In 2017, companies were scared of Amazon — here’s what’s happened to them since

Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer of Amazon

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Jeff Bezos, chief executive officer of Amazon

Despite worries about the impact Amazon would have on the many industries it’s invading, the majority of S&P 500 companies that were concerned about the Jeff Bezos-led e-commerce giant in late 2017 went on to beat the stock market.

In that year, after Amazon took over Whole Foods Market, fears grew about which industries the internet juggernaut may venture into next, including health care. The takeover also raised fears it would disrupt the retail industry in new ways. Amazon became the talk of conference calls as companies and Wall Street tried to figure out the growing threat.

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Sixty-five S&P 500 components mentioned or were asked about Amazon during fourth-quarter 2017 earnings calls, according to a search of transcripts on FactSet. Since then, more than half (35) went on to outperform the stock market. And the outperformers aren’t just high-flying tech names like Netflix: Kohl’s, Starbucks and Pfizer have all posted strong gains better than that of the S&P 500.

Walmart, the largest brick-and-mortar retailer in the world, bucked Amazon fears this week. The discounter reported e-commerce sales up 43 percent during the fourth quarter and clinched online sales growth of 40 percent for all of 2018. Though Amazon still claims half of all e-commerce sales in the U.S., Walmart’s investments in its online marketplace gave management reason for optimism despite the looming competition.

“We’re making progress in e-commerce,” CEO Doug McMillon said on a call with analysts and investors. “Our focus remains on earning repeat [shopper] visits and strengthening our assortment of merchandise.”

To be sure, the outperformance could be related to the Trump administration’s tax cut, which might have offered a temporary boost for brick-and-mortar retailers and other Amazon competitors in a secular sales decline. A strong economy, in part because of the tax cut, has also put a wind at the back of many companies that were struggling.

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