Amazon Looks To Shrug Off Slowing E-Commerce Catalysts

The company that catapulted the e-commerce revolution, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) hardly needs any help doing what it does best: dominating whatever market it decides to disrupt next. Yet the novel coronavirus pandemic proved that at least from a shareholder’s perspective, AMZN stock is not above receiving assistance from fortuitously aligned events.

stack of Amazon (AMZN) delivery boxes at a front door
Source: Julie Clopper / Shutterstock.com

While it may be forgotten history at this point, AMZN stock entered an approximately 18-month period between late July 2018 to late January 2020 where the share price didn’t really budge much on a net basis. But then, the coronavirus breached our borders, sparking circumstances that would see that price rocket to all-time highs.

True, AMZN stock suffered an initial bout of weakness during last year’s March doldrums. But as technical analysts would say, the equity unit charted a cup-and-handle formation, typically implying strong bullish momentum. Sure enough, AMZN stock skyrocketed, eventually closing out 2020 up roughly 72%.

That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that this year, with almost seven months crossed off as I write this, AMZN stock has slowed down noticeably. Despite robust upward momentum since early June — matching the general sentiment of the so-called “FANG” stocks — shares are up “only” 14% year-to-date.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s a solid performance given the craziness over the trailing year. However, it does raise the question of whether the pandemic tailwinds that supported AMZN stock last year will fade away this year.

It’s not an unreasonable assumption. In the second quarter of 2020, e-commerce represented 15.7% of all retail sales. In Q1 of this year, that contribution dropped down to 13.6%. Still significant, to be sure, but it’s a noticeable decline from the pandemic disrupted year of 2020.

Should investors trust Amazon or is it time to rotate gains into another opportunity?

AMZN Stock Could Benefit from Permanent Behavioral Changes

On the surface, I completely understand why some investors might be skeptical about AMZN stock. Mainly, the underlying company should see declines from its e-commerce business as the coronavirus catalyst winds down. That’s also the assessment from analysts at Bernstein, who stated the following:

The slowdown in e-commerce is here, and we shouldn’t be surprised. Non-store sales point to 12% Y/Y growth in the US for 2Q vs. 28% in 1Q. Similarly, growth in Europe slowed from 40% in 1Q to 16% for APR and MAY. Alongside soft macro and credit card data, Prime Day growth was muted at +8% Y/Y as per various sources, falling a touch short of expectations. In light of decelerating retail trends, 3Q consensus revenue estimates look high, calling for sequential growth despite the pull forward of Prime Day. We see risk to short-term revenue guidance. We model $114.4B for 2Q and $113.6B for 3Q.

Adding to that research team’s concerns is that consumer trends toward product categories definitely changed as society acclimated to the pandemic. For instance, data compiled by SupermarketNews.com revealed that hand sanitizer sales fell 60% year-over-year in April 2021.

Nevertheless, it’s also very possible that certain consumer behaviors will be at least semi-permanent due to the lingering devastation of Covid-19. As The Atlantic pointed out last year, a “clear historical precedent for a traumatic, drawn-out collective experience that scars the American populace is the Great Depression. The roughly decade-long crisis led many people, later in life, to fear discarding anything that might turn out to be useful.”

Given that Covid-19 was the first modern calamity that touched every American in at least one significant and measurable manner, it’s not a stretch to assume that online purchases — whether physical products or services like streaming — will occur at a higher threshold than pre-pandemic norms.

Thus, AMZN stock may prove relevant yet again for the long haul.

We’re Not Out of the Woods Yet

While I don’t want to come off as a worry wart, I don’t think it’s wise to assume that we’re done with the coronavirus pandemic. Data from Worldometers.info indicates that on July 28, new U.S. daily infections exceeded 84,500. The last time we saw cases reach that level, daily infections eventually jumped to six-digit figures.

Cynically, it’s possible that this rise in cases will inspire people — especially those in hard-hit regions — to consider directing more of their purchases online again. If so, Amazon has already enjoyed more than a year of free organic marketing. Based on how events are transpiring, you may want to stick with AMZN stock.

On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.

A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare.


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