Amazon looks to diversify after enjoying best Christmas ever

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The Independent Online

Amazon appears to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the high-street slowdown after the online retail giant revealed that rampant demand for Nintendo Wii consoles, blockbuster films such as The Bourne Ultimatum and Apple's latest iPod model resulted in a Christmas bonanza for the company.

The web-based retailer enjoyed its best Christmas ever as more customers opted for the convenience of using the internet to purchase gifts. At its peak recorded on 10 December Amazon sold more than 5.4 million products, or more than 62 items per second. In the UK alone, the company shifted nearly one million items that day 11 orders per second. In the previous year, its peak trading day resulted in four million orders being placed.

Brian McBride, the managing director of Amazon's UK division, said that the fact that its busiest trading day came a week later than in 2006 showed that more customers are comfortable shopping online and are confident that goods will be delivered on time. He said that many customers are opting to pay for premium services such as same-day delivery.

"This is the year that internet shopping came of age as most people bought something online this year," said Mr McBride. He added that consumers have become much more demanding with online retailers as they use the internet to purchase big-ticket items such as flat-screen TVs and games consoles. Amazon said that it delivered 99 per cent of goods purchased on its site successfully, allaying fears that gifts bought online would not turn up in time for Christmas.

Despite the dismal sales figures on the high street in the lead up to Christmas, Mr McBride said that Amazon is somewhat sheltered from a further slowdown in 2008 given the demographic of its customer base. With internet retailing accounting for only between 7 and 10 per cent of total retail sales, Mr McBride said there was still "plenty of room for growth" and that he expects that over the next couple of years, online retailers or e-tailers will account for around 20 per cent of all sales. Amazon will report full results at the end of January when Jeff Bezos, the group's chief executive, will detail the progress the company has made diversifying its business so it is not so dependent on book and DVD sales.

The biggest sellers in the UK this Christmas were all DVDs, with The Bourne Ultimatum pipping The Simpsons Movie and Shrek the Third to top the Amazon sales chart. The new Apple iPod Nano was the fourth biggest seller, while Nigella Lawson's latest cookbook topped its book charts in December. The company sold out of its stock of Nintendo Wii's within 40 minutes in the UK, selling 17 consoles every second. Other big sellers included the Flytech Dragonfly toy, Apple's MacBook and Samsung HD TV sets. The surprise bestseller was a spoof book called Do Ants Have Arseholes? And 101 Other Bloody Ridiculous Questions, the 12th bestselling book this year, according to Amazon.