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Black Friday was far from gloomy

Results from the biggest shopping day of the year indicate solid sales. They may be even better next year.

Black Friday--the biggest shopping day of the year--lived up to its name this year, and analysts expect next year to be even better.

IT and consumer electronics sales benefited from the shopping frenzy on Black Friday and the week of Thanksgiving, retail market tracker NPD Techworld said late Tuesday. Overall IT sales, led by notebooks, were up to $694 million, almost $60 million more than last year, but the 8.9 percent dollar increase, expected due to market growth, marks the lowest for the Thanksgiving week since 2001. Consumer electronics sales were up 8.5 percent.

"IT sales were a little soft coming into Thanksgiving and still (are), but it was a real solid start for the electronics categories," NPD analyst Stephen Baker said.

The results are mostly good news for manufacturers, as the tallies often predict how the rest of the holiday season will turn out. However, Baker said this holiday season just planted the seeds for a full bloom next year.

"I'm really looking forward to next year, because many of the trends in place now will go into full drive by then," Baker said. "Everything is solid but not quite ripe."

One example Baker cited was TVs, which has been a popular gift, thanks to the appeal of flat-panel sets. Pricing is "still out of whack but should be more in line by next year," Baker said.

Plasma display TVs saw high growth rates compared to last year, but high prices limited their impact on the overall market. Plasma TVs accounted for $36.5 million in revenue--up from $14.3 million in 2003. Plasma TVs sales were up 272.4 percent in unit sales and 155.4 percent in dollars. The average selling price for a plasma was down from $3,802 in 2003 to $2,608 in 2004.

However, CRT-based TVs--with lower average selling prices of $195--shipped more units and accounted for more revenue (about $100 million overall) than flat-panel sets. Dollar growth, at 3.3 percent, and unit sales growth, at 22.1 percent, was far lower for cathode ray tube TVs than for the newer flat-panel sets.

"Tubes are still a great value for people, and you don't ever think about it," Baker said.

Digital audio players were another top-selling product category: Dollar growth was near 200 percent, and unit growth was up 152.5 percent this year compared to last.

Meanwhile, notebook PCs represented the top-selling category of IT sales and accounted for 46.5 percent of all PCs sold in the Thanksgiving week. Unit growth for notebooks was 22.5 percent with dollar growth in the 11 percent range. The average selling price dipped to $1,037 from $1,148 in 2003.