The retail sales report for November, published this past Thursday, offered good news for Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) all around. First of all, it showed that the economy is gaining traction, as evidenced by the overall sales growth both on a monthly and yearly basis. Secondly, it indicated that online sales continue to gain market share. Finally, the American consumer remains frugal, however, the more comfortable she is with spending generally. That's good news for Amazon.com all around, and three good reasons to favor the shares today.
Retail sales increased 0.7% in November, even after seasonal adjustment. When excluding automobile and gasoline sales, which can strongly influence overall change and may not reflect general sales activity, sales still increased by 0.6%. Growth was strong in comparison to the prior year period as well, with sales ex-auto and gasoline up 4.6% year-over-year. This is good news for the retail sector and reflects economic improvement. Though, some traders may have viewed it as unfortunate, as it also justifies Fed tapering in my opinion, and the end to easy money.
Traction in overall retail sales offers an excellent signal for Amazon.com investors as well, given the retailer's importance to American consumers. Amazon.com, despite its lack of brick and mortar retail outlets, is a serious competitor for global consumer spending. That is due to the ease of online shopping and the lower cost model Amazon.com presents, which translates into relatively low priced goods.
The importance of the retailer's presence online is undeniable, and online sales continue to take market share from brick and mortar stores. The nonstore retail segment, which is driven by sales online, while also including the activity of catalog retailers, saw an outsized sales increase of 2.2% in November and a 9.4% year-over-year improvement. The better growth for the segment illustrates the growing piece of the retail pie going to online sellers. The segment, which is dominated by Amazon.com and players like eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), also includes specialty players like Blue Nile (NASDAQ:NILE), important brick and mortar participants like Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) and special discounters like Overstock.com (NASDAQ:OSTK) among many others.
The sales of Amazon.com are typically for goods at relatively lower prices versus brick and mortar and even its online competition. Against brick and mortar sellers, Amazon's lower cost structure enables it to make money at sales levels where others would go bankrupt. Against other smaller online sellers, Amazon's size allows it to buy in bulk and advantage from economies of scale, and again sell items at prices that would sink even online rivals. As the low cost seller, Amazon appeals to a still frugal American consumer. Economic conditions are improved, but few would contest that the economy still operates at far less than optimal capacity. Far too many Americans have gone from the unemployment line to the welfare line, and far too many are working part-time who would prefer full-time employment. And while unemployment is improved, it is still sub-optimal at 7.0%.
Amazon.com, while solely focused on web sales, is able to maintain a low cost structure. Amazon.com has operated under extremely tight margins while it has targeted market share and brand recognition. The company's tight profit margins have been a topic of concern for some investors, who would like to see more economic value added business operations. However, the equity valuation of Amazon.com, which is astronomical at 144X the analysts' consensus EPS estimate of $2.67 for 2014, reflects investor favor of the business strategy and anticipation for future economic value creation from its burgeoning brand presence and product expansion. For instance, it was Amazon.com's important presence in book sales that allowed it to introduce its hot Kindle book reader and Kindle Fire tablet. The razor and blade model allows the company to continue to make money after sales of its hardware through downloads of books. It's just one example of the power of the company's brand and its capital creation.
In conclusion, we see that November's retail sales report offers three very important reasons to favor AMZN shares today. First, overall sales reflect well for important retailers like Wal-Mart and Amazon.com. Second, the increasing presence of the nonstore segment continued through November, and that trend clearly favors online leader Amazon.com. Finally, Americans remain frugal under still difficult economic conditions. Such a situation also favors discount retailers like Amazon.com. Therefore, for three very good reasons, and despite its valuation, we see reason in November's retail sales data to favor Amazon.com today.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.