The stock of Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) has barely moved over the past month and trades around $1,175. The news is strange because many analysts believe the company will take a huge share of holiday sales. Either investors are worried about whether Amazon’s revenue will do as well as expected or that the e-commerce company will need to sacrifice margins to keep or gain market share as it has in the past.
Amazon is the odds-on favorite to take sales from old-line retailers like J.C. Penney and Macy’s. Some experts believe Walmart has made enough changes to its e-commerce tactics and pricing that Amazon will not make much dent in its results. Regardless, by far the great majority of retailers have to worry Amazon will continue to damage them and help itself.
As it released its third-quarter earnings, Amazon posted optimistic forecasts for the holiday period:
Fourth Quarter 2017 Guidance
Net sales are expected to be between $56.0 billion and $60.5 billion, or to grow between 28% and 38% compared with fourth quarter 2016. This guidance includes approximately 1,000 basis points of impact to our year-over-year growth rate from Whole Foods Market. This guidance also anticipates a favorable impact of approximately $1.2 billion or 270 basis points from foreign exchange rates.
Operating income is expected to be between $300 million and $1.65 billion, compared with $1.3 billion in fourth quarter 2016.
This guidance assumes, among other things, that no additional business acquisitions, investments, restructurings, or legal settlements are concluded.
The low end of the revenue guidance would be a major disappointment, as would the low end of the operating income forecast. Operating income of $300 million would be barely no margin at all. As a matter of fact, because Amazon Web Services (AWS) is so profitable on its own, Amazon’s core e-commerce business could lose money and positive operating income for the fourth quarter might be solely due to AWS operating income.
And Amazon has been aggressive with prices, particularly with its own new line of consumer electronics, which include the Echo Dot home speaker and voice recognition, which makes it a sort of personal assistant. Its price has been cut from $49.99 to $29.99. Its big brother, the Echo, is on sale for $79, down from $99.99.
Amazon should have a good holiday season, and it should show up in revenue. Margin is another matter, and one that has dogged investors for year. The fourth quarter had better be different, or Amazon’s shares will be much worse off than flat.