Amazon, Priced for Perfection and Beyond

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- All companies have a target on their back. Even when the target occasionally falls off, competition is always just around the corner. Amazon's ( AMZN ) target became a little bigger and closer recently.

Selecting a consumer-driven company is never an easy task. Add a downturn in the economy and increased competitor price pressure, and selecting the winners from the losers becomes even more daunting.

The macroeconomic environment may not be the most important pivotal point, but will likely be the catalyst for a much lower-priced Amazon stock. Our current standard of living is higher than it should be. It's an undeniable fact, that our lifestyle is supported in part by borrowing money.

Real Money's Carolyn Boroden wrote "Stalking Amazon" on Real Money Pro -- If you don't have an account, here is a link to get one .

American households have figured out it's not a lot of fun when the music stops, and there aren't enough chairs to go around. Washington hasn't figured this out (they never will until forced).

I believe we will face the ramifications sooner rather than later. Once austerity does kick in, you can count on a GDP slowdown. It may be relatively small or high; nevertheless the piper will demand -- it's only a matter of when. Austerity will cause retail to slow down, leaving retailers to fight over fewer consumer dollars in the economy.

Other major companies compete in the retail space; both clicks and bricks are aggressively defending their market share, as well as seeking ways to exploit vulnerabilities in Amazon. For example, take the largest retail company in the world Walmart ( WMT) and recent announcements in strategy.

Walmart has taken online ordering to the next level with same-day delivery. This is currently in test markets and we can expect it to expand as logistics issues are streamlined. As consumers increasingly acclimatize purchasing online from Walmart, Amazon's rapid market share growth prospects fade quickly.

Walmart's price-to-earnings ratio is a modest 15, vs. Amazon's oxygen mask required 200+. While Walmart is a massive problem for Amazon, they are not alone.

A good friend of mine, TheStreet's Richard Saintvilus wrote a must-read Can Amazon Keep Defying Gravity? Richard and I don't always agree, but he always brings food for thought to the table.

In the words of Steve jobs, Best Buy ( BBY) is declaring thermonuclear war on Amazon this holiday season. Best Buy has publicly declared they will match Amazon's pricing. No easy task considering Amazon margins are brutally low, and Best Buy is more or less writing this holiday off.

Best Buy hopes to end the consumer's psychological bias that Amazon sells the same products for much less. I don't even think Best Buy needs to price match. If they bring it within 2% or less, most consumers won't take a chance and just buy the one in their hand. Of course, that will not chance perception like a full price match will.

Best Buy has its work cut out, but the holiday shopping season is very forgiving, especially if you have the product in stock and ready to walk out the door. The real point is Best Buy will place another chink in the armor of Amazon.

The holiday shopping season for Amazon, like most consumer retailers, is what drives profitability for the entire year. (Amazon is expected to post third-quarter earnings results on Oct. 25. The consensus estimate is for a loss of 8 cents a share.)

TheStreet's Rocco Pendola doesn't share my gloom and doom outlook for Amazon. Rocco and I talk about options almost daily, but a difference in opinion is a good thing and it's what makes a market.

Amazon is a great company, and they have a large part of the Internet locked up. The problem facing investors is that, like a plane crash, even if the odds are small, sooner or later an event will happen.

If Walmart's sales drop 5%, the stock may fall 15% to 20%, and it would certainly cause portfolio pain. If Amazon's sales drop 5% expectantly, and greater competition is cited as the catalyst, Amazon's shares may drop 50% to 60%. At least half the price paid for Amazon is from a relative earnings and sales growth.

Retail has its ups and downs. Using the "greater fool theory" works great until it doesn't. Then the crying begins.

Walmart offers online growth exposure without requiring the thick stomach lining each earnings quarter Amazon requires. Best Buy? I am not ready to buy that one yet in front of price matching and all-out war against Amazon. I like Wamart on dips of three or more down days.

At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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