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TheStreet Open House

Amazon and the Coming Onslaught

I believe it makes better financial sense for those seeking exposure in retail to look again at stocks like Wal-Mart, Target, Google (GOOG), eBay (EBAY) and Apple (AAPL), rather than Amazon.

For example, too much media attention has been made about Amazon's move into next-day and even same-day delivery plans. This is something that is already offered by others with a much lower earnings multiple.

Wal-Mart offers online ordering and pickup at the store; Wal-Mart's sister store, Sam' Club, even offers this service for bulk wholesale purchases. Wal-Mart also has almost ten times the sales revenue as Amazon. It is virtually impossible to imagine Amazon ever having the ability to out-negotiate vendors for product pricing over Wal-Mart. If Amazon doesn't have a product price advantage, what do they really have over Wal-Mart?

Demonstrating another advantage over Amazon is Target, which allows customers to return online purchases to their local Target store. Target is also much larger than Amazon by total revenue. In the physical product marketplace, both Wal-Mart and Target sell more than Amazon. Wal-Mart and Target also sell at higher gross margins than Amazon.

In the digital world, Amazon is under a total assault by Google, eBay, and Apple. Investors should anticipate other entrants not currently in the space. For example, Facebook may ascertain an opportunity in "renting" virtual mall space, not unlike Amazon's merchant program.

Anything sold in the virtual world is no further than two mouse clicks away from another site selling the same product. Google is actively working to promote shopping comparisons and has a payment system in place.

Additionally, the book/eBook market Amazon has so successfully dominated is already showing signs of cracks. Apple is selling greater quantities of eBooks and undercuts Amazon in pricing for many of them. eBooks now outsell physical copies and anyone with a website can sell an eBook.

With such a low barrier to entry, it's just a matter of time before selling eBooks at the retail level is a loss leader to bring customers to the site. This is not unlike how gas stations operate, except when you only offer digital products, you have no pricing power.

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