WalMart and Best Buy both lowered their profit expectations for the second quarter and full year earlier this week, raising alarm bells across the retail sector that inflation is impacting consumer spending.
Walmart’s announcement prompted shares of Amazon, Target, and Macy’s to fall on fears they would face similar headwinds. But on Thursday, Amazon executives argued that the e-commerce giant had not seen the kinds of inflationary impacts on prices that were hitting other retailers.
Yesterday during a press call, Brian Olsavsky, Amazon’s CFO, was asked about inflation’s affect on the company’s consumers. Olsavsky said, “We have not seen anything yet, but demand grew during the first quarter, and we had a very good June.” After a period of stress from an epidemic-related flurry of online orders, Amazon made progress on getting products back in stock and delivery speeds are largely back to normal, Olsavsky said. The consumer noticed the improvement, and as a result, bought more stuff during the quarter.
Even though inflation-weary consumers didn’t curb their spending, Amazon’s e-commerce business didn’t recover. The number of shoppers returning to physical stores led to a slowdown in e-commerce activity after it reached a pandemic high. Online sales declined 4% year over year.
The events to come in the next few months are positive according to Amazon. Amazon reports sales of $125 billion to $130 billion in the current quarter, representing a 13% to 17% growth rate. The prediction of experts puts the sale at $126.4 billion, according to Refinitiv. The success of that venture, in conjunction with reports of greater than expected profits, sent the company’s stock up more than 13% in the evening.
Walmart’s major competitor Amazon has a significant advantage over them.
On Monday, the big-box retailer admitted that consumers who can’t afford food or gas are forced to cut their spending, so they purchase things like food and less clothing and electronics. The result was that high ticket items started piling up on shelves. This led to Walmart discounting a large number of unwanted items which negatively impacted their profitability.
A greater mix of middle- and upper-income consumers bolsters Amazon, while Walmart is “heavily driven” by its lower-income customers, whose purchasing decisions are more susceptible to inflation, according to Andrew Lipsman, principal analyst at eMarketer. Lipsman said, Walmart is at this moment much more resistant to the changes in the inflation rate and will have more of an impact.
Analyst Tom Forte at D.A. Davidson agreed. I think Amazon appeals to the more well-off shopper, Forte says, and thinks this appeal is the key to the company’s outperformance of Wal-Mart.
Also, Amazon has more than 200 million members who are primed to buy. Amazon Prime subscribers spend more and order more frequently than non-subscribers, according to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.
Amazon said Prime members do not appear to be canceling their memberships to reduce costs in the face of inflation.
“We are pleased with the level of membership and retention in our Prime program,” Olsavsky said. “It was better than we had expected.”.