Amazon says 2008 Holiday Season was 'Best Ever'

By  | Inc. said Friday that the 2008 holiday season was the online retailer's "best ever," with more than 6.3 million items ordered and 5.6 million units shipped during its peak day on Dec. 15.

Amazon's upbeat take on the holiday season bucked the drumbeat of generally dismal news from retailers. Holiday sales typically account for 30 percent to 50 percent of a retailer's annual total, but rising unemployment, home foreclosures, the stock market decline and other economic worries led many shoppers to slash their shopping budgets this year.

SpendingPulse — a division of MasterCard Advisors that tracks total sales paid for by credit card, checks and cash — said its preliminary data indicates that retail sales dropped between 5.5 percent and 8 percent this holiday season compared with last year. SpendingPulse said the decline was slightly less steep — between 2 percent and 4 percent — when auto and gas sales were excluded.

Earlier this month, Barclays Capital analyst Douglas Anmuth said Amazon's competitive position has actually strengthened during the downturn, as some brick-and-mortar retailers were forced to close stores and had difficulty obtaining inventory.

Based on the number of items ordered, Amazon said its holiday bestsellers included the Nintendo Wii, Samsung's 52-inch LCD HDTV, the Apple iPod touch and the Blokus board game.

In premarket trading, Amazon's shares jumped $2.85, or 5.5 percent, to $54.29 Friday morning.