Holiday Sales: Costco, Amazon Marketplace Up, Barnes & Noble Down

Issaquah, Wash. — Holiday sales were up for Costco, way up for Amazon.com’s Marketplace sellers, and down for Barnes & Noble.
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Issaquah, Wash.Holiday sales were up for Costco, way up for Amazon.com’s Marketplace sellers, and down for Barnes & Noble.

Costco, the No. 1 warehouse club, today reported a 6 percent spike in December sales, to $11.5 billion, but continuing declines in CE.

Comp sales for the five-week period, ended Jan. 5, rose 5 percent excluding gasoline, driven by a 4 percent increase in holiday traffic and a 1.5 percent gain in average purchase size.

CE comps remained in negative territory as they have in recent months, although, as Janney Montgomery Scott retail analyst David Strasser observed, they showed some sequential improvement from previous sales reports.

Strasser attributed Costco’s CE woes to Best Buy’s introduction of Vizio TVs last year. He said December’s improved CE performance reflected the month’s
“more normalized promotional cadence” after Black Friday promotions subsided.

Elsewhere, Barnes & Noble said retail sales, excluding Nook devices and content, slipped 6.6 percent to $1.1 billion for the nine weeks ending Dec. 28, due to store closures and a 0.2 percent decline in comps.

In contrast, Nook revenues fell 60.5 percent to $125 million, comprised of $88.7 million in device and accessory sales (down 66.7 percent), and $36.5 million in digital content (down 27.3 percent). The bookseller attributed the declines to lower unit volume of its e-readers and tablets, and lower average selling prices as the latter sold for under $100 during the holiday period.

In other retail news, Amazon.com reported “a record-setting year” for its third-party Marketplace sellers, who sold more than a billion units worldwide in 2013, valued at tens of billions of dollars, the e-tailer said.

The third-party platform also enjoyed record growth during the holiday season, with volume up more than 50 percent on Cyber Monday alone, to more than 13 million units ordered.

By way of example, Amazing Deals Online, a New Jersey-based e-tailer that sells through Amazon’s Marketplace, reported an 80 percent increase in holiday unit volume, and a 5,000 percent sales increase on a single discounted item and more than $1 million in total sales on Cyber Monday.

“Amazon gave us an opportunity to offer an incredible holiday deal on Cyber Monday, and we hit it out of the park,” president Eli Silver Sakkal said in a statement provided by Amazon. “Amazon by far has been our most successful sales channel this holiday selling season.”

He added that using Amazon’s fulfillment services allowed his business to have a strong holiday season “without having to invest a penny in our own infrastructure.”

Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) warehouses and ships marketplace sellers’ inventory worldwide from Amazon distribution centers.

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