I don’t know what the solution is for Best Buy (BBY). It must involve a much tighter collaboration of physical stores and its internet presence – the stores need to be turned from a liability into an asset. Or maybe a logistical miracle that would allow Best Buy to deliver a much, much greater range of products (like, hundreds of thousands) to its customers on the day they order them. One thing is for certain: the new strategy will require thinking that cannot be delivered by somebody who spent 28 years in the Best Buy box. It requires a Netflix or Amazon-like strategy, where management was willing to bring forward (and flawlessly execute) a disruptive strategy that undermines its current cash cowing business. Amazon did this by bringing electronic readers to the masses, which undermined its core book business. Netflix (NFLX) did it with streaming. I am sure I’ll get plenty of dissenting emails about Netflix: “We don’t know if its model will be successful down the road,” etc. I’ll admit, I don’t know what Netflix’s streaming business is worth. But one thing is for certain, if it did not bring out streaming it would have been dead in three to five years. Now it has a fighting chance to survive and maybe even create value for shareholders.
I am a value investor, and so when I see a stock dangling at six times earnings I’d be lying if I told you that I did not have an inkling to seriously consider it for our portfolios. But Best Buy is not a retailer that missed a fad (stacked the shelves with wrong-color shirts, etc.) – those sorts of situations often present great buying opportunities, as the problems are easily fixed. Best Buy is a retailer that so far has missed a structural change that may make its business obsolete. It is only cheap if the “E” projected for next year will be there. So far the market is betting that it won’t, and I have no insight that encourages me to disagree with the market.