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Big-screen TVs, routers, practical tech likely to be big sellers this holiday shopping season

Expect many 65-inch TVs to be priced as low as $250 and for even bigger ones to also be heavily discounted.

Big-screen TVs and streaming sticks are likely to be big holiday season sellers this holiday season, says Stephen Baker of the NPD Group. — but smart speakers and smart home devices not so much.
Big-screen TVs and streaming sticks are likely to be big holiday season sellers this holiday season, says Stephen Baker of the NPD Group. — but smart speakers and smart home devices not so much.
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We’re just a few weeks from Black Friday and intense holiday shopping time during an era of COVID-19, and it’s a good bet a lot of people will be looking for something practical.

Stephen Baker, an analyst with the NPD Group, which tracks sales of consumer products, says to expect a holiday filled with non-sexy products like computer monitors, external mice and keyboards and, yes, routers.

“You’re not going to give a spa certificate or holiday tickets to Bermuda,” Baker says. ”Instead, we’re seeing more tangible gifts, like a router. Give your family the gift of better Internet connectivity.”

The pandemic has put a twist on consumer electronic sales. Already, there have been huge sales gains for products that make it easier to work and learn from home, Baker says:

  • Router sales — up 50%.
  • Computer monitors — up 80%.
  • Big-screen TVs — up 35%.

Baker sees that trend continuing for the holiday shopping season, when the next-generation video consoles from Sony (PlayStation 5) and Microsoft (Xbox 5) are expected to be the hardest to get.

New iPhones, while not generally gifts, are expected to be the biggest sellers of the holiday along with Apple AirPods and other headsets, says Daniel Ives, an analyst with Wedbush Securities.

What else is hot?

  • TVs traditionally are the best sellers for the holiday, as consumers opt for the bargain prices. Baker says to expect many 65-inch sets for as low as $250 and even larger ones to be heavily discounted.
  • Computer monitors — Baker says this is the fastest growing category in consumer electronics. “Kids want a bigger screen when they’re doing education at home, parents are adding second or third screens to their home setup for work. Screens are clearly much more important than they’ve been before.” (Laptops have been a big seller all year long and hard to get, but don’t tend to be purchased for the holidays, Baker says.)
  • Streaming sticks — With virtually every TV these days a smart TV with built-in streaming, you could expect sales of the Roku and Amazon Fire TV streaming sticks to take a hit. Not so, according to Baker, who says they will continue to be among the most popular products. Sales already are up 40%. For the past several years, Amazon has listed the Fire TV streaming stick as one of its top sellers at holiday time. “There are millions and millions of older TVs,” Baker says. “And maybe you got a smart TV but don’t like the interface, so you replace it with a Roku.”

What’s not hot?

  • Smart speakers — Amazon traditionally massively discounts its Echo speaker line during the holidays, but so far this year Baker hasn’t seen a “huge jump” in sales for these products during COVID times. But he expects Apple’s HomePod Mini, its first consumer-priced smart speaker, at $99, to be a big seller. Apple has said that all of its best-selling products — iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple Watches — have seen a boost from pandemic-era customers.
  • Smart home devices — these products have been heavily touted the past few years, but getting smart locks and other automation products to work can take some skill. Baker says none of these is a particularly strong seller, except for video doorbells, which monitor what’s going on outside your front door. Those products have seen a 30% lift this year, he says.

The Black Friday of your memory, the one of massively discounted TVs that serve as “doorbusters” to bring people in, will be a thing of the past this year.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified “shopping at crowded stores just before, on or after Thanksgiving” on a list of higher-risk activities to avoid. The agency has suggested doing more online shopping.

Neil Saunders, managing director of the retail consultancy Global Data, says the idea of any retailer driving crowds of people into its stores is a “non-starter.”

“All will be looking to balance the need to drive sales with the need to keep people safe,” Saunders says.

But Baker says to expect doorbusters and long lines to be back next year.

“When people shop in store, they tend to shop more and buy more expensive things,” he says. “Next year, I would expect there to be some interesting things for you to buy the day after Thanksgiving.”

Read more at USA Today.