I believe the market is underestimating the deteriorating underlying business trends, the impact of the secular shift of physical media to digital media along with the competition risk from Apple and Google, and the weak positioning of Amazon’s hardware tablet strategy.
Uneconomic Revenue Goosed by Free Shipping Subsidization
The bull case for Amazon has always been it will continue to grow at rapid rates for the next 3-5 years and if you put some decent operating margin on the out year, you will get fantastic earnings power. However the problem with this argument is the wheels are starting to fall off the wagon.
Back in the dot.com bubble there was a company called Kozmo.com that offered free 1 hour shipping of array of small goods like books, videos, magazines, etc. To my amazement, I tried the service and ordered a pack of gum. Within an hour someone was at my door to deliver it. The company reported amazing revenue growth. Obviously investors should have discounted that sales growth as it was an “uneconomic” business model.
Amazon is doing a similar thing by subsidizing free shipping. Anecdotally I am hearing customers who have Amazon Prime feel compelled to order small items to take advantage of the free 2-day shipping benefit. They are ordering batteries, Listerine (Link), toilet paper, water bottles, etc. all with free 2-day shipping, which is goosing Amazon’s revenue