So, who's ready for a little shop-till-you-drop action? Whether you're ready for it or not, or simply need a few quad-shot espressos, it's time for what is essentially the craziest shopping day of the entire year: Black Friday.
Aptly named for the time of the year where retailers can bring in, on average, anywhere from 30% to 40% of their revenue and a vast portion of their annual profits, the next month will represent the make-or-break point for numerous retailers for the year. Early estimates don't have this holiday season shaping up to be very strong, with weak back-to-school sales among apparel retailers telling the tale.
However, strong deals with name-brand products that rarely are privy to discounts can change that in a heartbeat. Although discounts are the scourge of retailers as they negatively impact margins, simply getting that customer in the door could establish a loyalty factor and get them to add on to their purchase, which will ultimately pad that retailers' pocket.
With that said, let's have a look at five Black Friday deals that I'm pretty sure you're not going to want to miss, as well as the companies behind these deals that could stand to benefit.
Technology is obviously a big beneficiary of Black Friday, and I see three deals that stand out as tantalizing for consumers:
1. Samsung Galaxy S4 for $99 with two-year commitment
I know what you're thinking: "How is $99 for a Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone that intriguing of a deal?" Well, at Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), which is offering the deal, you'll get a $100 gift card to be used on future purchases within the store if you purchase a Galaxy S4 with a two-year commitment. In other words, you'll pay some money up front for the Galaxy S4, but the phone, for all intents and purposes, is free!
For Samsung, it brings increased exposure of its flagship product into range for the considerably more cost-conscious consumer that Wal-Mart caters to, while for Wal-Mart it incentivizes consumers to come back into its stores again to spend that $100 gift card. This could be a smart ploy by Wal-Mart to improve consumer loyalty and boost its margins with add-on sales this holiday season.
2. Apple iPhone 5s for $189 and iPhone 5c for $45 with two-year commitment
Not to purposely beat the door down on Wal-Mart, but they really did a fantastic job this year with their mobile Black Friday deals. Similar to the Samsung offer above, Wal-Mart is offering a $75 gift card with the purchase of either an Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 5s or lower-price-point 5c. In theory, this would mean that the iPhone 5c is free net of the gift card while the 5s would run roughly $114, although consumers will still be paying for these phones with up-front cash. To add icing on the cake, Wal-Mart is also allowing consumers to bring in their old smartphone to be used as a trade-in on this purchase. The value of said trade-in could be as much as $300 according to the ad.
Obviously, Apple didn't have much of an issue selling iPhones in its most recent quarter, with 33.8 million of them being scooped up by the public. However, three quarters in a row of year-over-year profit declines for Apple means that it could use a retailing boost this holiday season -- and I feel Wal-Mart's deal could give the company the momentum it needs to forge ahead. For Wal-Mart, simply being able to bring Apple products to its cost-conscious consumers at an affordable price is bound to drive traffic into its stores. Not to mention that the gift card will drive repeat traffic and could lead to margin-stuffing add-on sales.
3. First-generation Kindle Fire for $79
Sometimes the greatest deals are those that are a little outdated, such as office supply superstore Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS) offering the first-generation Amazon.com Kindle Fire (not to be confused with the newer Kindle Fire HD or Kindle Fire HD 8.9") for just $79, down from its regular price of $159.
There certainly have been some modifications made to the Kindle Fire that have improved its user-friendliness since 2012, including the addition of a camera, better battery life, and 4G surfing capability. However, if you're working on a budget, the first-generation Kindle Fire on sale at Staples could make the perfect gift for, say, a child who doesn't need 4G speeds while surfing the net. It will still come with all of the perks that you'd expect from a Kindle tablet, and you can still connect with Amazon's seemingly innumerable apps.
For Staples, the deal is a way to reach a widening demographic of consumers and should help drive business through its doors during a holiday season that's witnessing big changes in the office supply sector with Office Depot and OfficeMax merging. For Amazon, it's business as usual with older and newer-generation Kindle Fire tablets linking to its growing content library and creating quite a loyal group of consumers.
But tech bargains won't necessarily steal the show from these two delectable deals:
4. Verismo for $99
As someone who has frequented Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) every day of his life for the past 18 years save for that occasional bout of "too sick to get out of bed," I can assure you that Starbucks is among the stingiest retailers when it comes to discounting. Similar to a premium retailer like Whole Foods Market, consumers walk in knowing they're going to pay more, but also have an expectation that they're receiving a higher-quality product.
That's why my jaw hit the floor when I noticed that Starbucks was lowering the price of its all-in-one single-serve brewing system, the Verismo, to $99 from a regular price of $149. The deal, of course, will work like magic for Starbucks since the machine itself isn't what rakes in the profits so much as the recurring revenue stream from consumers buying single-serve pods. I'm certainly not ashamed to admit that this is a deal that even I may not be able to pass up!
5. Samsung front-loading steam washer and dryer for $599 each
Appliances may not always be the most desired or "sexy" gifts, but it's hard to argue with this amazing deal from Sears Holdings (OTC:SHLDQ), which features a front-loading steam washer and dryer combo from Samsung that'd usually cost $899 each, or 33% off.
Sears has been struggling mightily of late to drive in-store traffic and has been aggressively trimming staff and closing underperforming stores in an effort to slow its cash burn and return to profitability. While this one deal certainly isn't going to make that happen, when it comes to home appliances, Sears looks as if it'll give some of the regular Black Friday winners, such as Best Buy, a run for their money. All it takes is a few good deals to drive repeat business -- my big concern, though, would be if Sears has cut back too far on its hiring to cover a surge in demand were it to occur.