When Shopify (SHOP -3.31%) announced it was creating its own fulfillment network, it changed the game for the internet juggernaut. While it still competes against the likes of Wix and Squarespace in website creation services, that move arguably made it a closer competitor to e-commerce giant Amazon (AMZN -0.60%) and its vast fulfillment network.
But instead of adding warehouses in response, Amazon announced recently that it plans to close some warehouses and cancel or delay other buildings. Considering that Shopify is a new and much smaller player in this space that is looking to grow, the potential availability of property may lead investors to ask whether Amazon’s decision could put Shopify in a stronger position.
Shopify and the industrial property market
One profound effect of e-commerce that receives relatively little attention is how it changed the real estate landscape. Retail real estate is currently in “transition” with only a modest construction pipeline, according to real estate specialist CBRE. Conversely, CBRE said that industrial real estate became tight as retailers sought such spaces to conduct e-commerce fulfillment.
Shopify had just seven U.S. fulfillment centers when it launched its Shopify Fulfillment Network (SFN), according to The Wall Street Journal. In contrast, Amazon operates about 110 U.S. fulfillment centers, according to consultant FBAHELP. That figure does not include warehouses owned by the company.
It remains unknown whether Shopify might try to lease or acquire some of these properties. Market analyses indicate that Amazon’s warehouse closings will do little to soften the industrial property market or alter the bull vs. bear case for Shopify. Still, Shopify holds about $7 billion in liquidity, increasing the odds that it will add fulfillment centers.
Plenty of opportunities for Shopify
Even if Amazon’s property sales do not prove to be an opportunity for Shopify’s network, its stock still looks promising. Shopify has developed an extensive ecosystem to support its clients. Its subscription solutions segment, which involves client sales sites directly, has stood out from rival offerings thanks to its easy-to-use platform and emphasis on speed.
However, the merchant solutions segment, to which the SFN belongs, has become the fastest-growing part of the company. One part of it is fintech. Shopify Payments allows merchants to accept payments online without involving a third party. And since this supports customers across all Shopify-powered sites, it can give merchants yet another reason to choose Shopify. Additionally, businesses can turn to Shopify Capital for funding purposes.
The company also runs an omnichannel platform called Shopify Plus. This supports larger or high-growth businesses, allowing for faster deployment, e-commerce automation tools, and a built-in wholesale channel solution.
The company’s financials are a mixed bag
Despite a struggling economy, Shopify grew revenue by 19% year over year in the first half of 2022 to $2.5 billion. That included merchant solutions growth of 23%.
On the bottom line, however, Shopify lost $2.7 billion in the first two quarters of 2022, a sharp contrast to the $2.1 billion profit it booked during the same period of 2021. This is likely because of investments it made in its fulfillment network.
Such struggles have probably contributed to Shopify’s share price decline — it’s down about 80% over the last year. Now, its price-to-sales ratio has fallen to about eight. While that’s not as low as Amazon’s multiple of three, it is Shopify’s lowest valuation by that metric in about six years, possibly indicating a buying opportunity.
Consider Shopify stock
Amazon’s property sales may make little difference to Shopify. Still, it holds $7 billion in liquidity and it probably wants to add more fulfillment centers to its network. Hence, any vacancies in the industrial property market should be viewed as a positive for the e-commerce company.
However, investors should still consider Shopify’s overall ecosystem when considering the e-commerce company‘s stock. As it continues to expand — and with the stock trading at its lowest price-to-sales ratio in years — Shopify deserves a closer look as conditions improve.
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Will Healy has positions in Shopify. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Amazon, Shopify, and Wix.com. The Motley Fool recommends the following options: long January 2023 $1,140 calls on Shopify and short January 2023 $1,160 calls on Shopify. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.