GameStop (NYSE:GME) is heading into its second-quarter earnings release as one of the top stocks of 2015. Shares are up 35% as we approach the Aug. 27 quarterly announcement.
You might think that a strong stock performance like this would be driven by high expectations for profit and sales growth. But that's not the case here: Wall Street is bracing for zero revenue growth and only a slight profit boost from the specialty retailer:
|Metric||2014 Q2||2015 Q2 (change)|
|Revenue||$1.73 billion||$1.73 billion (N/A)|
|Profit||$0.22 per share||$0.24 per share (+9%)|
How flat is good
A flat sales result wouldn't be as bad as it sounds. After all, GameStop is up against a brutal comparison with a prior-year period that saw the latest game consoles and software fly off of the shelves. In Q2 2014, the retailer booked a huge spike in customer traffic as hardware sales more than doubled and new game sales increased 16% year over year. Those improvements led to an overall 22% leap in comparable-store sales.
GameStop's management expects very little improvement over that strong prior-year result. Executives in May forecast Q2 sales gains of between 0% and 3% thanks mainly to a weaker game release calendar. The two biggest entries in the second quarter, The Witcher 3 and Batman: Arkham Knight, aren't expected to match last year's Mario Kart 8 and Watch Dogs launches. Still, GameStop is likely to maintain or expand its dominance over video game sales after setting a new market share record last quarter.
Investors can also expect more cash returns headed their way. GameStop's strong cash position has allowed it to spend heavily on both share repurchases and dividends. Management plans to spend $200 million buying back its stock this year, and the company pays out one of the retailing industry's highest yields at 3.2%.
What else to watch for
This retailing story isn't just about video games. GameStop also sells consumer electronics and cell phone services under the Cricket, Simply Mac, and Spring Mobile brands. That business has quickly grown to almost 10% of sales and sports a hefty 40% profit margin, beating what GameStop makes on new video game sales.
Watch for that sales percentage number to grow, particularly as GameStop likely opened 200 new stores this quarter, expanding its non-video game footprint by almost 40%.
But the part of this earnings release that's most likely to affect the stock price is management's updated outlook for the second half of the year. Three months ago, the company projected comp growth of between 1% and 6% and full-year earnings as high as $3.83 per share. Wall Street is a bit more optimistic on the earnings front, modeling $3.88 per share.
GameStop will face a more competitive holiday season on the video game retailing front even as more gamers adopt full-game downloads. Either of these trends could contribute to soft guidance from the company. However, there are also several massive releases on tap that will create the type of retailing events and launch parties that only GameStop can throw. These include Electronic Arts' Star Wars: Battlefront and Activision Blizzard's Skylanders: Supercharges and Call of Duty: Black Ops III.
Whether it's through straight game purchases, toys and merchandising, or digital subscriptions, these games have the potential to lift the video game industry this year. And as the clear market leader, GameStop is positioned to grab more than its fair share of that business again in 2015.