Best Buy Misses; Investors Freak Out

Electronics retailing giant Best Buy (NYSE: BBY  ) misses the quarterly estimate by $0.02 because of expenses and not slow sales, it guides the next quarter down by about $0.05 (or 4%), and the stock falls almost 12% this morning.

Yeah, that makes sense.

Actually, in one respect, it does kinda, sorta make sense. Retail analysts and hedgehogs with positions in retailing stocks are so nervous these days, all you need to do is sneak up behind them and yell "boo," and they'll jump straight out of their Allen Edmonds.

So how bad was the quarter? Not too bad, actually. Sales rose more than 10%, and the company posted a 3.3% rise in overall same-store sales. Hot items like MP3 players and flat-panel TVs stayed hot, and not-so-hot items like regular TVs and movies remain cold. Video game sales were also pretty weak, as the introduction of Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Xbox 360 came too late in the quarter to offset the sales decline from older products.

Gross margins actually improved by more than 100 basis points. Combine that with decent same-store sales, and I think you can argue that the demand/merchandising side of the business is rolling along.

The problem, though, was with expenses. Sales, general, and administrative spending got a little nutty because of higher store-opening costs and costs associated with growing the service side of the business. As a result, operating margin dropped by nearly a full percentage point -- a pretty big jump down when you're talking about low single-digit margins to begin with.

Even with this so-called disappointment, I'm still a big fan of Best Buy. CircuitCity (NYSE: CC  ) is still trying to get its act together, and Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) is attempting to be all things to all people (or, perhaps better said, trying to sell all things to all people). And to you Best Buy haters out there -- save your email. Yes, I'm sure your local Best Buy is terrible and you'd rather do your shopping at Bob's Electronics, Bait, & Tackle. But Best Buy still does more than $7 billion a quarter in sales each year (and growing), so a whole lot of people still like to shop there.

For my part, the story is the same as it was a quarter ago -- I love the company, but it's not quite cheap enough to fit within my margin of safety rules. Should the freak-out continue, though, the stock could get very interesting in short order.

For more Foolishness:

Best Buy is aMotley Fool Stock Advisorrecommendation. Microsoft is aMotley Fool Inside Valuepick.

Fools, now is the time to open your hearts and wallets to worthy causes! Please support our five Foolish charities at www.foolanthropy.com.

Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).


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