Americans will be seeing a lot of Madonna, Darth Vader and Dockers khakis in their stockings this holiday season, if Amazon.com ( AMZN) is any guide. On Friday, the leading Web store put out its list of top-selling products from Nov. 1 through this past Tuesday. Among them were not only Madonna's latest album, Confessions on a Dance Floor and the DVD of the latest installment of Darth Vader's story, Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith, but also khaki pants, an atomic clock and a DVD player priced at $39.99. Although the day after Thanksgiving is the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, online shoppers typically start days or weeks earlier to allow time for products to be delivered. And while Amazon's revenue is a small fraction of retail giants such as Wal- Mart ( WMT) and Target ( TGT), the company's sales are large enough and its selection broad enough to be indicative of larger trends. Amazon's results could be good news for Apple Computer ( AAPL). The No. 2 and No. 3 bestselling electronics products were the 2GB black iPod nano and the 512MB iPod shuffle, both Apple digital music players. Whether buoyed by the Amazon news or not, Apple investors were bullish on the stock on Friday, sending it to another all-time high. In recent trading, the company's shares were up $1.78, or 2.7%, to $68.89. The $40 DVD player made by CyberHome was the top-selling consumer electronics product on Amazon's site. Star Wars appears to be a popular theme this holiday season. Not only was Star Wars III the top-selling DVD, but Star Wars: Battlefront II for Sony's ( SNE) PlayStation 2 game console ranked No. 3 among top-selling video games on the site. The top-selling video game on Amazon in November has been a special edition version of Sid Meier's Civilization IV, the latest iteration of the popular strategy game franchise. The result is a welcome bit of news for Take-Two Interactive ( TTWO), which recently
acquired the Civilization franchise as well as its developer Firaxis Games. Take-Two warned last month that it wouldn't meet analysts expectations for its fourth quarter and its 2006 fiscal year, the latest in a string of disappointments for the company.
Notably missing from Amazon's list were expected holiday hits such as Sony's PlayStation Portable handheld game system and Microsoft's ( MSFT) Xbox 360 game console. The Xbox 360's absence likely has to do with the limited quantities Microsoft is shipping this holiday season. Some analysts have estimated that the company will ship less than 1 million consoles to North American stores by the end of the year. Indeed, the two versions of the Xbox 360 that Amazon offers are both out of stock, according to the company's Web site. Why the PSP is missing from the top-selling list may be harder to explain. Sony is expected to ship an adequate quantity of the game players this holiday season, and many analysts have expected Take- Two's Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories to be a "killer app" that would drive sales of the device. Part of the reason may have to do with the fact that Amazon is selling a number of different PSP packages, depending on the games included with the device. Still the company is doing the same thing with Nintendo's GameBoy Advance and other game systems. And in November thus far, one of those GameBoy systems -- a special SpongeBob SquarePants version -- ranked as the second-best selling video game item. Meanwhile, on Friday, a value-pack version of the PSP was just the 16th most popular item in Amazon's video game area. By department, some of the other top-selling products on Amazon included: in the jewelry section, a pearl necklace; in the watch section, a $12 Timex Time Teacher watch; in the beauty department, candy cane shower gel and bubble bath from philosophy; and in the kitchen store, an $18.88 quesadilla maker from Santa Fe. James Frey's A Million Little Pieces was the top-selling book on the site during the period and Intuit's ( INTU) QuickBooks Pro 2006, the best- selling software program.