By Carlo Versano
'Tis the season. The leaves are turning, the air is chilly, and America's retailers are busy preparing for the all-important holiday season that will officially commence ー seemingly earlier every year ー with Black Friday sales and promotions.
Ben Arnold, the senior director of innovation and trends at the Consumer Technology Association, told Cheddar that he expects consumer electronics will once again rule over holiday shoppers. He's particularly bullish on televisions (with top-of-the-line 4K displays), smartphones (and accessories), and smart speakers , which he called the "big gainers" going into Black Friday.
Smartphones and TVs are the rare products able to repeatedly draw in shoppers, even when just about everyone already owns them. Because of the upgrade cycle and "iterative improvements," retailers can routinely count on strong sales for the latest and greatest versions, according to Arnold. That is especially true in a booming economy that is experiencing sustained wage growth. More disposable income equals more gadgets, the research shows.
Smart speakers, however, is still a business ripe for massive growth. Research from earlier this year estimated one in five Americans have access to one, up from virtually zero a couple years ago. It took televisions 13 years to hit the same rate of adoption that smart speakers reached in two. They were the hot story during last year's holiday, and Arnold said he expects the trend to continue, especially given new cutting-edge products from all the main players: Google ($GOOG), Apple ($AAPL), Amazon ($AMZN), and now Facebook ($FB).
Retailers are already jockeying for position ahead of Black Friday. Amazon and Target ($TGT) are both offering free two-day shipping for the season, while Walmart ($WMT) is deploying roving cashiers to help customers check out. Even Kohl's, known for its door-busting Black Friday sales, has plans to get younger shoppers into its stores.
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