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HD, Electronics Shopping Starts Brisk, Cools Down Fast

The nation's retailers, armed with a new crop of electronic products such as lower-priced LCD and plasma TVs, cameras, and other digital toys for big people, had a brief surge of business on so-called Black Friday, but things settled down by the first weekend of the holiday shopping season. Some tracking actually had sales in other than big-box stores down a hair from last year.

According to one tracking firm, ShopperTrak RCT, which monitors sales at roughly 45,000 retailers, sales for the combined Friday and Saturday period last week slipped 0.5 percent to $13.4 billion, from a year ago. Most specific sales figures on HD and DTV sets will not be made available, if at all, until after the season concludes.

Overall, the season appears to be at a modest start, although retailers said they expect interest to remain high for MP3 players (iPod and otherwise), flat-screen sets (HD and otherwise), and digital cameras, with a lot of media publicity this month citing noticeably lower price points on all digital products than a year ago.

Part of this year's pre-shopping season "media hype" (a term used by several talking heads on American TV this week and by some groups such as the International Council of Shopping Centers) was that Black Friday and Cyber Monday (Nov. 28) were going to set records for sales volume. Apparently, this is not the case (although online transactions on Cyber Monday were still being calculated at press time).

But electronics and other retailers needn't fret too much about what's already behind them; Black Friday or not, the top three or four shopping days of the season usually do not come until the middle of December.