April may be the cruelest month for the soul, but December can be the cruelest for electronics shoppers. Many of the best electronics deals occur during the Black Friday-Cyber Monday weekend in November. Nevertheless, electronics bargains continue to appear as Christmas and the New Year approach.
“If you didn’t jump on the electronics deals during Black Friday weekend, then at this point, you might as well wait until January and February to buy a digital camera, TV, or other device,” advises bargain hunter site DealNews Its reasoning? “The Consumer Electronics Show in January is the official launch for many 2013 models, which means that all the goods from 2012 will begin to see a round of discounts.”
Prices on 16-inch Core i5 Ivy Bridge notebooks reached a surprising low of $360 during the gala holiday shopping weekend. Shoppers can expect to find similar deals throughout December at outlets like Best Buy, the Microsoft Store, and Fry’s electronics, according to DealNews.
It also expects good deals will continue on so-called desktop replacement notebooks. Celeron-based 17-inch laptops have been selling for as low as $360 and decently configured Core i7 17-inch units reached lows not seen since February: $645.
Top TV bargains
Retailers offer tremendous discounts on televisions during the Black Friday weekend, but if you didn’t pick up a TV at that time, don’t worry. Deals will continue through December.
According to DealNews, prices on some sizes of TVs will continue to drop during the month. For example, prices for name-brand 42-inch LCD HDTVs dropped an additional 5 percent from Black Friday prices last year. Prices for 46- and 47-inch LCD HDTVs dropped an additional 8 percent in December 2011.
Those pricing trends are likely to continue this year because demand for TVs appears to be flat. According to comparison shopping site PriceGrabber, search traffic at its webpost for TVs was the highest for any product category. Yet traffic was flat compared to last year—despite selling prices being 10 percent lower than 2011.
Televisions attracting lots of search traffic at PriceGrabber were three Samsung models—UN46EH5000 46-inch LED TV, UN32EH4003F 32-inch LED TV, and the PN51E530 51-inch plasma TV—plus the MitsubishiWD-73C12 73-inch DLP projection TV.
Early bargains on mobile devices
Based on Black Friday traffic at Pricegrabber, tablets, e-readers, and smartphones appear to be holiday favorites this year.
Search traffic for tablets and e-readers increased 81 percent over last year, with the devices selling at prices 3 percent lower than last year. For smartphones, traffic increased 60 percent, while average pricing fell 16 percent.
Meanwhile, interest in digital cameras, MP3 players, and GPS devices waned. Traffic for digital cameras dropped six percent from 2011, while prices increased 14 percent. Those numbers reflect erosion of demand for budget point-and-shoot digital cameras because of improved performance by shooters in cell phones, and the introduction of more higher-end models.
The 40 percent drop in traffic for MP3 players and GPS devices can also be attributed to the introduction of more capable mobile phones that have incorporated those functions.
Overall, Pricegrabber reported a 14 percent increase in search traffic during the Black Friday weekend, 27 percent of it from mobile devices—a 114 percent increase over 2011.
Those searches aren’t just because people have more mobile devices, according to Mike Solomon, vice president for marketing strategy at The Search Agency, an online marketing firm in Los Angeles. “There isn’t a trade-off of searches going from desktop to smartphone,” he said in an interview. “It’s that people are doing more searches overall.”
He said that consumers are performing more searches and consulting more sources of information than ever before making a purchase. “We’re taking in more information because we want to make sure we’re making the right purchase,” he said.
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John Mello writes on technology and cyber security for a number of online publications and is former managing editor of the Boston Business Journal and Boston Phoenix. Disclosure: He also writes for Hewlett-Packad's marketing website TechBeacon.