HOLIDAY MONEY
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Where to get the hottest holiday gadgets
Xbox 360s and iPods are in high demand, but for the patient (and wealthy), the goods can be yours.
December 9, 2005: 12:54 PM EST
By Amanda Cantrell, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Black Friday and Cyber Monday came and went, and you still didn't snap up that iPod nano or Xbox 360. Is there hope for you yet?

Getting an Xbox 360 is still a long shot, but knowing where to look -- and being persistent -- could be the key to snagging other hot-ticket tech items for this holiday season. And if you can drop that "accept no substitutes" stance, all the better, retailers say.

One company, UniqueAuction, announced that it is putting more than 100 Xbox 360s up for auction on its Web site between 3:00 and 4:00 P.M. eastern standard time on Friday, with purchases limited to one per customer.

Retailers are having a tough time keeping Xbox 360s and certain models of iPods, particularly nanos and the new video-enabled iPods, in stock.

"Both the nano and the video iPod are both really hot gifts," said Brian Lucas, spokesman for retailer Best Buy. "If you see it on the shelf, buy it -- don't count on being able to find it later. They come in regularly and they sell out quickly."

Lucas added that if gift buyers are willing to be a little flexible say, settling for a white, four-gigabyte nano as opposed to its black counterpart, for example they will at least have something to put under the tree.

"There are so many different varieties that if you don't have your heart set on a specific one, you'll be able to find something," he said.

Apple hoarding?

Sometimes, going straight to the source can help. In a check of 20 third-party retailers compared with checks of 10 Apple retail stores, Piper Jaffray senior research analyst Gene Munster found that Apple stores still had plenty of iPods, while third-party retailers had limited replenishment of supplies after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Munster found that while none of the 11 third-party retailers he checked had every iPod model, and several were completely sold out over Thanksgiving weekend, eight out of 10 Apple retail stores Munster surveyed had all iPods in stock. That's compared with only two out of the 20 third-party retailers surveyed. A quick check of Apple's online store revealed that all versions of the nano and the video-enabled iPods are available online.

"It's safe to say that Apple is restricting supply to their own stores in an effort to, in my opinion, force people into their own stores," said Munster.

Steve Dowling, a spokesman for Apple, said the company does not comment on how it allocates its inventory but acknowledged that high demand is making it tough to get some models.

"We're making a lot of iPods, and we're shipping every one we make," he said. "It's still not enough to meet demand."

Suppliers may have beefed up their stock since then. A quick check of the Circuit City web site revealed the retailer has shuffle, all four nanos, and all four video iPods both the 30- and 60-gigabyte versions in black and white. A number of models are sold out on the Best Buy Web site, including all versions of the nano, though customers can still get several others, including some video-enabled iPods and the iPod Shuffle.

Amazon.com lists some models, including all nanos, as "in stock soon," and allows customers to get on a first come, first served wait list.

While getting an iPod could be a matter of knowing where to look, getting an Xbox 360 will be significantly harder. Microsoft unveiled its newest gaming system on Nov. 22, and as expected, it sold out instantly.

"We had some, but now they're gone," proclaims a forlorn message on Circuit City's Web site. But the retailer is giving away an Xbox a day for the next 24 days as part of a promotion.

Retailers say they are expecting regular shipments of the console, but demand is so intense those units will be extremely hard to get.

"It's not uncommon for demand to outpace supply with highly anticipated items" such as the Xbox 360, said Circuit City spokeswoman Amanda Tate. "But we do expect regular shipments during the holidays. Be persistent and check back regularly."

She added that the retailer's Web site offers real-time inventory status checks of local stores, as well as whether the product is available for online ordering.

"The Xbox 360 is pretty much sold out; we're working as hard as we can to get product into the stores as often as we can before the holidays," said Lucas of Best Buy.

Portable gaming and video also hot

Another hot item has been Sony's PlayStation Portable, or PSP, though analysts from Thomas Weisel Partners found that sales of the PSP were weak in November. But the analysts noted that PSP sales appear to be picking up now.

Other items in high demand include inexpensive DVD players and the more portable, the better. Portable DVD players ranked fourth, after the Xbox 360, the iPod nano and the Sony PSP, in the most searched-for products on Yahoo! shopping from November 20 to November 26, a week that includes Black Friday.

Daniel Asomani-anim, who manages a Radio Shack store in New York City, said one of the store's most popular items this season has been a portable DVD player with a 3.6-inch screen. The item is retailing for $80 after a rebate. Asomani-anim said digital cameras are also in high demand, as are video-enabled iPods and Sony PSPs.

But in the unlikely event that money is no object, there's always eBay. Shoppers willing to spend north of $700 can snag the coveted Xbox 360, while plenty of nanos and a handful of 60-gigabyte video iPods are up for auction.

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Huge holiday rush at Wal Mart? More here.

For complete holiday shopping coverage, click here.

Piper Jaffray's Munster does not own shares of Apple, but his firm does and seeks to do business with the companies it covers in its research reports.  Top of page

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