For some reason, I am completely, hopelessly backward when it comes to anything with wires, speakers, or remote controls. Despite this sometimes debilitating handicap, I have attempted to move forward into the digital age by facing my fears head-on in the bewildering labyrinth that everyone else calls Best Buy
While my hours of dedicated field work at Best Buy have taught me virtually nothing about megapixels or HDTV tuners, they have led me to one inescapable conclusion: The retailer's comfortable lead in the consumer-electronics market seems to be unassailable at this point.
Nevertheless, this Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection would do well to keep an eye over its shoulder, since smaller rival Rex Stores
Yesterday, surprisingly strong first-quarter results helped boost shares of the Ohio-based Rex Stores by nearly double digits. Same-store sales climbed 7% for the quarter, driven by strong appliance sales and increasing demand for plasma and LCD televisions. Earnings soared 50% to $0.48 per share, or $6.1 million, doubling the expectations of the lone analyst who follows the company.
Much of the credit for the gain goes to income from a synthetic fuel limited partnership, the purpose of which is to reduce the company's tax expenses by generating federal income tax credits. But operating income was up sharply as well, with operating margins expanding by more than 40 basis points (or 28%) to 1.9%.
The solid improvements from Rex stand in contrast to the generally soft results posted by rivals in recent months. Gadget specialist RadioShack
Even Best Buy has a toned-down short-term outlook, with decelerating same-store sales growth and guidance projecting that first-quarter earnings (including the impact of stock-options expensing) will fall shy of analysts' forecasts.
Of course, none of this indicates that Rex is making appreciable headway against its much larger rivals. One quarter does not a great company make, and Rex is still far from posing a serious threat to the major players. Nevertheless, with good momentum heading into the new fiscal year and nearly 10% of the firm's outstanding shares slated to be repurchased, this reasonably priced also-ran may still have something to offer.
You can get David Gardner's take on Best Buy and other great companies with a risk-free trial subscription to Motley Fool Stock Advisor.
Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter lives in perpetual fear of the phrase "some assembly required." He owns no shares in any of the companies mentioned here.