Why do so many stocks rally when even their own CEOs give up?
Shares of Best Buy (NYSE: BBY ) moved higher this morning after the company revealed that CEO Brian Dunn is stepping down.
This morning's press release claims that the parting was cordial. "There was mutual agreement that it was time for new leadership to address the challenges that face the company," reads the press release.
Then again, it's hard to take the press release seriously when the very next paragraph is a chipper quote from Dunn himself. "I have enjoyed every one of my 28 years with this company, and I leave it today in position for a strong future," he claims.
We know the future won't be strong. Best Buy is in the process laying off hundreds of its employees at the corporate and support level. It will close 50 of its superstores, focusing instead on smaller mobile-centric openings.
Perhaps nothing is more telling than its choice to temporarily replace Dunn at the top. Board member Mike Mikan -- a former health-care services executive -- will serve as interim CEO until the board lands a new helmsman.
Why not a health-care pro? Best Buy is ailing at best and dying at worst.
Scan and scram and slam
It doesn't take a retailing guru to figure out the problem at Best Buy. You can call it "scan and scram" or showrooming, but Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) is eating Best Buy's lunch by offering speedy delivery at prices that Best Buy can't touch.
Forget the sales tax advantage that Amazon and smaller e-tailers have over physical stores in many states. That's chump change that will eventually go away as revenue-hungry tax codes get beefed up. The real problem is that it's impossible to run brick-and-mortar stores and sell stuff at comparable prices to nimble Web-based retailers. Folks can wait two days for a laptop. Best Buy bulls who say that shoppers can't wait are starting to rue those words as the digital delivery of books, CDs, DVDs, and video games is faster -- and often cheaper -- than a trip out to the store.
Best Buy's strategic response to its gradual obsolescence is to "increase points of presence, while decreasing overall square footage." Closing superstores and opening Best Buy Mobile locations even though that the same approach is crushing RadioShack (NYSE: RSH ) is a dead end. If there is a way out -- and there may very well not be -- it won't be found by following RadioShack.
The company is in a downward spiral. It can't compete on prices. Matching prices means harassing customers with insulting extended warranties and protection services to turn a profit, even though it's the hard sell that's turning them off even sooner.
It's bad enough that you're overpaying for an HDMI cable at Best Buy. Do you really want to have to shake your head when the pitches come for product warranties, Best Buy card applications, Geek Squad tech support memberships, and the ridiculous buyback protection program?
Dunn didn't do himself any favors three months ago, defending the company in Best Buy's corporate blog. It was brazen but delusional, and the employees and customers let him have it.
Here's a tip for the next CEO: Don't post on the company blog. If you do, turn the response feature off until you're comfortable that the reactions will be largely positive.
Spoiler alert: The reactions will not be largely positive.
Best Buy is not a good buy
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