3 Ghosts Are Haunting Best Buy

Best Buy (NYSE: BBY  ) is answering to the name Ebenezer Scrooge this holiday season.

The consumer electronics retailer has had problems filling some Internet orders dating as far back as Black Friday.

"Due to overwhelming demand of hot product offerings on BestBuy.com during the November and December time period, we have encountered a situation that has affected redemption of some of our customers' online orders," reads the chain's email statement to its local FOX 9 television station. "We are very sorry for the inconvenience this has caused and we have notified the affected customers."

Shoppers are fuming on forums about backordered items and deals that have been outright cancelled by the retailer.

Best Buy has had a rough year. It's about to get worse.

Just as Scrooge was warned by the ghost of a former business partner that he would be visited by three more spirits -- giving him a final shot at redemption -- Best Buy is in a similar fate.

The Ghost of Christmas Past is Circuit City. The rival superstore concept had little choice but to liquidate two years ago. It was similar enough to Best Buy that its demise found shareholders naively applauding the move. With one less direct competitor, Best Buy would cash in on the incremental traffic.

It's a pity. Best Buy didn't realize that it was showing the same symptoms that did Circuit City in, namely enlightened consumers that can turn to the Internet for easy price comparisons and better deals, and the migration to digital media that would make Best Buy's rows of CDs, DVDs, video games, and books harder to sell in the quarters to come.

Maybe it could have aped hhgregg's (NYSE: HGG  ) emphasis on bulky appliances that can't be easily delivered through nimbler online services, but it's too late now. Maybe it could have followed Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) and Costco (Nasdaq: COST  ) into razor-thin margins made back in heady inventory turnover.

The Ghost of Christmas Present is Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) . Even when Best Buy brags about its 20% uptick in online sales -- a rare bright spot in its latest report -- that's merely half the pace of Amazon's spurts. Now that shoppers have armed themselves with smartphones that they may have even bought at Best Buy in the past, comparing prices is as easy as scanning a bar code or hitting up a comparison shopping app or website. Best Buy can't compete with the leaner infrastructure and state sales tax-collecting sidesteps of dot-com purists.

Best Buy could've been a bigger player in cyberspace, but good luck winning back online shoppers next Black Friday with deals that were ultimately too good to be true. Really, Best Buy? You had four weeks to get it right!

The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come? Dude. It's Circuit City again. Wait. What? Ohhhh. I get it now.

Thank you -- and my apologies to -- Charles Dickens.

If you want to play nice with the apparitions of Christmas future, forget Best Buy and begin reading up on the stocks that smart investors are buying. It's a free report. Even Best Buy can't mess up this digital delivery. However, it will only be available for a limited time so check it out now.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Costco Wholesale, Amazon.com, Wal-Mart Stores, and Best Buy. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Wal-Mart Stores, Costco Wholesale, Amazon.com, and hhgregg. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a diagonal call position in Wal-Mart Stores. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended writing covered calls in Best Buy. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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