Apple: Dissecting Black Friday Sales

Nov.30.09 | About: Apple Inc. (AAPL)

Apple’s Mac sales on Black Friday were either a little off the pace set a year ago or moving briskly off the shelves with the help of discounting, according to analysts.

Wall Street was busy handicapping Apple’s Black Friday sales and the picture is a bit mixed. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster notes that Apple’s Mac sales were off a bit from a year ago, but noted it’s too early to make a call about the December quarter. Munster’s team spent 9 hours in Apple stores on Black Friday.

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bank analyst Chris Whitmore says Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) sales were healthy. He says in a research note that Apple stores were packed and the recently refreshed MacBook and 13-inch MacBook Pro were the most popular items. Demand for iMacs was also strong.

Here’s a look at the early data point on Mac sales.

Munster says:

Mac sales on Black Friday were down slightly y/y in our store checks, but it is too early to make a call on Macs in the Dec. quarter. On Average, the stores were selling 8.3 Macs per hour, down from 13 on Black Friday last year according to similar checks we performed. While the average number of Macs sold per hour was down slightly y/y, we do not think we can make a call on Macs in the Dec. quarter with this data point alone. We remain comfortable with our Mac est. of 2.8m units, given the first month of NPD data in the quarter.

Whitmore says:

We conducted a series of retail checks over the Black Friday weekend to assess demand for Macs, iPhones and iPods. Channel checks were carried out at 120+ Apple retail stores and 25+ AT&T stores in conjunction with a series of online checks (Apple, Amazon, Best Buy, Macmall, Target and Walmart). Our checks show demand for Macs, iPhones and iPods remains healthy and Apple stores enjoyed heavy traffic throughout the holiday weekend. From a supply perspective, Apple appeared to have sufficiently stocked its retail stores as well as partners (i.e. AT&T and Best Buy). MacBooks remain very popular driven by the recent refresh the 13” MacBook Pro and MacBook were frequently cited as the most popular items. In addition, Snow Leopard sales remain strong due to speed and smaller footprint benefits (vs. Leopard)…In aggregate, our checks suggest demand for Apple products has started the holiday season well and we believe both Macs and iPhones are tracking in-line to above our unit estimates (8.5M iPhones and 3M Macs) while iPods are tracking roughly in-line (DB at 23M).

What remains to be seen is how discounts play out for Apple. Whitmore argues that Black Friday discounts supported demand for Apple gear.

Whitmore had a handy chart on the Black Friday discounts for Apple products: