Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Rule Breaker August Mailbag: Buy Amazon or Buy Etsy?

By Motley Fool Staff – Sep 5, 2018 at 9:11AM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

It doesn't have to be an either/or in your portfolio, but it's a useful thought experiment for investors.

After a month of chats with brilliant authors on Rule Breaker Investing, David Gardner gets back to talking with his favorite podcast conversation partners: the listeners. Yes, it's time again for the monthly mailbag episode.

In this segment, listener Hugh poses a question: If you could only buy one, between Amazon and Etsy, which would it be? Fortunately, you can easily have both in your portfolio, but given that none of us has infinite money to invest, we really will have to make some binary decisions, so discussions of how one should pick among stocks are always useful.

A full transcript follows the video.

10 stocks we like better than Walmart
When investing geniuses David and Tom Gardner have a stock tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, the Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has tripled the market.* 

David and Tom just revealed what they believe are the ten best stocks for investors to buy right now... and Walmart wasn't one of them! That's right -- they think these 10 stocks are even better buys.

Click here to learn about these picks!

*Stock Advisor returns as of August 6, 2018
The author(s) may have a position in any stocks mentioned.


This video was recorded on Aug. 29, 2018.

David Gardner: Mailbag Item No. 2: This one comes from Hugh Wade writing in from Anchorage, Alaska. Thank you, Hugh! "David, hey bud, how are you doing?" I love how that starts. "Hey, bud, how are you doing?" We're going to have a little bit more of that tone from Hugh later in the note, which I really appreciate.

"Here's a question for you," Hugh goes on. "In a hypothetical laboratory setting, if you were forced to choose between investing in either Etsy or Amazon, what would you choose?" Hugh goes on to say, "I know you don't like binary thinking or questions, and you've taught me a lot about that [thank you very much], but hey, this is a thought exercise."

Hugh goes on, "I'm thinking Amazon, as they're a retailer but they are so much more. They're the true innovator, big-picture megalong-term player, including cloud computing, outer space, AI, drones, etc. while Etsy seems to be pretty awesome but mostly they just seem like a very good operator in a tough niche: online retail going up against Amazon, etc. Anyway, it would be good to hear what you have to say about this." Hugh goes on, "Rock 'n' roll. I'm still mad you don't have print issues but what the heck. Life goes on and I've adapted and still read their articles religiously every month and make buying decisions based on what I rad from Rule Breakers and Stock Advisor, too. Rock 'n' roll." Hugh Wade.

I love not just saying, "Hey, bud," but saying "rock 'n' roll" and then saying, "rock 'n' roll" again all in the context of asking a really thoughtful question about Amazon vs. Etsy.

First off, Hugh, thank you very much. Sorry, but our services typically are now all online as opposed to print issues. I know there are a lot of print issue fans out there, but I'm glad to know that we're still being relevant to you and helpful for you, and you've asked a really fun question.

Of course, I'd want to disclaim and say, "Own them both," and not just two stocks. You should have at least 15 in your portfolio and for a lot of people who come new to Motley Fool Stock Advisor, let's say, our goal is to get them from zero stocks, where often they start. They haven't even thought of investing in a stock directly before. They might have some funds, but investing in stocks, that sounds risky to them, so to take that person from zero stocks to 15 stocks is our biggest goal with Motley Fool Stock Advisor. At least, that's how I think about it.

But you're getting right down there and saying, "Hey, this stock vs. that one," and I love playing that game, too. And just so you know Hugh [and anybody else listening who cares about our Best Buys Now that come out in Stock Advisor and Rule Breakers every month], we look at what are five companies among our existing recommendations today. This is not a new recommendation. We say, "What are five companies that we would like and favor over the next three-plus years? Ones we've already recommended in the past that we like right now -- Best Buys Now -- not because they're going to be great for this month or this week, but if you are buying with new money now, which stocks would you buy for the next three-plus years that you might already have some of?" So that's the way a lot of people use our Best Buys Now.

The reason I'm mentioning that is because I go through the process, before picking those every month, of taking stocks and putting them up against each other, much like you're asking me to do here with Amazon and Etsy. And Hugh, the way I typically approach this is I ask myself, "Pretend you had to put all of your money in just one of these two companies."

Now, that's nothing that you have to do or ever should do but imagine if you had to put all of your money in one or another company, and let's say go off to the proverbial deserted island for 10 years. That's usually the question I'll ask myself when I try to decide between stocks for Best Buys Now.

So applying that same methodology here, Hugh, I also arrive at Amazon, because to me, if I had to put everything I had in the world in one of these two companies and walk away for 10 years, I'm going to be much more confident that Amazon is around, is relevant, and thriving.

I could easily see Etsy outperforming Amazon over the next 10 years. Etsy starts from a much smaller base. It's a sub $10 billion market cap company, an excellent player, and is doing a wonderful job creating an ecosystem. I mean, it really has buyers and sellers who love handcrafted goods, and there are even people who, in the geeky world of board gaming, you can go to Etsy and buy somebody who's made a nicer draw bag. If you have Scrabble, and you're drawing tiles, let's say, from a bag, they're just nicer bags that you can buy, so you can bling out your board games. I mean, Etsy has a lot of relevance to a lot of different people, and it's a global brand, I think.

So I think Etsy could really grow, here, over the next 10 years, but with the old "deserted island" approach, [if I] had to put it all in one or the other, that binary question you asked, Hugh, and I like the question; I would also pick Amazon for those reasons.

So, there's the answer to your question. The good news is, of course, we don't have to just buy one of them. We own them all. All of our recommendations, here, in Stock Advisor and Rule Breakers are owned by many different members and I hope you own both of them, but thanks for a fun question and an opportunity to share a little bit about how I think about making those decisions in our services.

John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. David Gardner owns shares of AMZN. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends AMZN. The Motley Fool recommends ETSY. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.