Black Friday discounts bleed a little red as tough times in retailing call for sharp cuts on prices at a few big tech shops. These ten top deals show just how much pressure is riding on holiday sales.
No. 10: Apple
Apple is traditionally the stingiest of tech discounters in the gadget market, and this year will continue that grand tradition. If reports of Apple's Black Friday specials are true, Macs and iPods will get a one-day price break of about 10%.
The numbers. Apple's "cool" gizmos have enjoyed a remarkably resilient status among consumers. That position is reflected in the company's tightfisted pricing stance. Apple's implied theme here is big discounts are for big losers. But retail partner Costco seems eager to dangle some marked-down coolness to lure its members. Costco is selling the latest Apple iPod nano for $129, a 13% discount on the $149 regular price.
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The stock. Like its gadgets, Apple's stock attracts an eager crowd willing to pay top dollar to be part of the action. Costco, however, could use a few tricks to keep its bargain-hunting customers from finding deals in Wal-Mart's aisles. In the past month, Wal-Mart shares have doubled the rise of Costco's stock.
No. 9: Hewlett-Packard
Hewlett-Packard grabbed the top place in PCs from Dell two years ago by jumping on the notebook bandwagon as consumers went shopping for desktop power in portable devices. Hewlett-Packard hopes to cash in again in an emerging category of hybrid laptops called super netbooks.
The numbers. One of the most-watched devices in this category is the DM3, a 13-inch, thin, lightweight notebook with an eight-hour battery life, four-gigabyte memory and no DVD drive. HEWLETT-PACKARD introduced the DM3 in July priced at $599. On Friday it will sell on Amazon for $499.
The stock. Hewlett-Packard branched into IT services last year and hopes to get a chunk of Cisco's networking market with the pending acquisition of 3Com. But computers are still its biggest business and if hybrid notebooks are a winning category, Hewlett-Packard could continue to punish Dell.
No. 8: Garmin
Garmin was a top destination in the GPS device boom, but navigating the post-boom is proving to be a challenge.
The numbers. While rivals like Magellan and TomTom have typically offered the cheaper options in GPS, Garmin is going on the offensive this Friday. For the first time in a national retail offering, Garmin will break the $100 barrier with a $99 device. The Garmin Nuvi 205W is being advertised for $99 at Best Buy this Friday, a 29% discount from the $140 regular price.
The stock. Garmin shares are down 16% in the past month as analysts and investors absorb the shock of weaker margins on new devices like the Nuvi phone. Deeper discounts, it seems, aren't exactly the right road toward alleviating those concerns.
No. 7: Dell
Dell has been paddling furiously, but still lagging behind and losing business to Hewlett-Packard and Acer, among others.
The numbers. Dell told analysts last week that it would not build its turnaround on deep price cuts on PCs. But Dell didn't mention computer monitors. Black Friday will see another $100 price barrier shattered when Dell's S2009W 20-inch desktop monitor goes on sale for $99 at Best Buy. That price is 37% below the monitor's regular mark up of $159.
The stock. Dell shares are down 8% from Thursday levels when the company reported disappointing numbers, thinning margins and eroding market share. Dell's lousy performance came amid a surprisingly strong period of PC industry sales giving investors the sense that Dell may be missing out on a recovery.
No. 6: Palm
Palm's Pre phone was expected to spark the revival of a smartphone pioneer. With a bright touch screen, a slide-out keypad and a new WebOS operating software, the $200 phone debuted as the best challenger yet to the Apple iPhone.
The numbers. After a dismal debut and meager sales, the Palm Pre, sold exclusively by Sprint, quickly fell in the bargain bin. In three months, the Pre price fell to $149. Getting into the spirit of Black Friday, Amazon has begun to offer the Pre for $80, a 46% discount on the previous price of $149.
The stock. Despite a 23% drop in the past month, Palm shares are still up more than 400% over the past year. A lot of that appreciation is tied to the value of the Pre as a contender in the booming smartphone market. But with the Pre prices falling so fast, it's difficult to stay as hopeful about Palm's revitalization plan.
No. 5: Western Digital
Western Digital drives down prices of external hard drives in its battle with rival Seagate Technology. The newest crop of hard drives offer twice the capacity at half the price of last year's models.
The numbers. As a Black Friday special, Wal-Mart is offering the Western Digital portable 320 gigabyte external hard drive for $49, a 50% markdown from the $99 regular price. Seagate's popular FreeAgent 320-gigabyte external hard drive goes for $80.
The stock. Storage has been a popular theme for tech investors this year. With component costs falling, manufacturers have been able to cut prices profitably as higher sales offset lower prices. Shares of Western Digital and Seagate have tripled this year.
No. 4: SanDisk
SanDisk is flashing some astounding Black Friday prices on flash memory devices. Flash drive prices have fallen faster than those of hard drives. USB thumb drives now pack three times the memory capacity at a third of last year's prices.
The numbers. The SanDisk 4 gigabyte flash drive is available for $8 at Wal-Mart, a 73% discount from the $30 regular price. In contrast, Target sells a Lexar 4 gigabyte flash drive for $20.
The stock. Falling memory prices haven't hurt SanDisk shares. The stock has doubled this year. A big part of that enthusiasm, however, was due to a positive resolution to a licensing dispute with Samsung in May.
No. 3: Palm
The Palm Pixi, the diminutive follow up to the Pre, hit stores last week priced at $100 with a Sprint contract. However, Sprint quickly started the discounts to stem the flow of subscribers from its service.
The numbers. Amazon is now selling the Palm Pixi for $25, a quarter of the price it went for when it was introduced Nov. 15. Falling prices on new smartphone models suggest demand may not be strong.
The stock. Palm's Pixi was designed to compete with the $99 Apple 2G iPhone and lower cost BlackBerries from Research In Motion. Investors have been concerned the Pixi could cannibalize Pre sales. The timing of Pixi's arrival also puts it up against Motorola's Droid at Verizon. Palm investors, who cheered the company's revival, are now looking at a very crowded market.
No. 2: BlackBerry
Research In Motion's BlackBerry Curve at Sprint is also battling it out in that market. Nothing in tech gets cut deeper than the price of a three-year-old phone. The best example was the Motorola Razr. The ultrathin trendsetter debuted in 2004 with a $600 price tag, but by 2007, it was a promotional freebie.
The numbers. Best Buy, along with desperate partner Sprint, is giving free Curve phones to people who sign up for two-year service contracts on Black Friday. The phone was recently advertised for $50 to $200.
The stock. Sprint's willingness to subsidize customers' phone costs is a bold strategy to keep and lure customers. Last year, Sprint lost more than 1 million subscribers because of neglected service and rival offers, such as those for AT&T's iPhone. Fewer contract cancellations will be seen as a major accomplishment. And while Sprint shares are well below their one-year high in May, the stock has still doubled this year.
No. 1: BlackBerry
Research In Motion takes the top two spots with the BlackBerry Curve. This model, the Curve 8900, is one of the newest from the three-year-old line. Its sold by Amazon on behalf of AT&T.
The numbers. Amazon has already opened the Web doors with its online Black Friday special on the Curve 8900. The phone costs 1 cent if you sign up for a two-year contract with AT&T.
The stock. While free Razrs once sounded the game-over bell for Motorola, free Curves aren't as dismal a warning sign for RIM. Unlike Motorola, RIM has new models to keep the smartphone momentum going. Even with a 9% drop in its share price over the past month, RIM is still up nearly 50% for the year.