Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Could an Amazon Geek Squad Turn Best Buy Into Sears?

By Motley Fool Staff - Updated Jul 16, 2017 at 6:20PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

A listener asks how big a threat the e-commerce giant’s plan to provide hands-on tech help is to the brick-and-mortar chain’s long-term prospects.

In this Market Foolery segment, host Chris Hill and Motley Fool Funds' Bill Barker consider the potential impact of's (AMZN 1.19%) new plan to build its own version of the tech-focused "help me make this thing work" service on the company best known for providing it. According to Chris, this is a two-part question. First, how can Best Buy (BBY 5.69%) respond? Second, is Best Buy on the slow path to collapse, a la Sears Holdings (SHLDQ)?

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on July 12, 2017.

Chris Hill: Question on Twitter from @wallyzman, who included a link to a story and asked, "Do you think Best Buy is going the way of Sears because of this?" The "this" referred to the link he included which was a story on Recode about how Amazon is quietly putting together its own version of the Geek Squad.

You and I went back and forth on this topic yesterday. I almost look at this as two separate things, because one of them is, how do you think Best Buy is going to deal with Amazon putting together their own Geek Squad? Then, separate from that is, is Best Buy going the way of Sears? And to that second question, I would say a resounding no, because I look at how Sears has been managed over the last five years with Eddie Lampert at the helm, and how Best Buy has been managed over the last five years since Hubert Joly took over. Joly and his team have done an amazing turnaround job with Best Buy. If Eddie Lampert got put in the corner office of Best Buy five years ago instead of Joly, I think Best Buy would be right where Sears is now, which is on death's door. Just look at the stock prices.

Bill Barker: So you're going ad hominem in your analysis of this, that it's the CEOs that make a difference on this.

Hill: I think if you're making up a list of the last five years, why has Best Buy succeeded and why his Sears failed, No. 1 on that list, for me, is who's running the company. Shares of Sears are down nearly 90% in the last five years, whereas Best Buy is up almost 150%.

Barker: OK. But I think more powerful than the intellect or abilities of the CEOs is what is happening in the retail space, and Amazon's effect on things. I think the same thing that's happening in Sears is happening to J.C. Penney; it's happening to Macy's. These are things which are no longer particularly needed, right?

Hill: For a lot of people, they are still needed, but it's a smaller number than it used to be.

Barker: Yeah. I think Best Buy mostly is in that category and may have superior management to stem the effect to a degree. But for the last 10 years, Best Buy hasn't grown sales. It's got the same level of sales today that it had 10 years ago, which is hardly. That went up a little bit, but sales are lower today than they were in 2011 by about 20%. And they're making a little bit more money off those sales. But earnings per share are basically in the same ballpark as they were seven, eight, nine years ago. What does the future look like?

We were talking about this the other day, yesterday. I'll challenge you. If you had to go with three retail brands, traditional retail, and you had to buy them and hold them for the next 10 years, and you're not allowed to change, maybe they'll get bought out by somebody so you can keep that money, but all of your money has to go into these three, what would you go with?

Hill: Wow, traditional retail.

Barker: Traditional retail.

Hill: So Amazon is not on this list.

Barker: No, the way I'm defining it.

Hill: See, if only I were a millennial --

Barker: See?

Hill: -- if I were in my 20s --

Barker: You're not young enough to claim that Amazon is traditional retail.

Hill: If you're young enough, you can. Boy, I would have to think about that, and that doesn't make for good audio. But I think Best Buy, because of the way it's been run, would be on the short list.

Barker: I'm going to let you return to this in a future episode.

Hill: OK. What did you in the brain trust at Fool Funds come up with?

Barker: We had to play it safe, pretty much came out with Wal-MartCostco, and Home Depot, things which have not yet been crushed.

Hill: Home Depot is probably No. 1 on my list, I would think.

Barker: In the sense that it's not been crushed yet, yeah, and it has performed the best over some relevant period of time. Of course, we're looking at it right now, although the housing market is very healthy. It's not always going to look as good as it does today. But what I like about Home Depot is it's not opening up any more stores. All the places whose growth strategy revolves around opening more stores, I look at now with great panic.

Hill: You seem pretty calm for someone with great panic.

Barker: Well ...

Hill: You don't have all your money in these stocks. [laughs] 

Barker: I've got my coffee with me. We'll get back to that.

Bill Barker owns shares of Home Depot. Chris Hill owns shares of Amazon. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon, Costco Wholesale, and Twitter. The Motley Fool recommends Home Depot. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned, Inc. Stock Quote, Inc.
$144.89 (1.19%) $1.71
Best Buy Co., Inc. Stock Quote
Best Buy Co., Inc.
$85.96 (5.69%) $4.63
Sears Holdings Corporation Stock Quote
Sears Holdings Corporation

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
S&P 500 Returns

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 08/16/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.