Even Activision Blizzard's
The video game retailer hit a new 52-week low today, after the small-box chain lowered its outlook on the heels of lackluster holiday sales. Lower console prices and hyped-up software titles weren't enough to get the cash registers ringing.
Total sales clocked in at $2.86 billion during the nine-week holiday period, flat with last year's seasonal showing. An 8% slide in hardware sales completely offset gains of 4% and 10%, respectively, in new and used software.
If those numbers don't look so bad, we should point out that GameStop has added plenty of new stores over the past year. At the individual store level, comps fell by an inexcusable 8.6%. In other words, the average store suffered a steeper dip in hardware and an actual decline in new software sales, which the headline figure does not suggest.
We're seeing several retailers come through with healthy holiday comps this week, yet GameStop is relegated to the little kids' table -- sitting between Hot Topic
My bearish thesis on the video-game industry hasn't been popular, but it's been pretty spot-on accurate. GameStop is just in a lousy position, as diehard gamers turn to digital delivery of new titles and casual gamers settle for free, ad-supported social games.
GameStop is now expecting to post a profit per share between $1.25 and $1.29 for the fourth quarter, well short of the $1.57 a share that analysts were banking on. The retailer earned $1.34 a share during last year's holiday-encompassing quarter.
If there's a silver lining in GameStop's warning, it's that used game sales are holding up well. This is where the chain's fattest profit margins can be found. It's also a welcome sight after everyone from Toys "R" Us to Amazon.com
This doesn't mean that today's slide is overdone, though.
"Value hunters will probably rally around the stock after this morning's damage is done," I wrote after its summertime debacle. "The single-digit earnings multiple will turn heads. Hopefully the lip-lickers going in will check with the head-scratchers cashing out. As long as GameStop keeps revising its outlook lower every three months, this is a classic value trap."
Obviously, the downward revisions continue. Those clinging to hope may be encouraged by the company's cautiously optimistic view of fiscal 2010.
"We expect that strong PlayStation 3 demand [and] an exciting title line-up, combined with anticipated economic recovery, will all be factors that should drive software growth and therefore GameStop earnings in 2010," reads this morning's press release.
If GameStop is betting on a Sony
However, perhaps more damaging to GameStop's cheer is that its press release archives are still intact.
"We expect a solid fourth quarter in sales and earnings," reads November's third-quarter report.
"We expect positive earnings growth in the back half of the year," CEO Daniel DeMatteo says in August's second-quarter report.
A gamer excels by spotting the game-play patterns and not repeating mistakes that lead to failure. When will GameStop learn?
Disagree with Rick? Let him have it in the comment box below.
Amazon.com, Activision, and GameStop are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Activision Blizzard is a Motley Fool Options synthetic long recommendation. The Fool owns shares of Activision Blizzard. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz loves playing video games, but he doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. He's also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.