Sometimes it can be fun to cheer for the underdog, whether it's a horse, a football team, or even a company. Watching the same winner triumph time and time again can get boring -- just ask anyone who isn't a fan of the Atlanta Braves and their 12 consecutive division championships. With that in mind, I was hoping that electronics and appliance retailer Rex Stores
Unfortunately, Rex's second-quarter numbers are unlikely to elicit much more than a yawn. With no help from flat comps, sales dipped 2% lower to $88.4 million. Earnings rose 4% to $0.26, or $3.28 million, from $0.25 the year before. However, even this meager gain would not have been possible without the benefit of a $1.4 million income-tax credit (which was partially offset by a $0.6 million charge related to early debt retirement) and $3.34 million income from synthetic fuel investments. Synthetic fuel and retail electronics don't exactly go together like peanut butter and jelly, but this sideline business has been profitable for Rex.
Second-quarter sales, though less than spectacular, were an improvement over last quarter's 7.6% decline. Furthermore, the company noted that without sales of air conditioners -- which typically account for a sizable percentage of second-quarter revenues -- comps would have increased 4%, in line with same-store sales gains of 4.3% at Best Buy and 3.0% at RadioShack
Without the pedigree or track record of a Best Buy or Circuit City, Rex Stores reminds me of that 50-to-1 long shot at the racetrack, which you know will run gamely but ultimately has little chance of reaching the winners circle. In the racing world, trying to compete against such well-established winners would be known as racing "up in class."
Fortunately, Rex does not have to beat its larger rivals to be profitable, and it has favorable odds, which come in the form of a low P/E -- less than 6 based on trailing earnings of $2.24. This, as well as the firm's $2.21 cash per share look good on paper, but as Bill Mann pointed out, there are more than 6,000 contestants in this race. With such a large field to pick from, there are many stronger choices for your investing dollars.
Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter once hit a pick three but accidentally threw the winning ticket away. He owns none of the companies mentioned.