Analyst: Apple’s Black Friday sales look strong

If the business Apple did on Black Friday is any indication, the holiday season could be a very happy one indeed for the computer maker.

That’s according to research from Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, who’s been tracking Apple sales leading up to holiday season. The unofficial start to holiday shopping season in the U.S. kicks off on the Friday following Thanksgiving, known in retail circles as Black Friday because it helps push retailers into the black.

Munster expects Apple to report strong holiday sales of Macs, based on what he’s seen at selected Apple Stores. According to Munster’s observations, Apple was selling an average of 13 Macs per hour on Friday, up from the two per hour recorded by Munster and his team in early November.

The iPhone could also see a boost in sales, with Munster recording an average of 3.4 sales per hour on Friday. That’s up from the 1.3 per hour in early November.

Munster feels the Mac is doing well from a sales standpoint because of the type of product it is. “It’s easier to gift a Mac than an iPhone,” he told Macworld.

While Munster pointed out that Black Friday is only a bubble of sales forecasts, he feels it is very likely that Apple will see a sequential upswing in Mac sales for the holiday quarter.

Apple declined to comment on its Black Friday sales, noting that it only releases sales figures when reporting quarterly performance. The company won’t release numbers of the December quarter until next month.

Apple looked to stoke Black Friday sales by offering shoppers a few deals including $51 off a 20-inch iMac, $11 off an 8GB iPod nano, and $21 off a 160GB Apple TV. The company also cut $101 off the price of a 2GHz unibody MacBook.

There were no big deals to be had on the iPhone, though Apple did introduce iPhone 3G gift cards aimed at making it easier to give the phone, which requires in-store activation, as a present.

Munster said that Apple doesn’t need to offer iPhone price discounts to spur holiday sales because of the phone’s success and the superiority of its software compared to rival products. However, as that gap closes and competitors cut prices, Apple may have to consider an iPhone price cut.

“Right now they [Apple] don’t [have to lower prices], but in six months they will,” said Munster.

While Munster measured Mac and iPhone sales, he didn’t tally iPod sales in his report. However, PC World reported that the iPod touch was the top-selling item at Amazon.com and that Apple held 10 of the spots in the online retailing giant’s list of 25 most popular sellers.

If you decided to shop online during Black Friday, you contributed to the estimated $534 million spent that day, according to a report from ComScore, a research company that tracks online sales trends. Sales were up one percent over the same day last year.

Since November 1, online shoppers have spent $10.4 billion, down four percent over the same period last year.

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