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Amazon May Miss Earnings Targets

Nathan Eddy is a contributor to eWeek and TechWeekEurope, covering cloud and BYOD

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Goldman Sachs has warned that Amazon may fail to hit its financial targets for the fourth quarter, in spite of strong sales

A report from financial services firm Goldman Sachs warns that online retailer Amazon.com could miss its fourth-quarter sales estimates due to a slowdown in online shopping growth, despite impressive sales of the company’s Kindle Fire tablet and family of e-readers.

Goldman Sachs analyst Heather Bellini said in a research note that based on sales estimates from IT analytics firm comScore, total e-commerce sales rose 15 percent to $35.3 billion (£27bn) in the November-December holiday shopping season and Amazon’s revenue will rise to $17.9 billion – a 38 percent rise compared with 2010 but still under the $18.2 billion expected by analysts.

Sales rise

For the Christmas season to date, comScore said $35.3 billion has been spent online, marking a 15 percent increase versus the corresponding days last year. The most recent week (ending on 25 December) witnessed $2.8 billion in spending, an increase of 16 percent versus the corresponding week last year.

“While the comScore numbers are just one data point, which does not capture international sales or breakout individual companies’ sales, taken alone they seem to suggest the potential for downside risk,” Bellini wrote in the report, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News.

One of the interesting e-commerce phenomena occurring over the past several years is the dramatic increase in Christmas Day purchases of digital content and subscriptions, a retail category that includes digital downloads of music, TV, movies, ebooks and apps.

The comScore report noted that many consumers get new smartphones, tablets, e-readers and digital content gift certificates for Christmas, and they spend Christmas Day loading up their devices with new content.

On an average day during the 2011 holiday season to date (1 November-26 December), digital content and subscriptions accounted for 2.8 percent of retail e-commerce sales, but on Christmas Day the category accounted for more than 20 percent of sales.

Consistent with past years, comScore said it expects sales for this category of products to remain elevated throughout the entire week following Christmas Day.

Holiday e-commerce spending has remained strong throughout the season, and we have now reached a record $35 billion in US online sales for the season-to-date,” said comScore Chairman Gian Fulgoni.

“We can now say with certainty that the $1.25 billion spent on Cyber Monday will rank it as the heaviest online spending day of the season for the second consecutive year, but we should also note that it was accompanied by nine other billion dollar spending days this year.”