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Apple a 'bright spot' during lackluster Black Friday kick-off

Although this year's holiday shopping season is expected to present challenges for many consumer-oriented hardware companies, Apple is already showing signs of bucking the trend with Black Friday Mac sales reported to be better than expected.

Black Friday Observations

"Crowds remain the norm in the Apple Stores that we visited, with some having lines outside the stores even after the initial early-morning rush," Goldman Sachs analyst David Bailey wrote in a report summarizing his firm's observations on Friday. "Checkout lines also seemed healthy throughout the day and Apple continues to take advantage of its 'instant checkout' throughout its Stores to speed purchases for Macs and iPods."

Customer interest seemed particularly heavy in Macs, according to the analyst, who witnessed several shoppers buying Mac bundles that include extended Apple Care protection plans and third-party software titles. Also popular were the company's AirPort wireless networking and Time Machine back up products, which Bailey believes is a possible "reflection of more modest consumer spending this year."

Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray was also keeping a close watch on Apple's retail operations this past weekend and saw a spike in Mac sales alongside iPhone sell-through that generally fell in line with his firm's expectations.

Specifically, Munster said Apple sold an average of 13 Macs per hour during the 10 hours his firm observed sales at the company's retail chain on Friday. While the analyst doesn't have comparative data from last Black Friday, he noted that sales of the computers were up from just 2 per hour during his most recent pre-Black Friday checks in November. iPhone sales averaged 3.4 per hour, up from 1.3 per hour.

"While iPhone sales should get an uptick from holiday giving, it appears that uptick will be minimal," he added. "We did attempt to count iPhone gift card sales, but recognize there were iPhone gift card sales that [we] did not see. As a result, these iPhone numbers are likely understated."

Over at Kaufman Bros., analyst Shaw Wu had similar observations about Mac sales during Black Friday, which he believes were helped by big discounts from third-party retailers and unadvertised price matching by Apple. In a note to clients Monday morning, he also pointed to strong iPod sales, noting that traditionally well-stocked Amazon.com is reflecting backlog of several iPods, including the iPod touch.

"iPod touch was surprisingly stocked out and now has lead times of 11 days for the 8 GB model and three to five weeks for 16 GB," he wrote. "This is likely due to unexpected strong demand and we find this interesting as iPod touch is Apple's highest-end iPod."

Resellers Extend Holiday Discounts

During Black Friday, Apple discounted a total of 7 Macs by an average of 8 percent. Although the sale has since ended, several of the company's authorized resellers continue to push deep discounts on Macs for Cyber Monday, including ClubMac and OnSale.com, both of which are offering up to $300 off some unibody MacBook Pros and up to $181 off some unibody MacBooks after instant discounts and rebates.

MacMall's own Cyber Monday deals continue match those from OnSale and Club Mac on 9 models, while Amazon.com continues to offer the best deals on the 8-Core Mac Pro, white MacBook, and both Mac minis.

We've updated our Black Friday Mac Pricing Matrix (also below) to reflect a few changes since Friday. The best prices are in bold. The "Discount" column to the far right reflects the amount of savings between Apple's suggested retail price and the lowest price offered Monday for that respective model. Each price is a link that will take you to the retailer's product page for that specific Mac model.

Product
Retail
Apple
Amazon
MacMall
Best Buy
On Sale
ClubMac
Discount
2.40GHz 15" MacBook Pro $1,999.00 $1,999.00 $1,798.98 $1,798.97 $1999.99 $1,748.97 $1,748.97 $250.03
2.53GHz 15" MacBook Pro $2,499.00 $2,499.00 $2,288.98 $2,287.99 $2499.99 $2,199.99 $2,199.99 $299.01
2.50GHz 17" MacBook Pro $2,799.00 $2,799.00 $2,568.98 $2,567.99 $2799.99 $2,499.99 $2,499.99 $299.01
2.1GHz 13" MacBook (white) $999.00 $999.00 $918.96 $918.96 $999.99 $899.99 $899.99 $99.01
2.0GHz 13" MacBook $1,299.00 $1,299.00 $1,234.11 $1,229.99 $1299.99 $1,204.99 $1,204.99 $94.01
2.4GHz 13" MacBook $1,599.00 $1,599.00 $1,485.23 $1,484.99 $1599.99 $1,434.99 $1,434.99 $164.01
1.6GHz 13" MacBook Air $1,799.00 $1,799.00 $1,744.00 $1,699.99 $1799.99 $1,699.00 $1,699.00 $99.01
1.8GHz 13" MacBook Air $2,499.00 $2,499.00 $2,368.98 $2,349.90 $2499.99 $2,399.99 $2,399.99 $149.10
2.40GHz 20" iMac $1,199.00 $1,199.00 $1,144.00 $1,129.99 $1199.99 $1,099.99 $1,099.99 $99.01
2.66GHz 20" iMac $1,499.00 $1,499.00 $1,398.99 $1,398.99 $1499.99 $1,349.99 $1,349.99 $149.01
2.80GHz 24" iMac $1,799.00 $1,799.00 $1,656.28 $1,655.99 $1799.99 $1,599.99 $1,599.99 $199.01
3.06GHz 24" iMac $2,199.00 $2,199.00 $2,199.00 $2,094.00 N/A $2,094.99 $2,094.99 $105.00
1.83GHz Mac mini $599.00 $599.00 $564.99 $544.00 $599.00 $544.00 $544.00 $55.00
2.00GHz Mac mini $799.00 $799.00 $764.99 $758.99 $799.00 $759.99 $759.99 $40.01
2.8GHz Mac Pro 8-Core $2,799.00 $2,799.00 $2,514.53 $2,513.99 $2,799.99 $2,599.99 $2,599.99 $285.01