Amazon Hails Strongest Holiday Sales Season Yet

An Amazon.com worker grabs boxes off the conveyor belt to load in a truck at a Fernley, Nev., warehouse Dec. 1. The company's holiday season was its best ever, with more than 6.3 million items ordered.
An Amazon.com worker grabs boxes off the conveyor belt to load in a truck at a Fernley, Nev., warehouse Dec. 1. The company's holiday season was its best ever, with more than 6.3 million items ordered. (By Scott Sady -- Associated Press)
  Enlarge Photo    

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
By Kim Hart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 27, 2008

Online retail giant Amazon.com said yesterday it recorded its "best ever" holiday season this year with a 17 percent increase in orders on its busiest day, bucking the generally grim news coming from retailers, including other e-commerce sites.

Amazon said more than 6.3 million products were ordered during its peak day on Dec. 15, compared with about 5.4 million on its peak day last year. The company shipped more than 5.6 million items on its busiest day, a 44 percent increase over its best day last year, when it shipped about 3.9 million items.

Holiday sales typically make up 30 to 50 percent of a retailer's annual revenue, but the economic downturn has caused many consumers to shorten shopping lists this year. Online retailers are not immune to the tightening budgets.

SpendingPulse, a division of MasterCard Advisors that tracks spending, said its preliminary data show that online sales fell 2.3 percent compared with last year's holiday season. Overall retail sales fell 5.5 percent to 8 percent. Excluding auto and gas sales, the decline was 2 percent to 4 percent.

Amazon, which is known for its bargain prices, did not say whether the increase in orders brought in more or less revenue than previous years. Its bestsellers included the Nintendo Wii game console, Samsung's 52-inch LCD HDTV and Apple's iPod touch.

This year, there were five fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which could have led people to make more last-minute online purchases, said Gian Fulgoni, chairman of online measurement firm comScore. Northern snowstorms also could have driven more people to buy online rather than brave the weather, he said. ComScore reported that $24.7 billion was spent online this holiday season through Dec. 21, down 1 percent from the corresponding shopping days last year.

Fulgoni said online spending over the most recent weekend was "substantially heavier" than the weekend nearest Christmas last year.

"A positive late-season boost for online retail perhaps, but it's ultimately not going to do much to make up for the significantly shorter shopping season this year," he said.

More expedited shipping offers and promotions, such as rebates and coupons, could have spurred more online shopping, Marianne Wolk, e-commerce analyst at Susquehanna Financial Group, wrote in a note to investors Monday.

The two weeks leading up to Christmas typically account for a third of holiday season online sales, she said. But transactions slowed since spiking on CyberMonday, "showing trends moving in the wrong direction," she said.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity