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A Scary E-Commerce Earnings Season for Companies Not Named 'Amazon'

The companies orbiting the commerce giant are not going to have pretty Q4 reports, most likely.

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Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Twenty years into its life, and coming off great third-quarter results, one holiday quarter likely won’t make or break Amazon.

But the earnings season that is about to start is a lot more critical for several other public companies in e-commerce and traditional retail. Here’s a look at the situation with a few of them.


Etsy’s short life as a public company has been brutal. The company’s stock is down 75 percent since it closed its first day of trading in April at $30 a share. Etsy faces several big challenges, including Amazon’s fall launch of Handmade by Amazon, a subsection of the giant e-commerce marketplace that is a direct competitor.

Etsy is also trying to navigate the transition from desktop shopping to mobile shopping. Etsy’s customers are flocking to phones and tablets, but not making purchases on mobile devices at the same clip as on their regular website. At an investor conference in November, CFO Kristina Salen compared the company’s transition to mobile to the one Facebook faced years ago as a new public company.

“We’re not as dire as that situation … and I’m not promising the type of tremendous execution and rebound that Facebook experienced,” she said. “But it’s a similar situation.”

We’ll see how much progress the company is making when it reports earnings in the next month; it hasn’t yet announced the date.


This holiday season was eBay’s first following the spinoff of its faster-growing PayPal payments unit, so the stakes are a little higher than usual. The gist of eBay’s current situation: The company is still a cash cow, but revenue has been growing much more slowly than that of the overall e-commerce industry as Amazon eats up more market share and startups try to carve out pieces of eBay’s business.

At least one third-party report suggests that the slow growth trend continued in the fourth quarter. ChannelAdvisor, a company that helps businesses sell products on eBay and Amazon, said its customers saw growth of 5 percent on eBay during the holidays; eBay reports earnings Wednesday afternoon.


Groupon’s stock hasn’t recovered from the 25 percent nose dive it took following its third-quarter earnings report, when the struggling deals company announced a new CEO along with weak fourth-quarter guidance and plans to spend at least $150 million more on marketing in 2016 than had previously been anticipated.

Expectations are already low for the fourth quarter, so new CEO Rich Williams won’t have a lot of wiggle room if Groupon doesn’t hit the numbers analysts are expecting when the company unveils its financials on Feb. 11. And at less than $3 a share, things will get real ugly real fast if it doesn’t.

Brick-And-Mortar Retailers

Before the fourth quarter was even over, traditional retailers were sounding the alarm about the negative impact that the unseasonably warm holiday season in the Eastern U.S. would have on their businesses. And you can expect to hear more of that from big-box retailers and department stores that rely a lot on apparel sales.

In fact, one plugged-in industry insider told me he believes the quarter will be worse than most people expect for clothing retailers.

“I don’t think it’s going to be 2007,” he said, “but not a pretty year.”

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