The coronavirus crisis has seen a lot of surprise winners, but few have been as big as Wayfair (NYSE:W), the online home goods seller. The stock is up over 900% since March lows.
Such returns are unheard of in normal times, but the pandemic has created some unique opportunities. Wayfair initially fell sharply in March as the company's unprofitable business model came into question. But shares quickly reversed as sales surged with consumers forced to adapt to new requirements for working at home and having their children out of school.
Like other e-commerce stocks, Wayfair now seems like it will continue to be a beneficiary from the pandemic as traffic at physical stores hasn't fully recovered and is unlikely to as long as fears of the virus persist.
Still, after the incredible rally, investors may be wondering if Wayfair is still worth buying. Let's take a closer look at what the stock has to offer today.
The current landscape
Wayfair was struggling earlier this year as the company was forced to lay off hundreds of workers on its tech team in February and expected first-quarter revenue growth to slow to just 15% to 17%. However, the coronavirus pandemic gave the company a shot in the arm, and sales have surged since March.
Revenue in the first quarter rose 20%, and active customers jumped 29% to 21.1 million. But Wayfair's momentum in the second quarter was much more impressive. The company said on the May 5 earnings call and then again at a mid-June analyst conference that revenue has trended up 90% from a year ago in the second quarter, adding roughly $2 billion in revenue.
Management also said it expected to reach profitability on an adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) basis this quarter, resolving at least for now a concern that has long dogged the company: historically operating at a loss.
Though management doesn't expect growth to remain at that level, it does see long-term benefits from the current growth bump as it increases its customer base, sees more repeat purchases, and gains market share and mind share. CEO Niraj Shah, speaking at the Oppenheimer Consumer Growth and E-Commerce Conference on June 16, said:
So I think the way to think about it is we're not necessarily expecting revenue growth to stay at 90%. But what we do expect to happen is we're expecting to keep getting more and more new customers, and we're expecting to see them become loyal customers. And that repeat behavior is fundamentally what drives our growth...We believe we just have a tremendously large long-term opportunity.
What's next for Wayfair
No one knows how long the pandemic will last, but the resurgence of cases across much of the country shows that there won't be a simple glide path to a recovery, and the changes in shopping habits that began with the stay-at-home orders are likely to persist until a vaccine is discovered or consumers feel safe visiting stores again.
Wayfair is drawing a number of benefits from the crisis, including the increased e-commerce demand, and the need for new furniture to adapt to working from home and other changes from the pandemic. Meanwhile, the crisis is also putting considerable pressure on brick-and-mortar competitors, meaning Wayfair should emerge from the pandemic in a much stronger competitive position against rivals that were already struggling before COVID-19.
Pier 1 filed for bankruptcy earlier this year and plans to close all of its stores. Tuesday Morning filed for bankruptcy weeks ago. Bed Bath and Beyond recently announced layoffs and is trying to sell its World Market and Christmas Tree Shops banners.
The longer the crisis endures the worse it will be for the brick-and-mortar channel, favoring pure-play e-commerce operators like Wayfair.
Is it a buy?
At this point, the biggest concern for Wayfair investors is the stock's valuation as the company's valued at nearly $20 billion, or roughly 2 times sales, even though it is still unprofitable. While the price tag is a concern, the tailwinds from the pandemic are significant, and many of the advantages will be sustainable as it builds up its customer base, and brick-and-mortar rivals retreat.
As the clear leader in home goods e-commerce with $9.1 billion in revenue last year, Wayfair is chasing a monster opportunity that is quickly shifting to the online channel. Last year in the U.S., home furnishings stores generated close to $120 billion in retail sales, according to the Census Bureau, and Wayfair is growing fast in international markets.
Though its lack of profitability and its valuation present some risk, the upside potential in being the fast-growing leader in a huge retail segment outweighs those risks as the company's competitive advantages just got a lot stronger. The stock could still be a multi-bagger from here.