Wall Street loves to point to Amazon (AMZN - Get Report) as one of the best positioned stocks for the holiday season, given consumers' love of e-commerce and of electronics which tends to accelerate in the fourth quarter as shoppers flock to get their holiday deals.
"With the shorter holiday period this year, and continued news of weakening consumer confidence, we expect time-strapped and value-conscious consumers to look online to stretch their dollars further and for convenience," Morgan Stanley analyst Kimberly Greenberger wrote in an Oct. 31 note. "Additionally the increased focus on omni-channel retailing as more consumers turn to their smartphones should accelerate e-commerce growth," which should outpace store sales growth by a wide margin in the fourth quarter, Greenberger wrote.Amazon shares are up 41% this year. The stock closed up 1.1% to $354.38 on Monday. Of course, Amazon will be another company to benefit from the refresh of the PlayStation and Xbox video game consoles, boosting "a key holiday category which has been lackluster for several years," the note said. Amazon launched on Nov. 1 its Black Friday Deals Store and Electronics Holiday Gift Guide for shoppers. Amazon is gearing up for the seasonal business uptick by hiring 40% more seasonal employees this year vs. last year. It also announced on Monday that it plans to partner with the U.S. Postal Service for Sunday shipping starting in New York and Los Angeles and then adding Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Phoenix next year. The company said last month it expects fourth-quarter net sales to be between $23.5 billion and $26.5 billion, up between 10% and 25% from the fourth quarter of 2012. And while it does not publicly disclose members of its Amazon Prime service, it did say that "millions of new Prime members" signed up last quarter. Additionally, during last year's holiday season, Amazon's third-party marketplace sellers grew units sold by 40%. "This year, Amazon.com will feature promotions from third-party resellers on its Holiday Deal pages for the first time, which should increase the relevance of the Amazon.com platform during the holidays," the Morgan Stanley analysts note. Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.