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The Almighty Buck

Amazon Sales Record 242

Arcadi writes "Amazon set a new record of items sold on a single day. More than 2.8 million units or 32 items per second. That's a big store."
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Amazon Sales Record

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  • Which day? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Albinofrenchy ( 844079 ) on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @10:01AM (#11198866)
    From what I've seen, Amazon won't say which day the record was set, or why they won't say which day the record was set. Why the secrecy?
    • Re:Which day? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Attar81 ( 574867 ) on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @10:10AM (#11198919)
      It says Thanksgiving Weekend, so I would guess that's it that Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year.
      • Re:Which day? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jedidiah ( 1196 )
        That's the biggest shopping day for brick and mortar. If everyone is out at the malls, they are far less likely to be at home plugged into the computer.
        • Re:Which day? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jellomizer ( 103300 ) *
          It could be Friday as well for some reasons...
          1. Most people have that Friday off from work.
          2. After looking at the sores they couldn't find what they wanted.
          3. They found what they wanted and went online to buy it at a better price.
          4. To stuffed with turkey to go out.
          5. Don't like the crowds of Black Friday but still want to finish their shopping early.
          6. Unable to find a parking spot and went home
          7. Finish talking to friends and relatives and have a fresh memory on what they want so you buy as much as you can online
          • Re:Which day? (Score:5, Informative)

            by Keighvin ( 166133 ) on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @12:31PM (#11199884)
            Oh yeah, Friday's big, no question - but it's a far cry from the next Monday, when everyone gets back to work (access to broadband) and begins hunting online for those things which they did not get over the weekend.

            That's when the trend starts, and beyond that marketing has a larger impact than predictable human behavior; so it could have been any time from then until the last week before Christmas when it begins to peter out.

            I work for a significant online competitor of Amazon's and am citing personal experience from having reviewed our bandwith, order rate, and income over the same key points of the holiday season.
        • Maybe this is why brick and mortar stores reported disappointing Black Friday sales. Well, Wal-Mart did, anyway. Another factor: malls close. I'll bet Amazon's sales peaked much later in the day than "real" stores. Maybe the reason they don't give a specific day (if they really don't. I haven't RTFA) is that it was a 24 hour period stretching over two days (Friday night through Saturday), which wouldn't sound as impressive.
          • Okay, disregard the above post as I am clearly talking out my ass. I'm putting my money on the last weekend before Christmas for Amazon's record day, and I have circumstancial evidence to prove it!

            I did almost all my Christmas shopping on Amazon, and the only time I ever noticed server problems on their end was December 17th. It took me at least three tries just to log in. I remember being surprised that so many people were putting their faith in Amazon's shipping speed. I was just there for the super save
            • Re:Which day? (Score:3, Interesting)

              by jedidiah ( 1196 )
              Your best bet would be the last gauranteed shipping day before xmas. This would cover your "last minute online shoppers". 'Cause after that you don't know if your orders will get to their recipients in time and who really wants that?

              It sounds like Amazon was being overly optimistic.
          • That probably has more to do with the economy than anything else. Consumer confidence is in the crapper for all but the highest tier consumers right now. This is reflected in the total season sales numbers.

        • Re:Which day? (Score:3, Informative)

          by Plutor ( 2994 )
          Actually, Black Friday is not the busiest shopping day of the year, even for Brick-and-Mortar. The two weekends before Christmas almost always push the day after Thanksgiving to fifth-busiest. See Snopes [].
          • Re:Which day? (Score:3, Interesting)

            by furball ( 2853 )
            Black Friday was the busiest shopping day of the year. The recent trend has consumers shifting their shopping closer and closer to Christmas. This causes the retails a lot of worry as you can imagine. They can't really plan and respond in such a narrow time frame when 40%+ of their sales happen in such a short time period. Forecasting sales and predicting if you'll meet your Q4 sales (and annual targets) becomes a right utter bitch.
            • Eh, they *can* plan but they choose not to. They choose to cut corners everywhere throughout the year, hoping that some christian holiday will save them (the messiah!). It's a bunch of finger crossing and it doesn't need to be.
              • They can't plan. The problem is that most of the shopping happens at the last two weeks because consumers are holding out for the best bargains with the impression that they can/will get the best bargains during that period. So the retailers put out their bargains, then as it gets closer, discount some more.

                For example, I shopped around for a suit with Banana Republic. Total cost: $325 for jacket, $125 for pants. I told my sister I could get a better deal. Come 12/24/2004 I picked it up for $199 for jacket
      • Re:Which day? (Score:2, Redundant)

        by msheppard ( 150231 )
        Thanksgiving Friday is NOT the busiest day of the year. It's usually hte last weekend before xmas.

      • On the Amazon affiliate boards, the general consensus is that the late part of that weekend is better than the beginning part. Typically, they say, that following Monday is their best day.
    • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @10:19AM (#11198965)
      From what I've seen, Amazon won't say which day the record was set, or why they won't say which day the record was set. Why the secrecy?

      OneDay shopping. You don't tell anyone about something you're patenting until AFTER you patent it! Jeez, pay attention.

      Meanwhile, let's get some prior art going, people! I've got Monday.

    • Why the secrecy?

      Perhaps they don't want to give the black-hats a specific target for next year?
    • Re:Which day? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by microTodd ( 240390 )
      Perhaps on the day last week when Harry Potter Book 6 [] became available for pre-order. Wouldn't that book alone perhaps count for a million or so of the 2.8 million sales? Especially since Book 5 sold 5 million copies in the first 24 hours []?
    • Possibly because the pre-orders for the next Harry Potter book were a significant percentage of that number?

  • One-click (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @10:01AM (#11198869)
    Is there any way I can buy all items on said list with One Click, considering it is their novel patented original technological innovation?
  • by Whafro ( 193881 ) on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @10:02AM (#11198875) Homepage
    SEATTLE (AP) - Inc. (AMZN) on Monday said sales of consumer electronics surpassed book sales for the first time and was its largest sales category over the Thanksgiving weekend, launching the online retailer's busiest holiday selling season in 10 years.

    So, erm, they had a bigger day back in like, 1994?
  • Funny coincidence? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AndreyF ( 701606 ) on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @10:02AM (#11198878)
    I bought 5 books on Amazon that day-- I used up my gift certificates from Christmas and ordered a textbook for next semester.
  • No shit? (Score:4, Funny)

    by rylin ( 688457 ) on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @10:02AM (#11198879)
    What they neglected to mention was that this is because of patent pressure, they are now the only online-store in the united states.
  • by mOoZik ( 698544 ) on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @10:02AM (#11198880) Homepage
    I don't mean to be a KW (Karma Whore), but that is a staggering amount. Looking at it from a geek perspective, their system has to be such to be able to handle hundreds of thousands of simultaneous surfers and dozens of simultaneous buyers. They clearly have managed to scale-up their operations in such a way that does not negatively impact the operation of their site to the detriment of sales. Way to go, Jeff & Co!

    • Not only that, most of the pages on the site are either encrypted or customized (via datamining), or both. I wonder what kind of servers they're running?
      • by Anonymous Coward
        The customization takes place using "macros" embedded in the HTML/XML of their web pages. These macros are actually C functions, which are called at runtime on the webserver - which runs a single binary called obidos.
    • Yes, its amazing what winME can do when given a chance.
    • Scaling up to accomodate the window shoppers is relatively easy actually. Appservers and webservers run more like a renderfarm than anything else. They all share very little state that changes infrequently. Even if stock levels are all dynamic and updated in realtime, the incoming network will give out before any of the server apps do (web, app, db).
      • 32 orders per second (each of which takes at least 2 or 3 page loads), plus many millions of "window shoppers" adds up to a hell of a lot of pages. Sharing state actually would speed things up, as more could be cached.

        The sheer amount of data that amazon is pushing around is probably pushing everything to the absolute limit, not just the network.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @10:46AM (#11199102)
      I'll let you in on a little secret -'s codebase was C (now most likely migrated to C++, to take advanatge of things lik OOP among other reasons). It consisted of a gazillion modules which compiled to give you ONE BINARY, called obidos - check out the URL then you'll see what I'm saying. This one binary is then tied to Apache, and then fed out to their 500+ webservers. But the beauty of it is there redundancy measures. At any given time there are 3 copies the binary, a, b & c. a = The latest code. b = yesterday's stable build. c = another stable build. In case there's a bug in some build, they simply have to flip the switch to get an up and running site. It was great, but the part that's a BITCH is developing this stuff. Imagine having to re-compile all of Amazon, just to FIX A BLASTED TYPO. Posting anonymously for obvious reasons...
      • I suppose one advantage to this method is utter speed. Compiled code blows the socks off interpreted code in almost all situations.

        Unfortunately, like you said, it's a major pain in the ass to maintain...

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Here's another secret: Amazon is mostly migrated to a better system, called Gurupa (any page with 'gp/' in it), where thigns are actually modular and more maintainable. Obidos will eventually be removed. The redundancy measures are completely different now too.

        (yeah, I know, not actually a secret).
  • Profitability? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jacobcaz ( 91509 ) on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @10:06AM (#11198896) Homepage
    I wonder what the profit on those 2.8 million items was? It would be interesting to know if it was just a huge pile of loss leaders or bigger ticket items (which might shed some interesting light on the economy and holiday season in general).

    I'm still hearing conflicting reports on the holiday season overall - it was great, it was terrible, it was tepid... I'm still not sure how things went down; I know this year my wife and I probably spent a little less than last year despite our earning over 40% more than last year.

    This is great news...maybe. I would just like more context.

    • Re:Profitability? (Score:3, Informative)

      by garcia ( 6573 ) *
      I'm still hearing conflicting reports on the holiday season overall - it was great, it was terrible, it was tepid... I'm still not sure how things went down; I know this year my wife and I probably spent a little less than last year despite our earning over 40% more than last year.

      I'll tell you how it went for me... Fucking incredible. We basically bought DVDs (used mostly) and candy. After Christmas (yesterday) we did our most shopping.

      I went to Old Navy armed with holiday gift cards. They were havi
      • Old Navy? (Score:3, Funny)

        by duffbeer703 ( 177751 ) *
        There's a reason why Old Navy is so cheap -- it's frigging disposable clothing!

        Wash that Old Navy sweater twice and it will melt away in the dryer -- and you probably thought your neighbors were stealing your shit.
        • Wash that Old Navy sweater twice and it will melt away in the dryer -- and you probably thought your neighbors were stealing your shit.

          Yup, you are absolutely correct. Their clothing is poorly made but will hold up if you take the time to wash and dry it carefully (read manually), but you shouldn't dry sweaters in a dryer anyway.

          Depending on the piece of clothing they are usually washed in the washer and dryed hanging up. This limits wear and tear on the fabric. Delicates (like sweaters) are washed ma
          • Or you do what I do ... throw all your clothes to the cleaners and let them deal with it.

            Those people don't take chances with anything. My bright colored stuff gets dry cleaned so there's never any fading. Bright stuff stay bright year after year. Yes, it's more expensive and all but your clothes last forever and once you're fond of a particular item, your likelihood of having to replace it is slim.
  • Oracle (Score:5, Informative)

    by DogDude ( 805747 ) on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @10:06AM (#11198898)
    I'd like to point out that Amazon DOES NOT use MySQL [] before the MySQL kiddies say "see, it can scale!"
    • You're right, if they had been using MySQL, it would have been 64 items per second. ;-)

      Seriously though, wasn't MySQL developed for a Sweedish warehouse company that had to handle like 50,000,000 items?
      • 50 million items == 50 million rows. Any database with a B*Tree can efficiently query that. It says nothing about volume or concurrency of requests, which is where Oracle excels.
    • Re:Oracle (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Gopal.V ( 532678 )
      That is because Companies don't change technolgies on the basis of Merit.

      The real story behind Repeat Customers is Vendor Lockins (not to mention "Nobody got fired for buying Oracle" FUD)...

      And my Bank's internet banking still uses COBOL and flat file records...
      • That is because Companies don't change technolgies on the basis of Merit.

        And why should they? The "merit" must be so strong that it justifies a total rework of a company's systems architecture, and be solid enough to not require another such rework a few years down the road when GeeWhiz Technology 2.0 comes out. For many companies, their basic systems (many even Cobol based - the horror!) work just fine and it doesn't make sense to reinvent the wheel just because you do it in the current hot language..
      • Re:Oracle (Score:2, Insightful)

        by marvin2k ( 685952 )
        Are you kidding me? You do not actually suggesting using MySQL for this kind of task on that scale, do you? How are you going to do hot backups? Lock the whole db for the duration of this backup? This might be sufficient for your "me and my family" homepage but it's certainly impossible for Amazon. Hell they have just introduced Views and "Initial support for rudimentary triggers". I use MySQL exclusively and like it but even I know that it isn't suitable for the really big stuff...
        • Re:Oracle (Score:2, Insightful)

          by beebware ( 149208 )
          One way round I've thought of is have a minimum of two MySQL DB servers. One being the "Master" and the other the Slave via replication. When backup time comes around, stop the replication, make a backup of the Slave DB then restart the replication (the Slave will then catchup to the Master).
          Of course, in a "industrial" setting, you'll have multiple Slave servers to help spread the load and keep everything on RAID systems with extensive MySQL logging as well...
      • Re:Oracle (Score:3, Funny)

        by HeghmoH ( 13204 )
        Yeah, MySQL certainly handles high-traffic web sites well. I would have replied sooner, but slashdot kept giving me those HTTP 500 errors....
    • Haberdash! Just to clear the records, Woolworths apothecary set the record using tried-and-true Difference Engine. What's for, you juveniles using your fangled Dalton mechanical calculators!

      Some things never change.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    "The top selling electronics products were the Apple iPods and a Phillips DVD player. " ai n663270.shtml

    Way to go Apple! Flash iPod is coming!

    Darn there goes my non-disclosure agreeemnt, oh well I felt like getting sued anyway. :)
  • For comparison? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by suso ( 153703 ) on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @10:10AM (#11198917) Homepage Journal
    Does anyone have any statistics on how many items say, a single retail store (like Wal-mart) sells in a single day? How about all of the stores in a chain. Data like that would help put things in perspective.
    • Re:For comparison? (Score:5, Informative)

      by jacobcaz ( 91509 ) on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @10:18AM (#11198955) Homepage
      • Does anyone have any statistics on how many items say, a single retail store (like Wal-mart) sells in a single day? How about all of the stores in a chain. Data like that would help put things in perspective.
      Well, Wal-Mart has about 3500 stores (give or take a few) and 2.8 million items over 3500 stores is only 800 items per store. A Super Wal-Mart could do this in a few hours per store.

      I would bet that what Wal-Mart does on an average day makes this look like peanuts in comparison. Not to take anything away from Amazon's one-day record, but it's not really a drop in the bucket for Wal-Mart. Remember, they have annual revenues of ~$250 Billion-with-a-B. That's an average daily reveue of $680,000,000.

      • I don't really think that it's a fair comparison. When people shop at Walmart (especially for Christmas) they tend to buy a whole lot of stuff. When most people (or from my experience at least) shop online, they purchase one or two items at a time and from different stores at that. It is much easier to stroll down every isle in walmart and look at every product than it is to see all of amazon's offerings.
      • Ever been to a Super Wal-Mart during a peak time? I would say they could sell 800 items in less than 1 hour.

        Speaking of comparisons, I have a friend that works for the US Postal Service. His favorite stat:

        'Take the total number of packages FedEx moves in a year, we move that in a day!'
    • I'm too lazy to dig through the reports but you can calculate a rough per-store sales number from the financial reports of any of the big retailers. Get a copy of their income statement and the number at the top will be Revenue. (might be called Sales or something else but it's the same number) Dig through a copy of their annual report to find the number of stores the firm has and divide revenue by the number of stores and then divide that by 360 (allowing for holidays) which should give you a rough per-d
      • "Dayton-Hudson (Target)"

        Not to nitpick, but you may want to update your records. Dayton-Hudson is now just "Target Corporation" and they sold off the Daytons/Marshall Fields chain to May Company. They are also getting rid of the Mervyn's chain as well.
    • Does anyone have any statistics on how many items say, a single retail store (like Wal-mart) sells in a single day? How about all of the stores in a chain. Data like that would help put things in perspective.

      Walmart is the #1 retail chain in the world with sales around $220 Billion; its sales are larger than the next 3-4 retailers combined.

    • Oranges to apples (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Guillermito ( 187510 )
      I think it wouldn't be fair comparing an online shop to a traditional one, at least from the IT perspective.

      When customers purchase at WalMart, they only "hit the database" at check-out at the cash registrar. (OK, maybe they can check prices with a barcode scanner, but that's marginal)

      In an online shop, the whole process is supported by the aplication: searching for items, showing images, specifications, recommendations, and of course, also the check-out.

      Moreover, is a particularly complex on
  • by abirdman ( 557790 ) <abirdman@maine.r r . c om> on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @10:12AM (#11198927) Homepage Journal

    What is it about the site that makes me feel all slimy and dirty? Is it the fact that they're major purveyors of spam? Or could it be all the "popup blocker" ads they run to fund their site, duping the rubes into thinking there's a downloadable software solution to the problem that they and their ilk are doing everything to promote--the indiscriminate installation of spyware, malware, and popups.

    It's mildly interesting that Amazon is breaking sales records, but I don't believe a word from that awful site... and as another poster already mentioned-- there's damn little content in the article.

  • I'll bet... (Score:2, Interesting)

    ...there are individual Wal-Marts that sell more than 2.8 million units per day.
  • good (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Good for them. I am not located in the US and I have bought from Amazon for years.

    It is the only store that I can buy from without getting into problems with the CC validation using an international credit card not from the US but from a *"third-world country"*.
  • by Mean_Nishka ( 543399 ) on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @10:20AM (#11198967) Homepage Journal
    And not a dime of profit :).
  • by Luscious868 ( 679143 ) on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @10:24AM (#11198982)
    I wonder how this compares to the total sales of bricks and mortar retail giants like Best Buy, Circuit City, etc. Does anybody have any idea?
    • I've been reading online news stories about how retail sales this Christmas season has been disappointing.

      However, two things are skewing retail sales reports lower:

      1. Record-breaking sales of gift cards and certificates. Because gift cards and certificates aren't recorded as a retail sale until they are redeemed, this means we need to look at retail sales in January and February 2005 to determine to true level of retail sales this Christmas season.

      2. Record-breaking sales of items through online retaile
  • CNN (Score:2, Informative)

    by shamowfski ( 808477 )
    Similar story has been running on CNN [] for a couple days now.
  • Not just books (Score:2, Insightful)

    by moterizer ( 640201 )
    Nightly News reported that (for the first time) electronic items outsold books.
  • by Warlock7 ( 531656 ) on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @10:39AM (#11199057)
    It seems that Amazon did great business this holiday season, but they also seem to have miseed some delivery dates. []

    So, business is good, but some didn't get their gifts in time for the holidays. This kind of begs the question as to what the percentage of on-time deliveries were. Was this a worldwide issue or was it mainly in the UK only?
  • I'm actually glad that they're doing well. They *almost* turned into an evil [] megacorp, but recently Amazon has behaved quite well, and their service level is top notch.
  • And its all in Perl (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gtoomey ( 528943 )
    Amazon uses Perl & the HTML::Mason [] templating system to process orders.

    And Perl features in their Hot Jobs [] too.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Perl is only a small part of their system. All the old code is in C or C++, and there's a fair bit of Java these days. The fun part is that they are using perl at all, and that they use linux for pretty much everything.

      They also have insanely high standards for getting hired. Bleh.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @12:00PM (#11199621)
    Ever been in a Walmart? How many times to you hear a 'beep' as an item is registered at the checkout?

    I suspect most large, busy stores clock around 20-30 items sold per second on a regular basis. An enterprise the scale of WalMart might clock in thousands per second for all stores on exceptionally busy days.

    This might be a 'record day' for Amazon, but it's hardly news.
  • strategy: sell everything at a loss and make it up in volume.

    Yes, they sold 2.8 million units, but since it was the day after Thanksgiving, I'm sure most of those qualified for free shipping which can't be a good for the bottom line.

    So why didn't Amazon make a bigger deal out of it? Because at the end of the quarter someone's going to want see some profit, and that isn't going to happen unless the accountants and marketing people get together.


    ------------ []

    • Uhh... if everything is sold at a loss, how is volume going to help? You'll just get a bigger loss. Amazon may sell things on a slim margin and rely on volume or perhaps it does have certain loss leaders and other things make a profit.

      Amazon did make a profit last year. That would be real profit, not proforma profit.

  • 32 items a second is all good and well but when will they actually have a posistive cash flow? []
  • The christmas presents that I ordered from Amazon still haven't turned up. A dvd ordered from cdwow on the same day arrived a couple of days before christmas.
  • by wealthychef ( 584778 ) on Tuesday December 28, 2004 @01:14PM (#11200261)
    SOUNDS like a lot of business, but how much is a lot nowadays? I'd like to know if they are doing twice as much as their nearest competitors, or how many sales per second Home Depot does, etc. Instead we report a large number and stand back to wait for the ignorant people like me to go "wow." This looks like another case of lazy reporters basically forwarding press releases by position advocates and calling that a news article. No wonder blogs are taking over the world!
  • Amazon and the GOP (Score:2, Interesting)

    by anechoic ( 129368 )
    I visited a website shortly before Xmas: BuyBlue [] which published stats stating that Amazon donated 60% of their political contributions to the GOP. Not that one should base buying decisions on a corporations political contributions alone but it does make one think a little harder about what buying from Amazon really means.
  • but they totally sucked this year - I have *expedited* Christmas gifts this year that wont make it until something like February ....

    I hope they reinvest all those record profits into some fucking infrastructure which can handle the load next year.

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin