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Fulfillment could be a game-changer or a big flop for SHOP stock

Shopify (NYSE:SHOP) stock is down 20% in the past month. SHOP stock slid from $389.70 at the open on Sept. 3 to $310.36 at the close on Oct. 2.

Prior to that, SHOP stock had been rallying tremendously. SHOP stock nearly tripled in value from January to August. As a result, the shares reached a frothy valuation.

As I wrote in my July column, “Short term, SHOP stock is a sell. A massive pullback could signal a buying opportunity to place a bet on SHOP’s future prospects. But until then, investors should be cautious before chasing this growth story.”

I was a little early. The shares went up another 27% before starting their retreat back down to the $300 price level.

While I believe SHOP remains overvalued, I can see the stock treading water or rallying higher.

But here’s why I’m on the sidelines with Shopify stock:

Will SHOP’s Fulfillment Push Move the Needle?
SHOP is rapidly moving into fulfillment.The company believes that will help it compete more effectively with Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN). But fulfillment is not a slam-dunk. The fulfillment industry is a low-margin business. Since it also has high startup costs, SHOP could lose big if this bet doesn’t pay off. Considering the company has yet to generate a profit from its core business, it could be getting in over its head.

In tandem with this fulfillment push, Shopify is acquiring 6 River Systems. 6 Rivers provides automation solutions for warehouse/fulfillment operations. The analyst community is positive on this deal. Canaccord’s David Hynes believes the acquisition can jump-start SHOP’s fulfillment strategy. He remains bullish on Shopify stock, setting a $385 price target on the name.

Jeffries‘ Samad Samana believes another strength of the deal is that it brings two former Amazon execs into the fold. But Samana remains cautious, rating the stock a “hold.” Piper Jaffray’s Michael Olson is also positive on the acquisition, but remains “neutral” on Shopify stock, due to its valuation.

Shopify’s move into fulfillment has its pros and cons. But weighing catalysts against risks, I think SHOP stock remains highly overvalued. Let’s take a closer look at the current valuation of Shopify stock.

Even After Its Dip, Shopify Stock Remains Overvalued
Even compared to other growth stocks, SHOP is overvalued. Shopify’s trailing enterprise value/sales (EV/Sales) ratio is 26.2. Here are the 12-month trailing EV/Sales ratios for some of Shopify’s peers:

Amazon: EV/Sales of 3.5

Etsy (NASDAQ:ETSY): EV/Sales ratio of 8.9

PayPal Holdings (NASDAQ:PYPL): EV/Sales ratio of 6.9

Square (NYSE:SQ): EV/Sales ratio of 6.5

Wix (NASDAQ:WIX): EV/Sales ratio of 8.1

Perhaps comparing Shopify stock to AMZN, PYPL, and SQ is not an apples-to-apples contrast. But even among e-commerce platforms, Shopify’s valuation is high. InvestorPlace columnist Mark Hake touched on this in a recent article. He pointed out that Shopify stock trades at a substantial premium to ETSY and WIX, even when comparing their forward sales.

For the fiscal year that will end in December 2020, analysts, on average, estimate that Shopify’s sales will be $2.06 billion. Based on its current enterprise value of $33.9 billion, SHOP trades at a forward EV/Sales ratio of 16.4. ETSY and WIX have forward EV/Sales ratios of 6.3 and 5.8, respectively.

But SHOP continues to fly high in terms of growth. As its last quarterly results showed, its revenue continues to grow at a significant clip. The growth of e-commerce is definitely not over. But does it seem smart to buy SHOP stock now, when the company is entering the costly fulfillment business?

The same thing could have been said about Amazon back in the mid-2000s. Back then, there was no guarantee that AMZN could parlay its success as a bookseller into a global retail juggernaut. Only time will tell if SHOP will achieve the same success.

The Bottom Line on Shopify Stock: Its Future Is Uncertain
Shopify’s core software-as-a-service business is solid. Its competitive moat will enable it to sustain high growth, as its customers accelerate their pivot from bricks-and-mortar to e-commerce. But SHOP stock is not a buy at any price. At its current valuation, Sjopify stock seems frothy. Add in the new fulfillment build-out, and its future profitability continues to be uncertain.

All bets are off with SHOP. The company’s next quarterly results are due to be released in November. If the company can continue to generate 30%+ revenue growth, investors could dive into SHOP stock again.

But buying SHOP today could be a costly bet. The best strategy for investors is to remain on the sidelines. Once the anticipated recession occurs, Shopify could be a screaming buy. Even if its growth is challenged in a tough economy, the company’s long-term prospects may make it a compelling opportunity.

SOURCE: https://investorplace.com

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