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The most wonderful time of the year

With the official start of the holiday shopping season upon us, U.S. retailers are gearing up to compete for higher traffic, greater sales volumes and increased competition with Amazon.com. The online retailer accounted for just more than one-fifth of all revenue among publicly traded U.S. retailers during the fourth quarter of 2016, and one-third of the 10 largest earners.

Themes of the death of the retail industry at the hands of Amazon came to a bubble as 4Q 2016 earnings began to be reported early in 2017. Amazon.com accounted for $44 billion of the total retail industry's $191 billion sales revenue. Year-over-year, Amazon's 4Q growth was up 22.4% while the industry was up 7.2%; removing Amazon from the equation shows only a 3.4% growth rate.

The dispersion of revenues has also been increasing in recent years, meaning that the larger retailers are taking home larger pieces of the pie. The standard deviation of sales revenue was about $7.7 billion during the fourth quarter of 2016, compared to $4.5 billion in 2011.