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Can Best Buy, Conn's, and hhgregg Bounce Back?

Last week was a rough one for consumer electronics retailers. One of the market's biggest losers was hhgregg (NYSE: HGG  ) , tumbling 26% after posting uninspiring financials. Conn's (NASDAQ: CONN  ) and Best Buy (NYSE: BBY  ) tumbled 13% and 6%, respectively, in sympathy.

RadioShack (NYSE: RSHCQ  ) bucked the trend by closing slightly higher, but consumer electronics was a disaster for investors in January. This may have been a hot retailing niche for investors in 2013, but it's been a different story for these chains in 2014.

Company  2013 2014
Best Buy 237% (41%)
Conn's 157% (23%)
hhgregg 99% (41%)
RadioShack 23% (8%)

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

The contrast is huge. The four stocks that average a gain of 129% last year are off by an average of 28% through just the first month of 2014. The difference becomes even more pronounced if you eliminate RadioShack from the mix.

Last week's downdraft was the handiwork of hhgregg's disappointing quarterly results, and it was pretty bad. Posting an 11.2% plunge in comps -- with its consumer electronics, computing, and wireless categories falling even harder -- is naturally not going to wind up as a victory for the bulls. It doesn't even seem to matter that hhgregg had already warned about falling short earlier in the month. Investors still weren't prepared for the negative implications, and that became clear when Standpoint Research upgraded the stock -- from hold to buy -- a week earlier. 

That's bad timing, but it wasn't just hhgregg that tipped the market off on the retailing niche's woes. Best Buy also took a big hit earlier in the month when it posted results for the holiday quarter that exposed the superstore chain's margin-squeezing strategy. Best Buy's sales may have held up better than hhgregg, but it came at the expense of profit margins as it was forced to price its wares aggressively to close sales.

Last year was full of promise. The housing boom was helping Best Buy, Conn's, and hhgregg with brisk appliance and furniture sales. However, Best Buy in particular is a concept built around loyal customers making several repeat purchases. That just doesn't happen with a fridge or a sofa that will last for years. Best Buy relies on low-priced media sales to keep customers coming back, and those items are migrating to digital delivery.

The stocks ran too high last year, and a cruel reality adjustment is taking place at the moment. The market will need to see fundamentals improve, and the January reports don't seem to suggest that salvation on that front is coming anytime soon.

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Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (1)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 03, 2014, at 2:07 PM, Matt8265 wrote:

    Do the opposite of this author's opinion.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 6:55 AM, upndn wrote:

    Rick, give Conns a good look over. They are expanding rapidly from a small store base, putting a much bigger emphasis on furniture and mattresses.

    And there is their income from financing.


  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2014, at 9:12 AM, hawkise wrote:

    Bought after their crash

    Often after a stock goes down the bad news starts pouring in. Thanks for helping spill some blood on the streets.

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Rick Munarriz

Rick has been writing for Motley Fool since 1995 where he's a Consumer and Tech Stocks Specialist. Yes, that's a long time. He's been an analyst for Motley Fool Rule Breakers and a portfolio lead analyst for Motley Fool Supernova since each newsletter service's inception. He earned his BBA and MBA from the University of Miami, and he now lives a block from his alma mater.

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Related Tickers

9/4/2015 10:24 AM
BBY $36.69 Down -0.03 -0.08%
Best Buy CAPS Rating: *
CONN $28.31 Up +0.26 +0.93%
Conn's, Inc. CAPS Rating: **
HGG $5.04 Up +0.12 +2.44%
hhgregg CAPS Rating: *
RSHCQ $0.13 Up +0.02 +0.00%
RadioShack CAPS Rating: *