The Black Friday of Guns and Drones
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because the products we risked our lives over last Black Friday say a lot about us and what we’ll do this year.
By Nathan Siegel
It’s Black Friday and Americans want to know one thing: Will I survive the scrum? Other than survival, those who brave Wal-Mart will mostly have their sights on big-ticket electronic items, like ultra-high-definition televisions and mini-tablets. But there’s more on shoppers’ minds than pixels and screen size. These hot products from Black Friday last year, which were not named Samsung or Apple, may point the way for this year’s shopping frenzy. Buckle up.
Ready, Aim, Firearms
Guns are hot. Since President Obama’s 2012 re-election, firearm sales have rocketed. On Black Friday after the election, 154,873 FBI criminal background checks were run, the third-highest single day on record. Last year, 144,758 were issued. Congratulations, Obama, according to Townhall, you are the “best gun salesman in U.S. history.” Advertisers are taking note. Until last year, guns were nowhere to be found on FatWallet.com, a popular online coupon site, says Brent Shelton, an online shopping analyst for the company. Now guns and ammo have their own subsection, and you can expect two to three pages of coupons, he says. “Before it was a bit more family friendly, but now advertisers are blatantly offering guns and ammo,” he says. Expect more of the same this year, Shelton predicts.
A Tale of Two Toys
If you’ve been itching for Pacquiao vs. Mayweather, here’s a world title bout worthy of pay-per-view — toys. The fighters couldn’t be more different. In one corner: the defending champ and crudest game on the planet, Cards Against Humanity, which sits atop Amazon’s best-seller list. Last Black Friday, CAH made the game $5 more expensive — and still boosted sales. How much in sales? One estimate says the company shipped a half-million games in its first two years, but a spokesman said that was “completely pulled out of their ass.” In response to an attempt to wrangle some hard figures, the company sent OZY a video of the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”
In the other corner, the princesses from Disney’s Frozen. The corporation that wants to own your kid’s imagination has sold 3 million dresses from the film’s princesses this year alone. And though Disney has refused to release sales figures for the dolls (more cordially than CAH), Sean McGowan, a senior analyst at Needham & Co., estimates the company will rake in $300 million on the playthings alone — half during the holiday season. But the two products don’t exactly target the same customer. “Some people still don’t know about Cards Against Humanity,” says McGowan. “And that’s probably a good thing.”
Wal-Mart’s Biggest Seller
In the megastore, start with tablets: 1.4 million sold. Dolls were still more desired: 1.9 million. Televisions, obviously: 2 million. But for all of Apple’s sexy ads and the Hollywood obsessions of young girls and boys, nothing could touch the retail giant’s most in-demand product: towels. Wal-Mart sold 2.8 million towels for $1.74 a pop last Black Friday — more than the population of Jamaica. Shelton says that the number of deals for products under $20 on FatWallet.com for this year’s Black Friday is unprecedented. Online stores are trying to reproduce the effect of cheap goodies lined enticingly along the checkout counters of brick-and-mortar shops, he says.
The Drones Are Here
Like duct tape and GPS, drones have finally made their way from obscure military technology to consumer wish lists. Just type “I want to buy” into Google. What more proof do you need? Drone company Parrot raked in $34.75 million in revenue from drones last quarter, up 130 percent from 2013. While drones weren’t flying off the shelves last Black Friday, this one will be different, especially with the price tags of some models dipping to $50, says Shelton. Credit Amazon’s hyped delivery-by-drone and Facebook’s Internet-by-drone initiatives with helping American buyers think beyond just military uses, he says. But watch out if you get one. The National Transportation Safety Board just ruled that Federal Aviation Administration regulations apply to how you fly the thing.
Photography by Shutterstock