Online retail sales make up 7.5 percent of all U.S. retail activities and have had a 20 percent compounded annual growth rate from 1999 to 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
With gains like that, an exchange-traded fund that seeks to take advantage of those growth rates might be expected to be popular among investors. Yet the Amplify Online Retail ETF (IBUY), which owns a global basket of companies that derive the majority of their revenue from online retail, has seen little change in its assets under management since its debut on April 20.
IBUY’s $2.4 million in assets under management is close to where it was seeded, said Christian Magoon, founder of Amplify ETFs, adding there haven’t been any new shares created.
Until about the first week of July it had a negative performance, weakening with all retail ETFs. But recent rallies in top holdings such as Etsy, Grubhub and eBay mean IBUY is now up 6.5 percent since its debut, as of Aug. 9. That’s above the 4.23 percent for the consumer discretionary sector. Its holdings are 73 percent consumer cyclical and 17 percent technology.
The retail sector’s weak performance overall may be one of the reasons for the fund’s slow start out of the gate, Magoon said. Brick-and-mortar companies like Macy’s and Best Buy are being hit by—unsurprisingly—investor worries about competition from online retailers like Amazon.
IBUY’s closest ETF competitors—SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT), Consumer Discretionary Select SPDR Fund (XLY) and VanEck Vectors Retail ETF (RTH)—all have seen outflows this year. For much of 2016 they saw negative returns, but have recently turned higher, with gains of 3.65 percent for XRT, 4 percent for XLY and 3.5 percent for RTH. They hold few online names, however.
“Online retailers are doing well,” Magoon said. “All the selling in the retail sector might be throwing out the baby out with the bathwater.”
The newness might be another issue, as the fund is just four months old. Marketing is less of a problem, he believes, saying there were about 55 articles mentioning IBUY as part of stories about Amazon and eBay, which are two of its holdings. While reaction to the fund is positive by both institutional and financial advisors because of the underlying story about online retail, he said a lot the response is “we’re going to watch it.”
Its net expense ratio is 0.65 percent. That looks pricey compared to XLY, which is 0.14 percent, and the 0.35 percent for XRT and RTH. However, Magoon said, potential investors haven’t mentioned expenses as a concern, and he said it’s in line with other funds that have a portion in international holdings. IBUY caps international holdings at 25 percent, with the rest being domestic. The competitor retail funds are anywhere from 95 to 100 percent domestic.
To get the exposure to international markets, IBUY uses American Depository Receipts, which Magoon said are more cost-effective and liquid. The fund is rebalanced twice a year and is equal weighted. The rebalancing reins in names that have seen quick acceleration in value, like Grubhub’s recent jump, and the equal weighting prevents behemoths like Amazon from dominating the fund. The Morningstar holdings style box places IBUY in small-cap growth category, noting a little more than 50 percent are small-cap growth stocks, which opens it up to a different set of risks.