iTunes Surpasses Wal-Mart - Or Does It?

A copy of an internal Apple email to employees indicates that iTunes has surpassed Wal-Mart as the #1 music retailer.  Or has it?

The news was announced in an e-mail sent this afternoon to some Apple employees, a copy of which was seen by Ars Technica. It includes a screenshot of an Excel file showing the top ten music retailers in the US for January 2008, and Apple is at the top of the list. The iTunes Store leads the pack with 19 percent, Wal-Mart (which includes the brick-and-mortar stores as well as its online properties) is second with 15 percent, and Best Buy is third with 13 percent. Amazon is a distant fourth at 6 percent, trailed by the likes of Borders, Circuit City, and Barnes & Noble. Rhapsody is in the tenth slot with 1 percent.

We have seen some stories this morning claiming to have debunked this report based on conjecture (no factual detail or analysis). We repeat: the document says what we said it says, and you can see it for yourself. The documents were also distributed to Apple employees, and show Apple as the number-one music retailer during the period in question. That can't be debunked, sorry. (Sure, you can claim that the data is bad, or sampled incorrectly, but there's no proof of that yet.)

Also, I already noted that the results are influenced by gift card usage, and I noted that other retailers on the list have gift cards, too—don't forget that fact. A sale is a sale, as well.

"Why no press release?" is yet another reason some are debunking this.  However, we think that most likely Apple is aware of the gift-card angle, and is waiting for Feb. numbers, which will really show what's going on in music sales, without any conjecture over gift cards.  Or we might still see a press release!
Tags:  itunes, Wal-Mart, itu, NES, SSE, art, ses, RT, tunes, AR, DOE