What a week. It’s now crystal clear just how badly the global supply shortages—both in chips and a broader range of consumer goods—are rippling through consumer-focused tech companies, most notably Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Snap. That sets the scene for an ugly fourth quarter, as all four companies have warned that conditions will worsen. The downdraft could last well into 2022, given speculation that some of these shortages will last for quite a while. In short, the growth story of consumer tech is on pause.
Take Amazon, whose stock dropped 2% today, leaving the stock up just 3.5% for the year. Of the big tech firms, Amazon is the most directly exposed to shortages of consumer goods and labor, which translated to the retail business losing money in the third quarter. Operating losses of $911 million from Amazon’s international operations offset an operating profit of $880 million from the North American side. If not for Amazon Web Services, Amazon as a whole would have lost money. Given that Amazon generated $8 billion in high-margin advertising revenue in the quarter, which is buried in the North American and international segments, the pure retail business must have lost a lot of money.