Retail's Best Selling Items (AMZN, AAPL, WMT, TGT, BBY, JCP)

Movie studios hope for, plan for, and pray for that blockbuster film that will pay everyone’s bonuses for the year. For retailers, a blockbuster like, say, the Cabbage Patch dolls, are both good news and bad. Good because they sell like crazy at full price, but bad because there’s never enough to satisfy everyone. (NASDAQ: AMZN) wants its customers to know about its best-selling items, and posts a list of the items which is refreshed hourly. The company doesn’t say how many of the items have been sold, but it does indicate how many days the item has been on the best seller list and it lists items by category.

For example, ‘Decision Points’ by former President George W. Bush is the best-selling book and has been in the top 100 best-selling books for 94 days. The book’s list price is $35, but Amazon is selling it for $18.89, almost half price. Buy one more item to bring that total to at least $25, and customers get free shipping.

Another hot seller for just the past 7 days is a Panasonic 12.1 megapixel camera that lists for $149, but which Amazon is selling for $79, again nearly half-off.

In electronics, Amazon’s own Kindle e-readers are the two top sellers, with the cheaper WiFi-only model leading the WiFi+3G model. Both have been in the top 100 selling electronics products for more than four months. The 32-gigabyte iPod Touch from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) is the third-best seller in electronics and has been on the list for more than three months. The iPod sells with just a 10% discount to its $299 list price.

Research firm comScore Inc. reported that Internet sales topped $1 billion on Cyber Monday, the Monday after the Thanksgiving weekend, up 16% from a year ago. E-commerce sales still account for less than 10% of all retail sales, but online sales have been growing.

Another reason for online sales growth, at least for this holiday season, could be the enticement of free shipping. Amazon offers free shipping to is Amazon Prime members, who pay an annual $79 fee in exchange for free two-day shipping on all their orders. It may be the ultimate loyalty program, more than doubling sales to Amazon’s Prime customers according to Bloomberg Businessweek magazine.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT), Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT), Best Buy Co. (NYSE: BBY), and J.C. Penney Co. (NYSE: JCP) are all offering free shipping as a promotional item during this holiday season, but none have said they planto extend the offer beyond that.

And the hottest music at Amazon? That would be Kanye West’s ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’, available for $4.99 as an MP3 download or $11.99 on CD.

Paul Ausick