Amazon bucks trend of worst retail season in decades

Amazon proclaims that the 2008 festive shopping was its “best ever,” even though a report released on Christmas Day called the season one of the worst in decades.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

On this, the other Black Friday, here are a few bits of retail news worth sharing:

Amazon said last week that the 2008 holiday shopping season was its “best ever,” even though a report released on Christmas Day called the season one of the worst in decades.

Amazon says very little about its success, choosing instead to release only one tidbit of data: more than 6.3 million items were ordered worldwide on the peak day, Dec. 15, which is a record-breaking 72.9 items per second. Want some details? Well, Amazon isn’t just gonna cough up hard details. Instead, it chooses to tell us things like “Amazon sold enough Spalding basketballs to fill three C-130 cargo planes.” Well, that’s helpful. (What kills me is that it was someone’s job to think of these comparisons. Check out the list.)

What we do know is that Amazon’s top-selling consumer electronics included Samsung’s 52-inch 1080p 120Hz LCD HDTV with RED Touch of Color, the Apple iPod touch 8 GB (2nd Generation) and the sapphire blue Acer Aspire One 8.9-inch netbook (1.6 GHz Intel Atom N270 processor, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB hard drive, XP Home, 6 cell battery). No specifics, of course.

Back to that report, SpendingPulse--the the retail data service of MasterCard Advisors--found that retail sales were down four percent.

The decline would have been much steeper if the report had not included grocery, restaurant and specialty food sales. It did not include auto and gas sales. On the tech front, sales at specialty electronics and appliance chains like Best Buy were down 26.7 percent and online sales, despite being down 2.3 percent for the season, saw a 1.8 percent jump in the final two weeks of the season - the same time that bad weather slammed much of the country.

Finally, Wal-Mart--eager to keep those shoppers coming in for the entire month of December--says it plans to start selling the iPhone soon.

Don’t go running out expecting that widely-rumored lower-capacity US$99 iPhone that the blogosphere rumor mill was buzzing about earlier this month. is true. Wal-Mart’s prices will be US$197 and US$297 for the 8-gig and 16-gig models, respectively--basically, a US$2 savings on each. That’s the same way Wal-Mart prices iPods, a few bucks under Apple’s own retail price and positioned right next to all of those great accessories that you’ll be tempted to buy, as well.A Reuters story notes that Wal-Mart normally attracts a lower-income bracket of shoppers but that it’s also lured in new, recession-weary shoppers looking for a bargain. I wonder if Wal-Mart or AT&T will have someone on-site to explain the fine print of the pricey two-year contract that goes with the iPhone.

This article was first published as a blog post on ZDNet.com.

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