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Did retail pain turn into an Amazon Q4 windfall?

Amazon's results aren't likely to deliver a massive zero-sum retail victory. Traditional retailers that have focused on multi-channel sales have also gained from a shift in e-commerce.

Most retailers cited challenges and declining traffic for the holiday season, but it's unclear whether the pain of Target, Best Buy and a host of others translated into big gains for Amazon.

Amazon will report its fourth quarter results on Thursday and most analysts expect a solid quarter from the e-commerce giant. Certainly, Best Buy noted that Amazon forced retailers to cut prices. Yet, many retailers also noted big e-commerce gains.

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Did Amazon take enough share to post big enough gains to satisfy Wall Street? The answer to that question could be sticky.

Also:  Best Buy in crosshairs: Can it shift to e-commerce fast enough?

Wall Street is expecting Amazon to report non-GAAP fourth quarter earnings of 67 cents a share on revenue of $26.05 billion.

Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter highlights the eternal Amazon conundrum:

We expect Amazon to report Q4 revenue well above consensus and our estimates as it continues to gain share from brick-and-mortar retailers; however, EPS remains unpredictable as the company’s spending soaks up gross profit dollar growth.

The data from Amazon indicates the company did well. Amazon announced its best-ever holiday season and said marketplace sellers also hit records.

However, e-commerce activity may have also slowed along with overall retail sales. eBay's fourth quarter showed U.S. e-commerce slowed sequentially and Europe remains sluggish.

Add it up and Amazon's results aren't likely to deliver a massive zero-sum retail victory. Traditional retailers that have focused on multi-channel sales have also gained from a shift in e-commerce. Janney Capital Markets analyst Shawn Milne said in a research note:

When the dust settles, we believe the results will clearly underscore the massive eCommerce share shift driven by rapidly changing consumer behavior including mobile and omni-channel. This is not to say the shift only benefits online retailers – clearly those retailers that are embracing omni-channel are participating in the share shift.