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PlayStation 5 is among the rare must-have items that can still draw a shopping crowd

People waiti in line for a GameStop store in Dickson City, Pa., to open on Friday
Many people waiting in line for a GameStop store in Dickson City, Pa., to open on Friday said they hoped to purchase a Sony PlayStation 5 or Microsoft Xbox Series X video game console.
(Christopher Dolan / [Scranton, Pa.] Times-Tribune )

Good luck finding a PlayStation 5.

Sony Corp’s newest video game console and rival Microsoft Corp.’s updated Xbox are arguably the hottest items this Black Friday as shoppers line up in person or swarm retailers’ websites hoping to snag one. GameStop Corp., one of the few retailers to do a brick-and-mortar release, saw shoppers line up as early as Thursday — some even setting up tents — at locations from Norfolk, Va., to Salinas, Calif.

“There’s always an item, or a few items, people can’t find. The big hot item this year is Sony PlayStation 5 and Xbox from Microsoft,” Joseph Feldman, senior managing director and assistant director of research at Telsey Advisory Group, said in a Friday morning interview on Bloomberg Surveillance. “Those are the two new items that I keep hearing people ask for, especially at Best Buy and GameStop, and you just can’t find them right now.”

A highly coveted product is just what retailers need this holiday season. After a brutal year of economic lockdowns and retail distress, stores are hoping that pent-up demand can rejuvenate the industry even as new waves of COVID-19 sweep across the country. Health concerns notwithstanding, a big-selling item can draw shoppers who may end up buying other gifts, too, while browsing in the store or online.

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GameStop shares soared as much as 13% in New York to the highest intraday level since January 2019. Best Buy Co., which only sold the new consoles online, fell 1.1%.

To limit crowds, Best Buy chose to release the newest consoles only on its website, a decision that retail analyst Neil Saunders called “a miss,” given the soaring demand for the products.

The new Sony PlayStation 5 and the Microsoft Xbox Series X.
The new Sony PlayStation 5, left, and the Microsoft Xbox Series X.
(Sony Interactive Entertainment; Microsoft)

“Best Buy could have done something creative with outside collection to manage the crowds,” he said.
Still, the shares are outpacing the market this year as Best Buy benefits from the remote-working and home-schooling trends during the pandemic.

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“Best Buy is trading so well right now that they can afford to be picky,” Saunders said. The company’s shares are up about 29% year to date.

Crowds look smaller and lines shorter, but shoppers awoke early on the day after Thanksgiving for deals and tradition.

Google searches for gaming products were up again this week, according to a note from Baird Equity Research. Interest in “World of Warcraft” was up 96% after the launch of its latest expansion pack, while “FIFA Ultimate Team” was up 43% this week. The term “gaming headset” also saw a consistent increase in internet searches, up 24% week over week.

With all the interest in gaming, the new consoles are sure to draw crowds wherever they release. But there’s one reliable way to get your hands on them without lining up: the resale market. The consoles, which retail around $400 to $500 apiece, are selling for more than $1,000 on EBay.


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