Whenever investors discuss e-commerce and its growing influence on the retail landscape, Amazon's (NASDAQ: AMZN ) name always comes up first. That's not by accident. For better or for worse, Amazon has permanently altered retail. At the same time, Amazon is ubiquitous fare. For something more adventurous, investors may want to consider Wayfair (NYSE: W ) and W stock.
Of course, Wayfair doesn't have Amazon's broad appeal. It's certainly not disrupting its own sector, nor is it disrupting unrelated industries. For the most part, Wayfair stays in its own lane … but that has its advantages. As a specialist in home furnishings, the company benefits from one of the largest product inventories in the world. Whatever you're looking for, you can probably find it on Wayfair.com.
Moreover, the home-furnishings sector has secular characteristics. For one, it's not prone to fashion nuances or sharp shifts in consumer behavior like cyclical industries. Yes, every retail business is impacted by consumer tastes. But furniture is furniture: it's not something that most people put off.
Additionally, W stock is indirectly correlated with the broader economy. As more people enjoy increased salaries and better employment opportunities, the more likely they are to shop on Wayfair.
For hard numbers, consider retail sales for furniture and home-furnishings stores . Since the early 1990s, robust demand bolstered this market segment. The only time this wasn't the case was during the recessionary periods in the early and late 2000s.
In other words, if the country isn't under attack or in the throes of an unprecedented financial meltdown, home furnishings provide steady, consistent growth. That's a net positive for W stock.
Unfortunately, recent market performance has contradicted these fundamental tailwinds, with shares slipping ahead of its second-quarter 2018 earnings report. Which side will ultimately win out?
Wayfair's Quarter Was Mixed
For now, the markets have taken a decidedly bearish course, although a later bounce-back opportunity is possible. Negative earnings, and, more concerning, the widening of those losses, have always cast a cloud on W stock. That remained the case in the quarter ended June 30. At the same time, an unexpectedly large revenue lift gives bullish contrarians viable hope.
Heading into the second quarter, the Street pegged Wayfair's earnings per share at a loss of 73 cents. Individual analyst estimates ranged from an 83-cent loss to a 51-cent loss. Disappointingly, actuals came in at a 77-cent EPS loss. GAAP net loss amounted to $100.7 million.
The revenue picture, though, represented a bright spot for the home-furnishings retailer. The consensus called for $1.6 billion in top-line sales, which the actuals beat by a slight margin. More impressive, sales increased nearly 49% year-over-year . According to management, this was their biggest quarterly revenue growth.
A key highlight was the number of active customers, which reached 12.8 million. This metric was a 34% increase against the year-ago quarter. Also, these active customers largely were repeat buyers, which represented 66% of total orders. In Q2 2017, repeat customers contributed 61.3% of all sales.
Another significant and interesting stat was its order platform. In the most recent quarter, mobile-device orders represented 49.2% of total orders. This compares to 44.1% one year ago. The lift in mobile devices suggests a more carefree consumer base. It also indicates that customers are purchasing inside their busy work schedule, which reaffirms the strong labor market.
As of this writing, W stock shot up 8.2% at the market open.
Wayfair's Future Is Bright … If the Economy Holds
In late July, President Donald Trump boasted about a massive surge in economic productivity. Q2 GDP growth soared to 4.1%, a magnitude of which has not been seen since Q3 2014. Critics on the left might argue that this lift was largely due to the Obama administration's policies. Whatever the case, we can all agree that this is great news for the country.
As I mentioned earlier, whatever's good for the nation is indirectly good for W stock. If this economic momentum can hold, or better yet, expand, it bodes very well for all home-furnishings players. Consider that in Q2, personal expenditures for home-based products beat overall economic growth by increasing 6.1% year-over-year.
Also, from Q1 2010 until Q2 of this year, home-furnishing personal expenditures jumped almost 39%. To put this into context, this is nearly the same growth magnitude witnessed between Q1 2000 and Q1 2006, when the economy hit a peak prior to the banking and housing crises.
Put simply, if Trump can keep his promise about making America great again from an economic-growth perspective, W stock could do fine longer-term.
Another important point is that Trump doesn't necessarily have to provide perfect economic conditions. Should the housing market correct to levels that are more reasonable, I expect Wayfair to take advantage.
Right now, home buyers are barely scraping enough to secure their transaction. But if home prices decline, that puts more money into buyers' pockets to shell out for furniture and various accouterments. Admittedly, this thesis requires patience to pan out, but the opportunity is there.
As of this writing, Josh Enomoto did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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