E-commerce stocks plummet as consumers pull back online spending

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Shoppers are eager to head back to brick-and-mortar stores, while inflation is stoking fears that consumers are pulling back their spending on some items to still afford the essentials.

That combination spells bad news for many e-commerce-focused retailers, and their stocks tumbled amid a broader market sell-off Thursday as investors feared their growth could be screeching to a halt and profits could be harder to come by.

Wayfair‘s stock dropped more than 20%, touching a fresh 52-week low, after the online furniture retailer reported wider-than-expected losses in the first quarter and logged fewer active customers.

Wayfair Chief Executive Officer Niraj Shah told analysts on a conference call Thursday morning that the “typical seasonal pattern of gradually building demand” that the business is used to tracking has been transpiring in a more “muted” fashion.

He also said he has noticed more shoppers are devoting a larger share of their wallets to nondiscretionary categories and “reprioritizing experiences like travel.”

Read more: Surging prices force consumers to ask: Can I live without it?

Etsy shares tumbled 16% on the heels of the online marketplace issuing disappointing guidance for the second quarter. Shopify stock fell nearly 17% after it forecast that revenue growth would be lower in the first half of the year, as it navigates tough Covid pandemic-era comparisons.

Poshmark, an online site for shopping secondhand, saw its shares fall about 15% around noon ET. Thursday. Shares of The RealReal and Farfetch fell around 12%, while those of Warby Parker, ThredUp, Peloton and Revolve each dropped about 10%.

“Investor appetite for high growth, negative EBITDA (and free cash flow) pandemic winners is very low,” Wells Fargo analyst Zachary Fadem said in a note to clients.

In a report issued Thursday morning, Mastercard SpendingPulse said total retail sales in the United States, excluding sales of autos, grew 7.2% from the prior year. Within that, e-commerce transactions dropped 1.8%, while in-store sales rose 10%, it said.

Read more: Nasdaq drops as tech experiences brutal selloff

A week ago, e-commerce behemoth Amazon set the tone for waning momentum and downbeat outlooks. The company logged the slowest revenue growth since the dot-com bust in 2001 and issued a bleak forecast, attributing much of the slowdown to macroeconomic conditions and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

On Thursday, Amazon shares were down about 7%.

Gordon Haskett analyst Chuck Grom wrote in a note to clients that he continues to collect evidence that consumers are just beginning to push back on rising prices, “which will soon be a potential conundrum for the retail space.”

A number of these companies — including Peloton, Poshmark, Thredup and Allbirds — are set to report quarterly results next week. Analysts and investors will be looking closely for any signs of a spending pullback.

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