The forecast comes as the world’s largest e-commerce player braces for the busiest time in retail, having invested billions and tweaked its merchant platform to avoid the crunch that befell it last year when shoppers bought more than it could easily handle.

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Amazon says it expects the independent merchants selling on its website to have a record holiday season, a prediction that, if true, will test its readiness to handle the oncoming shopping onslaught.

The forecast comes as the world’s largest e-commerce player braces for the busiest time in retail, having invested billions and tweaked its merchant platform to avoid the crunch that befell it last year when shoppers bought more than it could easily handle.

Third-party sellers account for about half of the items sold on Amazon, paying fees to the Seattle juggernaut for the transactions and other services.

Through a program called Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA), many merchants leave the storage and shipping of their products in Amazon’s hands and can participate in the Prime loyalty program, which offers members guaranteed two-day shipping. Last year the fulfillment program delivered more than a billion items around the world.

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While these third parties compete with Amazon’s own retail division, they also constitute an increasingly important source of profit for the company.

But in the fourth quarter of 2015, an unexpectedly large quantity of wares from merchants enrolled in FBA also strained Amazon’s logistical capacity.

So this year Amazon hiked its storage and handling fees during the holiday season and lowered them during the quiet season in order to keep merchants from parking slow-selling merchandise in Amazon warehouses during the busy time.

It’s also relying more on Seller Fulfilled Prime, a special program in which sellers who ship their own orders can also participate in the Prime program; Seller Fulfilled Prime has added more than 6 million new items in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Japan, Amazon said Thursday.

Amazon also opened 18 new warehouses in the third quarter, a record number. By comparison, the retail giant opened 14 during all of 2015.

On average, analysts expect Amazon to rake in $44.7 billion in sales during the holiday quarter, up 25 percent from last year.