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Feb 17, 2021

Shopify warns revenue growth will slow in 2021

Shopify growth path expected to slow


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​Canadian e-commerce firm Shopify Inc. says it will take advantage of “unprecedented opportunities” in 2021 to speed up innovation and expand into new markets, but warned that its growth rate will slow.

Revenue will grow “rapidly” this year but not as quickly as in 2020, when it increased 86 per cent to US$2.93 billion, the company said Wednesday. It didn’t give specific guidance on earnings for the current year. The arrival of vaccines could see some consumer spending rotate back to bricks-and-mortar retailers, Ottawa-based Shopify said.

Shopify fell 6.5 per cent to US$1,377.86 at 9:50 a.m. in New York trading.

Revenue in the fourth quarter was US$978 million, soaring past analysts’ forecasts for US$910 million, propelled by a boom in online shopping during the global pandemic. The company said it plans to reinvest gross profits “back into our business as aggressively as we can.”

Shopify is investing in product marketing and in-country sales teams in countries where it already has a good foothold, President Harley Finkelstein said on a conference call, but intends to take a “meticulous and very strategic approach” to international expansion.

“Some other countries that we have on our radar, we don’t think it’s the right time to go really deep. That will happen in the future,” he said.

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Gross merchandise value -- the broadest measure of product sales flowing through Shopify’s platform -- was US$41.1 billion in the fourth quarter, up 99 per cent from the same quarter a year earlier, helped by soaring demand for online shopping during the global pandemic. Full-year GMV was US$119.6 billion.

“I think you have some profit-taking and I think investor expectations were very, very high,” Jefferies analyst Samad Samana said of the share decline. On the earnings, Samana said: “We view it as a capstone to an incredible 2020, a year in which they saw growth that nobody could have anticipated.”

Shopify will spend money to improve its software platform and develop its payments, shipping, capital and Shopify Plus products, the company said in a presentation to investors.

Other highlights in the earnings report:

  • The company posted fourth quarter adjusted earnings of US$1.58 per share that beat analyst estimates of US$1.21 per share.
  • Revenue of US$977.7 million was nearly double the US$505.2 million a year earlier.
  • Shopify expects the first quarter of 2021 to contribute the smallest share of this year’s sales and Q4 the largest.

Retailers from from Under Armour Inc. to Coach parent Tapestry Inc. have seen continuing strength in online sales as the pandemic lingers. That said, bricks-and-mortar retailers are still hoping for a recovery in 2021 as vaccination efforts gain momentum

Some analysts have questioned whether Shopify’s growth trajectory is sustainable. However, big Wall Street names continue to pump billions of dollars into online retailers.

Since it was founded in 2004, Shopify has expanded from a core software business, helping businesses get online quickly, to providing an array of services to companies including payments, lending, and shipping.