle is in a familiar territory at the top of our list. We saw a total of 310 deals from Amazon during Black Friday Weekend 2011, which is actually less than what we saw during that span in 2010 (326 deals). However, while 40% of Amazon's Black Friday 2010 deals were tagged Editors' Choice, that figure saw an 11% increase in 2011. As was the trend with a majority of merchants last year, we saw most of these oh-so-coveted deals from Amazon on Thanksgiving, as 45 offers were Editors' Choices, with only a total of 39 such deals featured on Black Friday.
Like 2010, last year's MP3s deals were among the most popular Black Friday offerings from Amazon. For instance, a $2 Amazon MP3 Store credit from Thanksgiving could have been applied toward a wide selection of $2 albums from popular artists such as Lady Gaga and Coldplay. Other noteworthy deals included an LG 42" 120Hz 1080p LED-backlit LCD HDTV for $499 (an all-time low for a name-brand TV of that class with WiFi) and a Sunbeam 4-slice toaster for $10 shipped (without rebate hassles) for Prime members. Amazon was also very competitive with its price-matching, as it tied or beat several Editors' Choice prices from Best Buy, Walmart, and other stores.
For the second straight year, Best Buy comes in second on our list. But unlike in 2010, its 2011 offerings kept it in close competition with Amazon. In fact, the Yellow Tag saw a massive jump in Editors' Choice offerings between 2010 and 2011, to the tune of a whopping 342% increase and total of 146 Editors' Choice deals. To further illustrate just how significant that is, Best Buy's Editors' Choice-level deals barely cracked the 40-mark in 2010. As was the trend in 2010, last year Best Buy rolled out nearly half of its best sales on Thanksgiving, to the tune of 70 deals.
Gamers benefitted from Best Buy's 2011 Black Friday Weekend deals, as the merchant offered several video game titles for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, and Nintendo DS at rock-bottom prices. Meanwhile, movie lovers could have taken advantage of Best Buy's Blu-ray specials; bonus editions of select Harry Potter films were only $5 shipped. As for laptops and tablets, Best Buy featured strong deals for those items as well; Best Buy sold the Apple iPad 2 16GB WiFi Tablet for $455 with free shipping, $3 below the Apple Store's Black Friday price.
Rounding out our top three 2011 Black Friday Weekend retailers, albeit in a distant third, is electronics store newegg. While newegg also landed in this spot on our 2010 list (where it was very close behind Best Buy, in fact), newegg upped the ante last holiday season when it came to its Editors' Choice offerings, 24 of which appeared on Black Friday itself. In 2010, only 31 (or 27%) of its Black Friday Weekend deals were tagged as such.
As was the case in 2010, newegg's best offers were via rebate during Black Friday Weekend 2011. We recently discovered that the quality of rebate-based deals is improving each year, and newegg's Black Friday specials were no exception. Some such promotions included a ZOTAC MiniITX AMD Motherboard for $15 with free shipping (the best we've seen for any miniITX motherboard) and an ASUS 23" 1080p LED-Backlit LCD Monitor for $130 via a $10 rebate (a price low of $50 when it was posted on Black Friday). Of course, newegg offered many strong deals without the need for rebates, as well; we saw a Samsung wireless printer for $40 shipped, making for the best price we'd ever seen for any wireless laser printer.
Were you starting to get the feeling that the 2011 merchants were looking a lot like the winners in 2010? Well, leave it to Walmart — who didn't even rank on last year's list — to serve as the C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER. The big box merchant missed cracking the top five in 2010 with a paltry 20 Editors' Choice deals — that's five below last year's 5-spot. But in 2011 we saw a small bump in those numbers, which was enough for Walmart to earn the number four spot here. Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday were when consumers saw most of Walmart's very best offers.
Anyone who was shopping for kids (or kids-at-heart) saw Walmart feature some strong prices on the season's most popular toys. A Star Wars R2-D2 Interactive Astromech Droid, for example, was $119 shipped and a $46 price low. A Fisher-Price Baby Grand Piano was a mere $25 plus 97-cent shipping, a low by a whopping $69. Other hot deals included a 6-quart slow cooker for $10 shipped and an LG 1080p Blu-ray Disc Player for $49 with free shipping.
Rounding out our 2011 retailer list is Kohl's, which claimed the number four spot last year. Kohl's featured 10 more Editors' Choice deals in 2010 than in 2011, but as we've come to expect with Kohl's deals, less is more. The retailer boasts the best Editors'-Choice-to-total-deal ratio for the second straight year. Exactly half of Kohl's Editors' Choice deals were posted on Thanksgiving.
Once again, Kohl's was the place to shop for home goods and small kitchen appliances. And like newegg, Kohl's promotions were very rebate-happy. Several KitchenAid stand mixers saw best-ever prices courtesy of rebates and lofty Kohl's Cash credits. But one of the hottest deals of Black Friday 2011 was one we also saw in November 2010: a Sonoma life + style 5-piece luggage set. If you didn't mind filling out a rebate and padding your order, it could have been yours for only $34. (However, note that it's a slight increase from its 2010 price of $28.)
Dell Home, who was number five on our 2010 list? Dell's consumer storefront featured 15 Editors' Choice deals in 2011 — 10 less than the season before. Unsurprisingly, most of Dell's best deals were for laptops, although we also saw strong prices on other electronics, such as digital cameras and gaming consoles. Tied with Dell Home last year for Editors' Choice-level deals was Target, which not only offered strong sales on toys, but also featured an Amazon Kindle 3G eBook Reader with Special Offers for $85 at its retail locations.
Yes, Amazon is sitting atop another deal-friendly list, but the competition has gotten more fierce. Best Buy far exceeded its Editors' Choice deals total from 2010, no longer coughing in Amazon's dust but now appearing in its rear-view mirror. Will 2012 be the year Amazon loses its Black Friday Crown to Best Buy — or even to another merchant, perhaps one that failed to make this list? Whatever happens, we know there will not be a shortage of super hot deals (nor a lack of impulse purchases on behalf of our staff!) this Black Friday season.
For an idea of what type of deals you can expect this Black Friday Weekend, educate yourself and read our Black Friday Predictions for 2012.
Front page photo credit: Girl Chases Globe