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Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN ) just released its "Best Sellers" list for the holiday season. However, the company is notorious for providing scant detail about its own business in press releases. For example, Amazon loves to tout rising Kindle sales -- without actually clueing investors in to those figures. After Black Friday this year, the e-commerce giant stayed true to form, announcing that Kindle device sales were "more than double" last year's haul.
Problem is, Amazon didn't tell us what last year's numbers were, either. There's not a lot to work with there, and so the best we can gather is that Amazon sold "more" of the devices this year.
Still, Amazon's holiday best-sellers list can give us some tantalizing hints into what sold like hotcakes this season. After all, the retailer is expected to book over $20 billion in revenue this quarter. Even a small piece of that pie can move the needle for some companies. And what's popular at the world's biggest online seller probably did well at stores around the country.
Here are some of this year's hits on Amazon's best-sellers list.
1. Tablets: While we don't know how many Kindles were sold this holiday, we do know that it was a lot. The top three sellers in Amazon's electronics category were all Kindle devices. And that should give a boost to the company's digital content sales going forward. Christmas was a huge holiday for tablets in general. The analytics firm Flurry estimates that over 17 million devices, mostly tablets stocked with Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL ) iOS and Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL ) Android systems, were activated on Christmas Day. By comparison, only about 4 million of those devices were activated over the first 20 days of December.
2. Shoes: The Ugg boots put out by Deckers (NYSE: DECK ) took the top spot in Amazon's shoe category this year. News that the wool-lined shoes may have been a popular pick with shoppers this holiday sparked a mini rally in shares for the company, which are down big for the year. Still popular with short-sellers, the stock jumped 10% on Dec. 27. Deckers took the sales crown from another volatile investment over the last couple of years, Crocs, whose classic clog led Amazon's shoe category last year.
3. Video games: Ubisoft claimed two of the top three spots for video game sales this holiday, with uber-hits Just Dance 4 and Assassin's Creed III. But Activision's (NASDAQ: ATVI ) Call of Duty franchise was a top seller too. The COD dynasty continued its epic sales run with Black Ops 2 making the best-seller list. Last year's edition of the COD franchise was Amazon's best-selling video game of the 2011 holiday season. And the year before that, Call of Duty also led all video game sales with its first installment of the Black Ops game.
4. Coffee: Home single-cup coffee brewing was a popular shopping choice for online shoppers this year as K-cup packs led Amazon's grocery category. This was the first holiday season in which Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (UNKNOWN: GMCR.DL ) and its Keurig machine faced competition from Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX ) and its new Verismo brewer. If Amazon's sales are any indication, the category looks like it was a hot one his holiday, but we'll have to wait until Starbucks and Green Mountain report fourth-quarter results to see how they stacked up against each other.
5. Movies: The Dark Knight Rises, from Time Warner (NYSE: TWX ) , had a great run at theaters this year. And that success probably helped the DVD version take second place in Amazon's best-selling video category. The box set of the entire Dark Knight trilogy did well, too, coming in third. But it was Dr. Seuss' The Lorax that took the prize and led all movie sales for Amazon this season. The film helped IMAX log a 33% boost in film revenue last quarter and made up for theatrical disappointments like Disney's John Carter.
Foolish bottom line
The growth in overall spending this holiday season might have come in lower than projected. MasterCard's Spending Pulse service clocked sales growth at just 0.7%, as compared to the 2% it found last year. But there's reason to believe sales actually came in a bit higher than that. Even if total sales do end up disappointing, there were some clear winners in this year's shopping bonanza.