SAN FRANCISCO -- The shorter holiday shopping season has tempered expectations for online sales this year and a potentially profit-bruising price war broke out earlier than usual.
So why are shares of Amazon.com, the world's largest Internet retailer, hitting records?
One reason may be that the company is set to be so dominant online this year, at the expense of e-commerce rivals like eBay and traditional retailers.
From Oct. 24 to Nov. 4, Bizrate Insights surveyed 14,721 online buyers who made a recent purchase from a retailer that was not Amazon and asked them where they planned to buy gifts this year.
These shoppers planned to allocate 43% of their holiday shopping to physical stores on average. But they also planned to spend 34% of their gift money at Amazon. That was almost as much as they planned to spend at all other online stores put together (35%), including destinations such as eBay.com and Walmart.com, according to Bizrate's survey.
Bizrate Insights also asked where these consumers typically start online shopping and 25% said Amazon. Google came in third at 22%, with "directly to a retailer's web site" coming second at 24%.
The shoppers are also big users of Amazon's Prime program, which offers free two-day shipping in the U.S., along with other benefits, for $79 a year. The survey found that 35% of them have a Prime account.
"The data suggest that this will be a huge Christmas for them," says Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at Forrester Research.
Amazon shares rose 1.4% to $386.71 on Wednesday and hit another record of $387 earlier, valuing the company at more than $175 billion. The stock is up 54% so far this year, with most of those gains coming in the run-up to the holiday shopping season.
EBay shares rose 1.1% to $49.30 on Wednesday. But the stock is down 3% so far this year and it has been particularly weak in recent weeks.
EBay gave a cautious holiday forecast last month and some analysts are predicting sales growth below 10% during the crucial Cyber Monday online shopping frenzy.
"There are concerns around the quarter," says Colin Sebastian, an analyst at RW Baird.