Black Friday is still about a month and a half away, but we're already thinking about the types of deals we'll see during this annual shopping extravaganza. Once again we expect electronics—especially TVs, given their higher prices—to play a starring role in retail promotions.
Though there's always a fair amount of guesswork with any Black Friday predictions this early, one thing we're fairly certain about is that 4K TVs will be a bigger part of many retailers' Black Friday sales this year.
Last year we called two 60-inch 4K UHD TVs from Samsung and Vizio priced at $800 each as top deals, but that price is now the regular starting price for 4K sets this size. To garner any attention, retailers will have to push prices for 4K models to new lows. (Check out the "4K TVs Grab the Spotlight" section below for our predictions of how low they'll go.)
We also anticipate that more major brands will be involved in 2016. Though "doorbuster specials" have always involved super-low prices, many of the deals in the past have been on lesser-known brands. But last year several major brands—notably LG, Samsung, and Vizio—were especially aggressive during the Black Friday shopping period. That pushed some secondary brands, including TCL and Westinghouse, as well as even lesser-known ones, such as Sceptre and Element, to hit new low prices in several screen sizes.
We expect the trend to continue, with perhaps Hisense and better-known names such as Sharp (a brand now controlled by Hisense) and Sony joining the fray.
With all of that in mind, here are three Black Friday predictions for TVs in 2016:
1. 4K TVs Grab the Spotlight
Prices for 4K UHD TVs have been dropping, but you'll still typically pay $1,000 or more—and in many instances, a lot more—for a full-featured 65-inch set from a major brand. For Black Friday 2016, we expect to see a few sets this size from secondary brands break the $500 price barrier as doorbuster specials. And 60- to 65-inch UHD TVs from major brands could be found at $600 to $650.
If you don't need a set that big, you'll really be in luck because the 55-inch category will be especially aggressive, with more secondary brands playing in this screen size. The result: A $350 55-inch 4K model from an off-brand isn't unthinkable, nor are 49- or 50-inch 4K sets at $250 to $300.
One big question for us this year is how aggressive LG will get with its OLED TVs. Prices have already fallen significantly this year, but it's possible LG may offer some special deals on its entry-level B6- and C6-series 4K sets so that more people can experience OLED TV technology. Consider, though, that the least expensive sets are selling for about $2,300 for a 55-inch model and $3,500 for a 65-incher. Even if these sets get much less expensive, they still won't be cheap. But they are among the best TVs we've tested this year.
2. Big-Screen 1080p TVs Hit New Lows
Remember when 60-inch TVs seemed gigantic and carried equally oversized prices? That was only a few years ago. Last year we saw prices for 60-inch and larger 1080p sets drop significantly, and we called Vizio's sub-$650 65-inch set one of the best Black Friday deals of 2015.
This year we think you'll see some secondary brands hit the $500 mark for a set this size, with a few major brands reacting with prices in the $600 range. And if you're looking to go bigger, remember that last year Walmart had a 70-inch Vizio set for less than $900. So we wouldn't be surprised to see a 70-inch 1080p model, from a brand such as Samsung or Vizio, be advertised for $800 to $850 this year.
If your TV ambitions aren't quite that grand, one of last year's hottest deals was Amazon's 50-inch 1080p set for just $150. It was a limited-quantity sale that sold out immediately. (Best Buy had a 49-inch Toshiba for the same price.)
These types of one-offs could happen again, though we don't think prices will go much lower. Pricing could be very aggressive in the 40-inch category, where we may see a few choices for $200. And how does a $98 32-inch 720p model sound?
3. Price Differences Among Retailers Will Narrow
Although there will always be some doorbuster exclusives priced extremely low to get people into stores—with retailers hoping customers will also buy other, more profitable items—by and large the trend is toward deals that are comparable across a variety of retailers.
One reason is that today more retailers are matching online and in-store pricing. We asked Best Buy, Target, and Walmart whether they would expand their price-match policies this year; all declined to provide any specifics. But last year Target expanded its in-store and online price-matching policy to include 29 retailers. Walmart matched the prices at about 30 online competitors last year, and Best Buy has price-matched seven online retailers, including Amazon, for several years.
We expect that trend to continue, making price differences among retailers less dramatic than in years past.
That said, we do expect to see a few major brands offering "derivative" models that are exclusive to a single retailer or chain, or that are only available during the short Black Friday shopping weekend. This allows the retailer to set prices without worrying about a competitor offering the same set for less.
Another development we've seen over the past few years is the impact of Black Friday itself—the one day after Thanksgiving—diminishing. Retailers are increasingly offering week or even entire months of Black Friday promotions.
We'll be tracking the best Black Friday deals we see at all of the major retailers, so keep checking back for all of our updates and shopping tips. And if you'll be in the market for a TV this Black Friday, let us know what you'll be looking for in the comments section below.
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