E-commerce is having a moment.
With stores shut down across the U.S. since mid-March due to the pandemic, online retail has soared and e-commerce stocks have popped along with it. Americans and consumers around the world are shopping online like never before, and the online channel has served as a lifeline for struggling brick-and-mortar retailers. Like other pandemic-related trends, the shift to e-commerce is likely to be sticky as e-commerce has a number of built-in advantages over traditional retail. Not only does the online channel offer greater convenience, but during a time of social distancing, consumers don't have to worry about the risk of getting the virus or hassles like wearing a mask. And as companies invest even more resources in e-commerce, online shopping will only get easier and more convenient.
Etsy: A unique and adaptable platform
Etsy is unique in the retail space as a marketplace for artisan-made goods. Like an online flea market, Etsy creators sell everything from jewelry to clothes to home decor to customizable products like wedding invitations. Amazon launched its own copycat platform years ago, Handmade, but it's since become clear that Etsy dominates this space, and Amazon has bigger areas to focus on.
The COVID-19 pandemic has tested Etsy like few things before it, but the company has adapted surprisingly well. In its first quarter, encompassing January-March, revenue rose 34.7% to $228.1 million, while gross merchandise sales, or the total value of goods sold on the platform, rose 32.2% to $1.35 billion.
What was more impressive, however, is that sales are surging in the second quarter. Etsy sellers have pivoted to selling masks in order to meet soaring demand for face coverings, and the company saw sales on its marketplace more than double in April. It also guided revenue up 70%-90% in the second quarter.
The crafty marketplace has also benefited from an influx of new sellers as the newly unemployed and others stuck at home look to supplement their incomes by opening an Etsy store.
There's still a lot of uncertainty around the pandemic, but Etsy should benefit from pressure on brick-and-mortar retailers, and continued interest from both buyers and sellers, which will grow the size of its network and therefore increase its competitive advantage. As e-commerce takes more share of overall retail over the long term, Etsy, with its unique niche, will be a winner.
Sea Limited: Blockbuster growth from abroad
With the U.S. economy still facing challenges from the coronavirus pandemic and social unrest roiling the country, there's still plenty of uncertainty facing U.S. stocks, so it makes sense for investors to diversify with international stocks. Sea Limited offers one such appealing option.
The company operates primarily in Southeast Asia and also Latin America, providing digital entertainment like games, e-commerce, and digital payments. Sales have been booming. The company launched its e-commerce platform, Shopee, in 2015, and it has grown exponentially from $47.4 million in sales in 2017 to $822.7 million last year. Shopee is based around a social-focused marketplace, similar to the model that has driven skyrocketing growth at Pinduoduo, a Chinese social commerce growth platform.
Sea's collection of businesses -- online gaming, e-commerce, and digital payments -- is particularly well-suited to the coronavirus era as they enable things traditionally done offline to be done online. In the first quarter, adjusted revenue grew 57.9% to $913.9 million, and its e-commerce division saw revenue jump 110.5% to $314 million. It also topped $1 billion in total payments on Sea Money, its mobile payment platform.
Sea Limited is still unprofitable, as it spends heavily on sales and marketing and its e-commerce business still has a slight negative gross margin. However, the company's huge top-line growth, tailwinds from the coronavirus pandemic, and opportunities for expansion should help the stock grow over time. Shares are up more than 400% since its 2017 IPO.
Prologis: A pick-and-shovels approach to e-commerce
E-commerce isn't just companies selling stuff online. Someone needs to make sure all those items can be stored somewhere and get where they're going. This is where Prologis comes in.
Prologis is a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) and the global leader in logistics real estate, or providing warehouses for e-commerce and business-to-business logistics. The company operates in 19 countries and has 965 million square feet of storage space. Among its biggest customers are Amazon, Home Depot, FedEx, and UPS.
With the e-commerce boom that's come out of the pandemic, e-commerce logistics is at a premium. FedEx and UPS have both recently added surcharges due to the spike in demand from the coronavirus, and warehouses are seeing a similar uptick in demand.
In the first quarter, revenue rose 27% to $978 million, and earnings per share was also up 27%, boosted by its acquisition of Liberty Property Trust, which closed in February.
Management said in the recent earnings call that the pandemic had a mixed effect on its customers, but it believed it would accelerate the transition to e-commerce over the long term, increasing demand for logistics real estate. Prologis shares have quadrupled over the last ten years as e-commerce has grown, and it looks poised for continuing gains due to the long-term effects of the pandemic and the shift to online retail.