Analyst Shaw Wu with Kaufman Bros. issued a new note Monday that reported low inventory and out-of-stock Macs at many resellers. He said he believes his above-consensus forecast of 2.9 million Mac sales for the December quarter could be low.
"Promotions through third-party retailers including Amazon.com, Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Target were more aggressive than usual," Wu said, "with discounts as much as 20% vs. previous years of 11%-13%. Some even bundled generous gift cards (as much as $50 for iPods and $150 for Macs) to entice buyers. So far, many third-party discounts (though maybe not as aggressive) are continuing beyond Black Friday."
Apple offered modest discounts between 4 percent and 10 percent through its retail stores and Web site, but third-party retailers were more aggressive than usual, likely boosting sales, he said. That pushed Mac inventory to limited or no availability at usually in-stock locations like Amazon.com and Best Buy, Wu said.
"This includes both models of iMacs (entry-level 21.5-inch and higher-end 27-inch versions) as well as the entry-level MacBook," he said. "From our understanding, this is due to unexpected strong demand and what makes this intriguing is the strength and Windows 7 and Macs commanding 2x-3x the (average selling price) of PCs. While it is still early with five weeks left in the December quarter, we believer our forecast looking for 2.9 million Macs is likely conservative."
In addition, he said that foot traffic at Apple's retail stores was "strong," and sales of Macs, iPhones and iPods appeared brisk. The Black Friday weekend is said to account for about 10 percent of holiday sales.
Competing analyst Gene Munster with Piper Jaffray initially said Monday that Black Friday retail sales were seen as slower than in 2008, indicated by in-store checks of Mac sales on the day after Thanksgiving. However, the firm updated its note later Monday to note that online sales were up 39 percent year-over-year, likely offsetting the possible decrease in retail sales.
Wu previously said that the new iMac and Magic Mouse will provide a significant boost to previously sagging desktop sales. He said that the new iMac in particular offers value and is positioned to be a "sleeper hit." In addition, the new Magic Mouse was said to be a "key differentiator" for the Mac platform.
Kaufman Bros. has maintained its price target of $235 for AAPL stock and reiterated its "buy" rating.
Many retailers have extended their sales on Apple products through Cyber Monday. Shoppers can find the best prices on Macs by using the AppleInsider Mac Pricing Guide: