Piper Jaffray: Holiday Sales Keep Apple at Outperform

Holiday sales are higher this year than they were in 2004 at Apple specialist stores, according to a Piper Jaffray report issued on Thursday. Retailers showed stronger sales for both Macs and iPods.

Piper Jaffray surveyed 20 Apple specialist stores, which are third-party resellers that drive most of their business through Macintosh sales. The report does not include "big box" retailers, like CompUSA, Best Buy, and Circuit City.

Retailers See Strong December Sales
Mac sales are higher this holiday season, compared to 2004. For the most part, customer hold-outs awaiting the arrival of Intel-based Macs are limited, minimizing any impact on sale conversions.

Unlike "big box" retailers, iPod inventories are on average with Appleis own stores. Not all retailers, however, are able to maintain a full supply of iPod models. Some stores are experiencing very limited inventories, just like the larger retailers.

Overall, the specialist retailers indicated that December sales for 2005 are up 30 percent compared to December 2004, and attribute that not only to strong iPod sales, but to strong Mac sales, as well. 60 percent of the retailers surveyed were expecting this Decemberis sales to be better, and half of those are expecting sales to be "significantly better."

New Macs and iPods On the Way
Looking forward, analysts Gene Munster and Michael Olson donit foresee a slowdown in iPod innovation for 2006, and are expecting new and updated products throughout the year. They also see 2006 as a significant year for the Macintosh product line. The introduction of Intel-based Macs, along with the possibility of new form factors, should show us the launch of several new or updated Mac models throughout the year.

Although the iPod is a vital part of Appleis business model, Mr. Munster and Mr. Olson donit see it as the only growth avenue for the computer maker. Instead, they see the iPod as a tool for foundation growth throughout the company, spurring sales in other products through the "halo effect" of greater brand awareness.

Piper Jaffray is maintaining its outperform rating for Apple, with a target price of US$80.

Apple is currently trading in the pre-market unchanged at $73.50.

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