As the retail sector increasingly demands the survival of the fittest, electronics and housewares retailer Conn's (Nasdaq: CONN) looks like it might be headed for extinction.

Though Conn's sports a four-star rating in our community intelligence-driven Motley Fool CAPS database, I can't understand how any investor could favor Conn's over Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) (two stars) or hhgregg (NYSE: HGG) (three stars) -- especially when you compare its key metrics to those of its rivals:


Revenue Increase/Decrease (LTM)

Profit/(Loss) (LTM)

Debt-to-Capital Ratio

P/E Ratio (TTM)

Conn's (9.5%) ($0.04) 51.1% N/A
Best Buy 1.2% $3.08 19% 9
hhgregg 34.2% $1.08 22.9% 12
RadioShack (NYSE: RSH) 4.6% $1.68 43.2% 9

*All data from Capital IQ, a unit of Standard & Poor's.

Best Buy and hhgregg are both profitable, with low debt-to-capital ratios; hhgregg can also boast a robust annual revenue increase, despite the weak economic environment. Either of those retail investments looks far more reasonable than Conn's. Even RadioShack managed to eke out a revenue increase, anemic as it may be, and a profitable year.

It's difficult to find a silver lining in Conn's metrics, and its debt-to-capital ratio of 51.1% is uncomfortably high, given its dwindling sales. Although some investors' positive outlook may reflect a 5.2% increase in Conn's fourth-quarter same-store sales, its comps had plunged 31.7% in the same period the year before. Talk about an easy comparison.

These retailers all vie with one another, but their competitive landscape stretches far beyond the pure-play space. Discounters like Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT), Target (NYSE: TGT), and Costco (Nasdaq: COST) all peddle low-priced electronics to shoppers, luring potential customers away from Conn's and its peers.

Last September, Conn's made my list of stocks to avoid. Fellow honoree Borders has already sunk into its bearish bankruptcy thesis. Conn's may not face quite so dreadful an outcome, but it doesn't seem bound for impressive growth, either.

Conn's shares jumped 10% yesterday, suggesting that somebody must feel a bit positive about its prospects. I definitely don't.

What's your take on Conn's? Am I missing some element that helps this retailer outpace its rivals? Share your bullish case for Conn's in the comments box below, or add Conn's to your watchlist to keep an eye on ongoing developments.