updated 10:40 am EST, Mon November 30, 2009
In-store traffic reports conflict
Apple's retail Black Friday traffic may have been up or down this year, depending on which analyst an investor chooses to believe. Shaw Wu of Kaufman Bros. claims that field checks show "strong" foot traffic, with high sales of Macs, iPods and iPhones. Though the Black Friday weekend accounts for 10 percent of holiday sales, Wu considers the traffic an important bellwether.
This view is contradicted by Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster, who says that a Piper team spent nine hours at three Apple Stores and counted only 8.3 Macs being sold per hour, as compared to 13 an hour in 2008. The analyst considers it "too early" to use the data as an indicator of how December quarter Mac sales will go, and so is relying on an earlier prediction of 2.8 million units. By contrast, Wu suggests that a Kaufman estimate of 2.9 million Macs is liable to be conservative.
Wu also comments that iMacs and the plastic MacBook are absent or in limited supply at Amazon and Best Buy, and that both vendors along with Target and Walmart have been unusually aggressive with Black Friday sales, making cuts as deep as 20 percent instead of a normal 11 to 13 percent. In some cases, gift cards up to $50 for iPods and $150 for Macs have been available. Apple kept to its usual minor discounts this year, no higher than 10 percent, and completely omitting the iPhone.