Black Friday PC shopping retail store checks highlighted that buyers were focused on low prices and on tablet PCs as they kicked off the holiday season.
In years past, notebook PCs were among the top items on wish lists, but this year early indications are that tablets have taken over for notebooks as we expected. In visits to Wal-Mart in Oakland, CA and the two San Francisco-based Best Buy stores to get a sense of what shoppers were looking for at the early stages of the holiday shopping season, we found that demand for PCs seemed healthy overall, but some PCs were more sought after than others and, as expected, price tended to be the primary criteria for many shoppers.
Case in point, at the Wal-Mart in Oakland, the $199 Google Nexus 7 and the $179 Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 with a 7” screen appeared to be the most popular tablets. Toward the end of Friday, there was a stack of the $249 32GB Nexus 7 devices readily available next to the empty shelf space where the $199 16GB Nexus 7 tablets once were. Wal-Mart did not carry any of the Amazon Kindle Fire tablets but Best Buy did, and after the Apple iPad Mini the Kindle Fires were the most popular tablet models, in particular the $199 Kindle Fire HD. Best Buy did not carry the Google Nexus 7.
According to a Best Buy sales associate, the combination of all the non-Apple tablets seemed to be closing in on the Apple iPad family in terms of number of units sold. The iPad Mini was sold out while the iPad 2 and the iPad with Retina Display were still available. Tablets from the Kindle Fire family were the most popular of the non-Apple tablets.
Demand for tablets was out pacing demand for notebooks, according to the sales associate and from observed foot traffic. The $187 Lenovo IdeaPad door buster deal was sold out, but sales of standard notebooks were fairly modest otherwise.
Best Buy created a separate section for Ultrabooks but it was off to the side of the notebook section. All the units had touch capability, but there was not any marketing highlighting the feature. The limited inventory of Ultrabooks did manage to sell out, despite the markedly higher price points as compared to the standard notebooks. Also very popular were the Chromebooks from Samsung and Acer.
Best Buy carried the $199 Acer 11.6” Chromebook with a 320GB hard disk drive and the $249 Samsung 11.6” Chromebook with a 16GB solid state drive. However, for some reason the retailer had limited inventory. A sales associate informed us that they had only 10 units of each model in stock and had sold out early in the day. On three separate occasions we overheard shoppers asking sales associates if there were any more Chromebooks available.