Macro-Headwinds Risk Ruining the Recipe for Blue Apron Stock

For meal-delivery service Blue Apron (NYSE:APRN), I’m going to loosen my usual uptight writing style and address this matter frankly: I have a love-hate relationship with APRN stock.

Macro-Headwinds Risk Ruining the Recipe for Blue Apron Stock
Source: Roman Tiraspolsky /

For starters, you’d expect the underlying company to do well in this environment. Indeed, I’d argue that in this app-crazy world we’re living in, you’d expect Blue Apron stock to skyrocket. In my opinion, the company combines the best of technology and tradition. It gives you the convenience of meal deliveries, while encouraging the family dinner custom.

Furthermore, millennials love eating out. In my last write-up about Blue Apron stock, I questioned management’s previous focus on targeting retirees. And it’s not just an age thing. As I pointed out, millennials “have different expectations and desires.”

A prime example is the car culture. In every other generation, getting a car was a rite of passage. With millennials and the younger Generation Z, it’s just not as important. Moreover, there’s a reason for this trend. Companies like Uber Technologies (NYSE:UBER) and Lyft (NASDAQ:LYFT) are maximizing the potential of the on-demand sharing economy.

Logically, this dynamic should greatly benefit APRN stock. Millennials eschew cars but love wining and dining. Plus, they’re big on delivery services. These points bolster the “love” part of my relationship with Blue Apron stock.

So, what’s the “hate” part? Just open up a chart of the Blue Apron stock price and you’ll quickly see for yourself. On a year-to-date basis, shares have lost nearly 52% of their market value. And with the panicked situation we have in the markets, this service company just doesn’t have the legs to compete.

By way of comparison, another millennial food favorite — Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) — has seen its shares skyrocket almost 90% in the same period. The Invesco Dynamic Food & Beverage ETF (NYSEArca:PBJ) has added almost 19% in 2019. CMG is the 10th-largest holding in the exchange-traded fund’s 31 stock portfolio. APRN has yet to attract ETF interest.

Bad Timing May Hurt Blue Apron Stock

Although APRN stock levers some fundamental advantages regarding consumer demographics and behaviors, their biggest problem is converting those advantages. This mismatch was on fully display for their second-quarter earnings results.

On paper, it was a mixed report. Per-share profitability for Blue Apron stock came in at a loss of 59 cents. This was far better than consensus estimates calling for an earnings per share loss of $1.08.

However, Q2 was really a devastating blow for the company. That’s because revenue delivered badly missed the consensus target by more than 14%, at $119.2 million. Furthermore, the year-ago sales haul was $179.6 million. Unsurprisingly, management reported steep subscriber losses.

However, what is surprising is that APRN stock took the bad news quite well. It jumped after the disclosure, although it has since declined. Still, after such poor results, APRN is “only” down about 12% since the Q2 disclosure.

Under normal circumstances, that might give contrarians some confidence in Blue Apron stock. Because this is an incredibly volatile name, a 12% loss isn’t too bad, relatively speaking.

On another angle, the fact that millennials love the on-demand sharing economy suggests that this contrarian play is rational. And I’ll be blunt: it would get me excited, too.

However, we have one little problem. I just don’t like the volatility that we saw in the broader markets. Most of that came about because of U.S.-China trade war tensions, which of course is a major worry. But I’m a bit more concerned about the tension between President Trump and the Federal Reserve.

Of course, Trump wants the Fed to do more. But I don’t think the Fed can do anything. That signals to me that we’re really headed toward a recession. And a recession does zero good for Blue Apron stock.

A Very Limited Trading Opportunity

But with everything that I just said, it’s not all bad news for APRN stock. As I discussed in my last article, Blue Apron brought in Linda Findley Kozlowski to head the company. Previously, Kozlowski was the COO of Etsy (NASDAQ:ETSY), another millennial and Gen Z fave.

We have two takeaways here. First, Kozlowski knows e-commerce. She’s also adept at engaging millennials, which is crucial for Blue Apron stock. And to top it off, she’s proven capable of taking seemingly irrelevant markets — Etsy specializes in homemade arts and crafts — to the forefront.

This should be a big advantage to Blue Apron. As far as I know, eating is a necessity. And cutting the time to prepare it is itself worth a premium.

Perhaps this is the reason why Blue Apron stock apparently found a bottom in late June of this year. But as I mentioned above, we have macro-headwinds that can quickly sour consumer sentiment. Therefore, if you’re going to gamble, do so in a narrowly defined period.

For everyone else, it’s time to shutter this investment. APRN badly missed both revenue and subscriber targets, which represent the lifeblood of a delivery-service company. And even if they didn’t miss, we have a potential fiscal tsunami about to crash down on us.

As of this writing, Josh Enomoto did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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