During that 16-minute call, I stood next to the long counter in the back of the store. About eight to 10 employees staff this counter, armed with mobile-payment devices and product neatly stacked behind them. Folks typically line up at this counter when they know what they want.
The sales I saw in this part of the store do not include the deals Apple Store employees closed elsewhere on the floor.
iPad mini was easily the most popular product going out the door during the time I spent at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store. During my 20-plus minute stint at the back counter (which includes the phone call and the time it took for my purchase), I saw too many minis to count get sold. We're talking several per minute, easy.
And folks were not spending $329 for the device. That's because the 16GB mini was out of stock. I paid $429 for a 32GB WiFi-only model. For the record, as of this past weekend, all iPad mini models at the Apple Web site list as "available to ship" in one week. Both the regular iPad and iPhone 5 are "in stock" online.
I took to
with my observations. Folks from across the country responded. Stores in Columbus, Atlanta, Seattle, Miami and throughout New England were, according to these accounts, packed and had product moving out the door rapidly.
Here's what I think is happening.
Overall, brick-and-mortar retail will hit expectations in line or slightly above/slightly below. Digital sales will see a considerable pop, particularly via mobile platforms. Apple and
(AMZN - Get Report)
, by a mile, end up the two retailers that dominate holiday shopping.
And, of course, Starbucks benefits from all of this wandering around urban shopping streets and suburban malls.
If consumers are not holding back their wealth because of fiscal cliff/tax-related fears, they're spending it lock, stock and barrel with Apple, Amazon and Starbucks or spreading it thin across a myriad of relatively weak and secondary players.
If I could buy three stocks into the January earnings crush, I would get long AAPL, AMZN and SBUX. Outside of these three, there's really not another strong and reliable retail player.
I like AMZN and SBUX now, in smallish regular doses, but not AAPL, not right now. There's too much noise, too much profit taking and too much uncertainty. In a couple of weeks (or less), whispers of Apple's holiday supremacy and it's January earnings report will put that to rest for at least the first several months of 2013.
--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.