To me, there is nothing quite as boring as a trip to the local office mega-mart to shell out for an overpriced toner cartridge or glitter pens (hey, I get distracted). But watching Office Depot
As Dave Marino-Nachison explained a while back, there's much more to the firm than the familiar retail stores in the U.S. The company's behind-the-scenes business services division and its foreign operations did the heavy lifting last year.
Yesterday's first-quarter earnings report shows that the domestic retail biz, which had been lagging, has bounced back. Total revenues rose 18% compared to last year, reaching $3.6 billion. Domestic retail comps, which had also been in the gutter for several years, turned upward 3%, while worldwide comps were up 2%.
This time around, it was the business services division's turn to come in flat, though e-commerce sales grew 27% to $762 million and now provide more than one-fifth of revenues. But there's a buzz cramp on the way: Much of the sales increase has been juiced by technology sales, and management warned that these carry lower margins. No kidding, everyone's selling PDAs, printers, faxes, and networking gear, from Best Buy
If the trend continues, it will mean shrinking earnings growth as compared to the revenue rise. Management predicts full-year earnings to come in just above $1.20 per share, a number in line with analysts' expectations. So, while the trailing P/E of 18 might make Office Depot look like a better bargain than competitor Staples
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