Cheap stocks haven't been easy to find this year.
Every major stock index is trading near all-time highs, even as earnings have generally imploded during the pandemic. The price-to-earnings ratio for the S&P 500 has risen to more than 37 from just above 20 at the start of the year, and valuations are stretched in a number of other ways as well.
That may be doubly true for e-commerce stocks. Many online retailers and other stocks with exposure to e-commerce have skyrocketed this year, drawing a tailwind from the pandemic. However, while most e-commerce stocks have gotten pricier this year, there are still some bargains available on the market.
1. Carparts.com: Disrupting the auto parts sector
Carparts.com has finally gotten some investor attention after years of toiling in obscurity. The stock has jumped nearly 500% this year as sales have soared with the help of the pandemic, which has shifted retail demand from offline to online channels.
In the third quarter, Carparts.com saw revenue jump 69% to $117.4 million as e-commerce sales more than doubled in the period. Additionally, gross profit more than doubled as the company benefited from favorable changes in product and channel mix, as well as efficiencies in its logistics operations.
You might think that after the stock's surge this year shares would be expensive, but the stock still looks cheap compared to most e-commerce stocks, trading at a price-to-sales ratio of just 1.4. By contrast, Amazon, the dominant e-commerce stock, trades at a P/S ratio of 4.8, and the stock is even cheaper than those of brick-and-mortar peers like Auto Zone and O'Reilly Automotive.
The company, which was formerly called U.S. Auto Parts, has been mostly ignored by investors as growth has historically been sluggish. But new management took over last year and accelerated the company's focus on e-commerce, made improvements to technology and other operations, and opened a new distribution center in Texas as part of an expansion that will add two more distribution centers, with a goal of achieving one-day delivery for 90% of the U.S. population.
Additionally, Carparts.com looks primed for continued growth in 2021 as the pandemic continues and car parts sales rise following the recession -- Americans will likely delay new car purchases, and spend money on repairs instead.
2. Williams-Sonoma: A smart omnichannel option
In recent years, some of the fastest e-commerce growth has come from brick-and-mortar retailers as omnichannel execution has become increasingly important for physical retailers to succeed. And arguably no retailer has done a better job of this than Williams-Sonoma, the upscale home furnishings retailer that's excelled during the pandemic.
The retailer, which also owns West Elm and Pottery Barn, has delivered strong results this year, largely because of the strength of its online channel. Though store traffic has fallen, online sales have more than picked up the slack, and e-commerce made up nearly 70% of sales in the third quarter. Comparable sales in the period jumped 24%, driven by 49% e-commerce growth even as in-store sales were negative.
That strength and elevated demand helped drive Williams-Sonoma's adjusted earnings per share up from $1.02 to $2.56 in the third quarter. Despite that standout performance, Williams-Sonoma stock trades at a P/S ratio of 1.3. Compare that to online leader Wayfair's P/S ratio of 1.9, even though Williams-Sonoma is much more profitable than Wayfair. On a P/E basis, Williams-Sonoma trades at a multiple of just 15, while Wayfair's P/E is in the triple digits.
If you're looking for a highly profitable, bargain-priced e-commerce stock, Williams-Sonoma looks like a great choice.
3. JD.com: A Chinese juggernaut
Chinese stocks generally trade at a discount to their American counterparts. Investors are fearful of the whims of the ruling Chinese Communist Party -- which just announced an antitrust investigation into Alibaba -- as well as trade tensions between the U.S. and China, which recently led Congress to threaten to delist Chinese companies from U.S. exchanges if they didn't comply with U.S. accounting standards.
However, that doesn't seem like an adequate reason for JD.com's current valuation. On a price-to-sales ratio basis, it's valued at just 1.3 and is trading at a P/E of 35 based on 2021 earnings estimates.
JD.com is China's biggest direct online retailer, and it's establishing competitive advantages through an unrivaled logistics network that includes more than 500 warehouses and an autonomous vehicle rollout that recently began. The company also saw strong growth in areas like its online pharmacy and grocery delivery during the pandemic, which should have a long runway for growth given that those are huge markets.
In its third quarter, revenue jumped 29% to $25.7 billion, and adjusted operating margin improved from 2.2% to 3%. As the company's business shifts to higher-margin services like logistics and its marketplace, and high-frequency purchases like groceries, margins should continue to move higher.
Even after the stock nearly doubled this year, it should have more gains in store.