Friday could put some retailers back in the black
These 4 chains are so beaten down even a modest improvement in holiday sales could give their stocks a substantial lift.
By Douglas A. McIntyre, 24/7 Wall St.
Some stocks become so badly beaten down they look like they will never recover. Sometimes these are the stocks that surprise you. Right now, several retailers are so battered that modestly improved results in Black Friday weekend sales could send their shares to substantial gains.
The first among these is Best Buy (BBY). Wall Street has rejected the turnaround plan of new CEO Hubert Joly, at least based on the huge sell-off in the stock since he disclosed his program. Investors looked at his solutions as vague and naive, particularly in the face of Amazon's (AMZN) e-commerce dominance.
But Joly may have one plan that could work. Most bricks-and-mortar stores fear what is called "show-rooming." Customers come to stores to examine products, and then buy them online at lower prices. Joly's theory is that show-rooming brings in a lot of extra shoppers during holidays, and, with low prices, Best Buy could get a reasonable portion of those people to purchase items before they leave the stores. Best Buy shares fell another 12% Tuesday, down from a 52-week high of just above $28, when the company announced that revenue in its most recent quarter dropped from $11.1 billion a year ago to $10.8 billion. If Joly is right, even very modestly, shares could lift off in December.
Sears Holding's (SHLD) shares fell 20% after it announced earnings for the quarter ended Oct. 27. Same-store sales dropped 1.6% at Sears Domestic and 4.8% at Kmart. Revenues plunged $548 million to $8.9 billion from a year ago. New chief executive Lou D'Ambrosio articulated his plans as he discussed the retailer's results. First among them is that Sears will focus on what it calls its "members" -- that is, people who shop at Sears and Kmart regularly. The retailer has created a new marketing tool called SHOP YOUR WAY pricing. This mimics the approach of hugely successful retailer Costco Wholesale Corp. (COST). A small success with the new approach would get Sears off the critical list and show that management finally has found a way to stop the leak of customers.
RadioShack's (RSH) stock has fallen from a 52-week high of nearly $12 to $2 recently. At least one important analyst believes the slide has ended. Bank of America (BAC) has set a price target for RadioShack of $3 and kept a "buy" rating on its stock. The recommendation could be considered reckless because, in its most recently reported quarter, RadioShack's net loss was $47 million, compared with break-even in the same quarter a year ago. Overlooked in the panic over the loss was the stability of revenue, which was $1 billion, compared to $1.03 billion last year. RadioShack has taken actions that could improve its early holiday sales. First among them is its foray into prepaid cellphones. Cost-conscious buyers can get a new cellphone for under $100. The phone is not tethered to a two-year subscription plan from a major carrier -- customers can buy minutes without long-term obligations. And RadioShack also has become very aggressive on pricing. It offers $10 store coupons with every $50 in sales. Free ground shipping is also part of the $50-plus purchase program. RadioShack, described by some as the poor person's Best Buy, could benefit as consumers worried about the economy look for early shopping season bargains.
The least likely candidate for a comeback among troubled retailers is JCPenney (JCP). Its shares have dropped to $16 from a 52-week high of more than $43. Former Apple (AAPL) Retail Chief Ron Johnson, who has been JCPenney CEO for less than a year, radically changed how the retailer prices merchandise. Confused and unhappy shoppers have deserted the retailer in droves. In its most recently reported quarter, revenue fell 27% to $2.93 billion. The retailer lost $123 million, as well. To make matters worse, the important e-commerce division of JCPenney reported a 37% drop in sales to $214 million. Johnson does have a plan to scratch his way out of the hole Wall Street blames him for digging. The company has opened "mini-stores" inside its retail locations. These are centered around a few well-known brands, including Levi's, Izod, Liz Claiborne and The Original Arizona Jean Co. Each of these brands is well-known and their sales have been good outside of JCPenney.
In short, poor performance and lowered expectations are already baked into these companies stock prices. They may not have to demonstrate much strength to draw the attention of some investors.
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The back-to-school season could be strong, and this year's holiday season could follow suit.
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