The future was always going to be omnichannel. Pundits have been prematurely predicting this for many years, but it is finally happening. There is a strange belief in certain circles that the future will be e-commerce only and that brick and mortar stores have no value. This is strange because the worlds largest, most sophisticated e-commerce companies are all opening stores. Lots of stores. Amazon opened dozens of “Amazon Go” stores in 2019 and is reportedly planning on opening up to 3000 of these stores by 2021 in the United States alone. Amazon already has multiple store formats in the United States: Go, Whole Foods, Book Stores and others. In his 2017 letter to shareholders, Jack Ma wrote that “Commerce as we know it is changing in front of our eyes. ‘E-commerce’ is rapidly evolving into ‘New Retail.’ The boundary between offline and online commerce disappears as we focus on fulfilling the personalized needs of each customer.” Alibaba is rapidly opening several different store formats throughout China. JD is also rapidly opening stores. Wayfair has stores. Led by Warby Parker, most DTC branded startups have stores.
The first long term benefit of Covid for category leading retailers who are taking significant e-commerce share during Covid is that for the first time *ever* at many of these companies, e-commerce is being resourced and managed appropriately while taking advantage of all the online advantages conferred by their store networks. I suspect this is the first time that the online analytics team is as important to the CEO as the merchant. This is a profound cultural shift at many of these companies that is likely to be enduring. Nothing accelerates change like success.
Beyond scale based advertising efficiencies, physical costs also scale online — even more variable costs like shipping benefit from scale based on the UPS and Fedex rate cards. One of the more interesting observations from attending Jet.com board meetings was that almost any small e-commerce acquisition was accretive as Jet could immediately lower shipping costs for the acquired company by at least 10%. All this manifests in the fact that the revenue increases from e-commerce for category leading retailers have not been at the expense of profits — margins at BBY were flattish YoY and margins at WMT were up despite their mix shifting to more digital.
Beyond cultural realignment and a clear path to follow, the raw numbers in terms of new customers and incremental revenue are going to really matter. Skipping 5–10 years ahead of plan in e-commerce and taking e-commerce share will permanently matter to these businesses. Scale matters more online than offline. Online scale drives significant advertising efficiencies which are one of the most important inputs to e-commerce success. Massive growth in new customers, especially those who repeated quickly, will matter. This customer growth is manifest in the significant growth in app downloads, traffic and commentary on quarterly calls. Credit card data clearly shows an improvement in customer retention and cohort dynamics over the last few years for category leading retailers as their e-commerce % of revenue improved. These retailers will benefit for years from the customers they acquired during Covid.
Covid has changed all of these dynamics for category leading brick and mortar retailers. If most e-commerce companies have been pulled 1–3 years into the future in terms of their revenue, then the e-commerce businesses of most category leading brick and mortar retailers have been pulled 5–10 years into the future. Covid has permanently changed their destiny and driven significantly higher long term steady state FCF outcomes for them. I sometimes think that investors do not appreciate how large and rapidly growing the e-commerce businesses at some of these category leading retailers are. Wal-Mart’s digital revenue in Q2 was an annualized $42 billion, growing 94% — faster than Amazon. Best Buy’s digital revenue in Q2 was an annualized $19.4 billion, growing 242% — faster than Amazon. Some will quibble about the inclusion of BOPIS revenue, but I think this is fair as it is a very different experience than actually going into a store.
Beyond an erroneous belief that e-commerce was unprofitable which kept them from investing in e-commerce, brick and mortar retailers struggled online for cultural reasons. The most important functions at a brick and mortar retailer were generally real estate and merchandising. i.e. Getting the right store locations at the right cost and then filling those stores with the right products at the right prices. Unfortunately, both of those functions were largely irrelevant online — a URL was your store and you had endless shelf space. Data and analytics mattered much more online than having a great team of human merchants. There was a great story in the “Everything Store” about how the algorithms outperformed the human editors that Amazon employed in their book section. A culture of relentless A/B testing and data driven decision making was essential to online success.
Perhaps the simplest way to express what has happened during Covid is to note that Amazon has actually lost share in e-commerce during Covid. The largest e-commerce share gainers in most categories have been category leading physical retailers as well as the DTC businesses of most brands. Amazon is still growing really fast, but this is due to growth in the market for e-commerce. They are factually losing share of e-commerce which is a significant change, albeit one that had been in process for several years. There were years pre 2016 when Amazon was taking roughly 100% incremental share of e-commerce and well over 100% incremental share of total retail sales. While Amazon is gaining share of retail spending, they are losing e-commerce share and this is manifested in the fact that they are growing slower than the overall market for e-commerce.
Three dictionary methods dict.keys(), dict.values(), and dict.items() all return a different view of a dictionary. Now, a mapping attribute has been added to each of these view objects.
Said another way, long term steady state FCF will likely be the at the same level for many e-commerce, videogame and streaming media companies as it would have been before Covid. This is not to say that Covid did not increase their value; it did but primarily by pulling their financials forward a few years which obviously matters in a DCF. Whereas long term steady state FCF will likely be significantly higher for category leading brick and mortar retailers who had reasonably strong e-commerce businesses coming into Covid. Especially
- is considered the third film in the Jumanji film series after Zathura: A Space Adventure (Jon Favreau, 2005) which is also adapted from the childrens story
- Even if school districts receive the money they need to quickly implement changes, the decision on whether to reopen is left up to teachers’ unions