Amazon's Newest Victim: hhgregg

| About: hhgregg, Inc. (HGG)

Appliances and electronics retailer hhgregg (HGG) announced Tuesday afternoon that it is slashing its sales and earnings guidance for its 2013 fiscal year. The firm originally guided to sales growth of 9-12%, but has since cut that range to 3-6% due to lower same-store sales expectations of -6% to -4%, versus the company's initial expectation of +/- 1%. Additionally, the firm expects to earn $0.90-$1.05 per share, which is significantly lower than its initial forecast of $1.12-$1.27 per share.

The reduced guidance comes on the heels of weak fiscal year 2013 first quarter results (ended June 30). Sales are expected to grow approximately 13.5% in the period based on preliminary figures; however, that growth can be attributed to the opening of 30 new stores. On the other hand, same-store sales for its fiscal first quarter (ended June 30) are expected to fall 5.1%. As a result, earnings per share for the quarter should be -$0.17 to -$0.16 per share. Not surprisingly, it looks like the company is really struggling to sell TVs, as same-store sales in the "video" segment fell 16.7%.

The only recent innovation in the past few years has been 3D TV, but that technology has yet to gain substantial popularity. As a result, TVs have become a largely commoditized industry, forcing companies to compete on price rather than features. TV maker Vizio, for instance, has been able to grow from nothing to nearly $3 billion in revenue in just 9 years by providing consumers with lower prices. In addition to lower prices, consumers are now more comfortable walking into hhgregg or Best Buy (BBY), picking out a TV, and then ordering for a lower price on Amazon (AMZN). TV retailers are also fighting difficult demographic trends.

Since unemployment among recent college graduates is higher than it was just 6 or 7 years ago, fewer graduates are moving out on their own, meaning they do not have to buy new TVs, audio equipment, stereos and other entertainment electronics. This trend is also reflected in the company's "Other" segment, which is comprised of audio, mattresses, and personal electronics. Same-store sales in this segment fell just shy of 20%.

Although personal electronics sales seem to be struggling, the company did report decent same-store sales growth in its appliances and home office segments, which grew 6.3% and 8.7%, respectively. We aren't that surprised by positive appliance sales growth because we've seen improving results and backlogs from a few home builders that reported recently. This could be a positive for Sears (SHLD), Whirlpool (WHR) and to a lesser extent Best Buy. In fact, appliances are so vital to the sales mix at Sears that we could see strength in that segment have a significant impact on revenue and earnings. We think appliances are more protected from online competition than commodity personal electronics are.

Home office, another positive for hhgregg, is comprised of tablets, smartphones and computers. If AMD's (AMD) warning and the computer OEMs' recent results are telling, we assume most of this home office growth is coming from smartphones and tablets. Surprisingly, the electronics retailer does not sell iPads or iPhones (AAPL), so the strength is likely coming from products running Android (GOOG), the Kindle Fire, and the Nook (BKS). The fact that the company is likely selling mobile computing products reasonably well without carrying Apple products demonstrates the significant growth trajectory of the broader industry.

Ultimately, the poor results posted at hhgregg could be indicative of poor results at Best Buy. However, we think Best Buy has a much stronger business. Unlike hhgregg, Best Buy carries phones on all carriers, as well as iPads and iPhones, which makes Best Buy more competitive in the mobile space. Best Buy also has a much larger store base, and it isn't trying to grow its store base in a retail environment that's very challenging for big box retailers. Though we don't particularly like Best Buy as an investment at current levels (click here for our valuation reports), we think its brand is much stronger than hhgregg's and is much more likely to survive Amazon's ongoing attack on big box retail.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

Additional disclosure: Some of the firms mentioned in this article may be included in our acitively-managed portfolios.

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