Amazon’s celebration of ‘record’ holiday weekend sales is short on details

Amazon is touting a record holiday shopping weekend thanks to the increasing popularity of its tablets, e-readers, streaming devices, and other hardware. Yet, the company still refuses to offer basic information about how many units it has sold, making it difficult to tell exactly how large its device business has grown.
The company said in a press release today that the most popular items sold through its online marketplace on Black Friday were the Kindle Fire and the Fire TV Stick. It also said that Amazon Echo, its smart speaker, was the best-selling product that cost more than $100. Kindle e-readers are also said to have surged in popularity.
These claims follow layoffs at Lab126 (the division of Amazon responsible for the company’s hardware) said to be the result of the Fire Phone’s spectacular flop. The division was also reorganized, and its parent company halted development on some of its more ambitious projects, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Since then Amazon has released a $50 tablet, which has become the most popular device in the product line’s history. The company even sold the devices in a six-pack, making it clear to consumers that they could buy a half-dozen Amazon tablets as gifts for the same price as one tablet from another company.
Then there’s the Fire TV Stick, which costs just $39 and promises access to all the streaming services a person might ever want to peruse. That’s more than Google’s Chromecast, but thanks to Amazon’s decision to pull that product from its virtual shelves, that $39 price tag probably seemed like a steal to shoppers.
It’s no surprise these products were the top-selling items on Amazon over the holiday weekend. Both are cheap devices with a recognizable brand that people can gift to their loved ones without breaking the bank. Tis the season to rake in customers with great deals, after all, and nobody’s better than Amazon at that.
Yet the fact remains that we have no idea what any of this actually means for the company. Just look at its claim that it sold six times as many Fire TV products this holiday shopping weekend as it did during the same weekend last year. Does that it mean it sold 6 million this year? How about 42 million? Nobody knows!
Other claims, like its devices being the most popular items on its website, are also dubious. When a store offers as many products as Amazon does, it’s likely that shoppers are buying a wide array of items instead of focusing on specific products. The popularity of Amazon’s hardware could’ve been a direct result of that hardware’s cheapness and Amazon’s willingness to plaster it all over its site.
All of which means that Amazon’s might as well have said “We had a record holiday shopping weekend!” and ended the press release there. That’s about as much information as we got, and until the company nixes its culture of secrecy, we’re unlikely to ever know for sure exactly how many people buy its products.
An Amazon spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.