Amazon spread its reach further into the retail industry on Friday when it announced its jaw-dropping acquisition of Whole Foods for $13.7 billion.
The market's instant reaction — Amazon's shares rallied while those of its competitors tumbled — sent a clear message: Investors are bullish on Amazon's success in the delicate business of fresh-food delivery, and they're worried about its effect on established grocers like Target and Walmart.
But at least seven retail companies' stocks are "un-Amazon-able," according to a note on Monday from Oliver Chen, a senior equity research analyst at Cowen:
"Taking a step back in the sector at large, we continue to believe investors will have more defense vs. AMZN's domination if they follow our Super Stock theory — we think deep value companies or luxury goods companies are more Un-Amazon-Able and less vulnerable to share losses vs. Amazon.
"In our view, Un-Amazon-Able qualities include at Super-Value retailers Costco, Walmart, Ross Stores, TJX or extreme brand, store and vertical integration focus at Super-Premium luxury stocks (Tiffany, LVMH, Sotheby's)."
Americans gravitated toward discount retailers like Ross Stores during the recession, and those companies still benefit from an aversion to full-price items. Meanwhile, Amazon's issues with counterfeit goods make luxury a tough market to crack, Digiday reported.
Chen and his team focused mainly on Amazon's effect on Costco in their note. They reiterated their outperform rating on the wholesale retailer because of its deep vertical integration — its strong relationship with farmers down the production chain that would be hard to replicate in a cost-effective way.
"$4.99 rotisserie chicken and a $1.50 hot dog meals are symbolic but indicative of a low-price and high-quality strategy which generates consistent global growth and price leadership in the industry," Chen said.
"Price leadership is a competitive advantage and important way to draw new and existing customers, and perhaps COST does not really even need the digital bells and whistles if it can just offer the cheapest and best goods, services, and gas in the marketplace," he added.
These low prices are also possible because Costco owns some of its production facilities, Cowen said, such as a meat-processing plant, a hot-dog factory, and an optical grinding factory for eyeglasses.
Chen said it was unlikely another big retail company would steal away Whole Foods from Amazon with a higher bid. He wrote that Costco would most likely stick to its strategy instead of putting down a higher offer and that Target was not large enough to easily bid.
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