What Happened to Amazon’s Holiday Results?

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Most of the nation’s largest retailers have announced the results of holiday sales. A very few companies disclosed positive numbers. Many have not. The most worrisome data were from the weakest retailers — J.C. Penney Co. Inc. (NYSE: JCP) and Sears Holdings Corp. (NASDAQ: SHLD) — the survival of which have been called into question. Notably, among the retailers that have not said a thing about how well they did in the past two months is Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN). Although the e-commerce firm rarely gives out exact numbers, its management does like to brag about impressive progress. Maybe Amazon did less well than generally expected.

The past two official announcements from Amazon were made nearly a week ago. One was that it will be streaming the Veronica Mars TV series. The other was that its Marketplace Sellers had posted a record year. These “sellers” are among the two million or more companies that use Amazon.com as their conduit to people who buy goods and services online.

The most recent statement Amazon made about its own progress was on the day after Christmas:

Amazon today announced a record-setting holiday season for Amazon Prime, the annual membership program offering unlimited Free Two-Day Shipping on millions of items. More than one million customers around the world became new Prime members in the third week of December. On Amazon’s peak shipping day, more Prime items were shipped worldwide than ever before.

At the same time, Amazon hinted that its own sales had gone well during the holiday season. However, the hint was not strong enough for Amazon watchers to draw anything specific.

What outsiders do know about Amazon is that its goals for the holiday quarter were extremely ambitious. On October 24, Amazon reported sales had risen 24% in its most recent quarter to $17.09 billion. Its forecast for the coming holiday period:

Net sales are expected to be between $23.5 billion and $26.5 billion, or to grow between 10% and 25% compared with fourth quarter 2012.

If Amazon does not reach the high end of that range, Wall Street will be terribly disappointed. Amazon’s shares have traded based on optimism, and they are up more than 40% from a year ago.

Amazon continues to keep its results from the holidays a secret, and that is almost certainly not a good thing.

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