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Shopify Drops as Revenue Outlook Misses Analysts’ Forecast

The Shopify App.
Shopify drops as revenue outlook misses analysts’ forecast. (Shutterstock)

Shopify Inc. tumbled in after-hours trading after giving a sales outlook for the start of the year that fell short of analysts’ estimates, a sign that it face an uneven recovery from last year’s rout.

The Ottawa-based company said it expects first quarter revenue growth in the “high teen percentages” over last year, slightly below forecasts for 20 percent growth, according to a Bloomberg survey. Shopify said operating costs should grow in the low single digits compared with the fourth quarter, excluding one-time charges. The shares were down more than 11 percent in extended trading at 6:08 p.m. in New York.

Chief executive officer Tobias Lütke is working to recover from a misplaced bet that the pandemic-fueled surge in online shopping would become permanent. Though he’s cut jobs, raised prices and expanded offerings to merchants, the stock is a long way from a full recovery after losing about three-quarters of its value last year.

The company’s new outlook “suggests a slowdown in transaction volume,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Anurag Rana said in a note. “Given that the outlook includes pricing changes that took place on Jan. 24, it appears that management is assuming a deceleration in economic activity.”

New Chief Financial Officer Jeff Hoffmeister implemented price increases for new merchants in January and existing ones three months later. Wall Street mostly welcomed the change, even as consumers face inflation pressures and a rocky economic backdrop. Hoffmeister told analysts on a conference call that the company will be careful about costs, but still plans to invest where needed.

Shopify, which provides software and other services that underpin the websites of many small businesses, grew dramatically during the early stages of the pandemic, with sales rising 86% in 2020.

The company cut about 1,000 jobs last July, making it an early mover in a wave of reductions that continue to roil the tech industry. It’s since introduced new measures to improve services for its small-business customers, build out offerings for larger customers while spending for growth in delivery.

Shopify rolled out new marketing, sales, and hardware tools to help merchants attract more buyers. “Our platform and solutions enable our merchants to stay ahead of the dynamically changing commerce landscape,” Harley Finkelstein, Shopify president, said in a statement. “Despite persistent macroeconomic challenges, they continued to succeed on Shopify.”

The disappointing outlook came alongside a report that revenue in the fourth quarter was $1.73 billion, topping the $1.65 billion estimate. Gross merchandise volume, the value of merchant sales flowing through Shopify’s platform, was $61 billion compared with analyst estimates for $59.2 billion. The company said Black Friday sales rose 19% last year from 2021 to a record $7.5 billion.

The company reported earnings of 7 cents per share on an adjusted basis, compared with forecasts of a 2 cent loss.

Learn more:

Inside the Battle to Run Fashion’s E-Commerce

Shopify, Farfetch and other tech companies are vying for the multi-billion-dollar opportunity to handle the backend of brands’ online stores.

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