Amazon.com Inc. announced today that it would be the first retailer to partner with the U.S. Postal Service to offer Sunday delivery beginning November 17 in the New York and Los Angeles areas as it looks to give shoppers more shipping options. In 2014, Amazon plans to expand the service, that will continue past the holidays, to other locations including Dallas, Houston and Phoenix, Reuters reported.

 

In other responses to the shortest holiday shopping season in a decade, retailers have tested their websites more, started sales a month early and hired extra trucks and planes to make last-minute deliveries if bad weather shuts down malls.

 

"You don't have much time to react if there's a snafu in your distribution system, if your website fails or if your rivals get very aggressive with discounting," said Michael Dart, a senior partner at consulting firm Kurt Salmon.

 

The stakes are high as the holiday season accounts for about half the profits of many retailers.

 

Sales forecasts for this year's holiday retail season have been somewhat gloomy but they were issued before recent economic data showing stronger-than-expected growth in jobs and the broad economy.

 

A late Thanksgiving - the unofficial kickoff for holiday sales - has lopped six days off the gift-buying season.