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Best Buy (BBY): Are The End Of Days Near?

|Includes: Best Buy Co. (BBY)

Turnaround efforts continue for the electronics retail giant, Best Buy. CEO Hubert Joly's attempts to stop the company's slow decline have yielded some results but the questionable future remains. With newly implemented policy changes, market cuts and strategic partnerships, Best Buy won't be going down without a fight.

Attempts to Hold On:

Best Buy recently changed their return policy, cutting the allotted time to return an item from 30 days to 15 days. Michael McCarthy, the managing director of QualityStocks, found this out by surprise when he tried to return a faulty cable modem 17 days after the purchase date. The customer service representative allowed an exception, but this was clearly a red flag; especially considering that employees aren't informing customers of the new policy during the checkout process.

The return policy change has caused uproar among consumers and certainly seems to be a step backwards at a time when the retailer is struggling. Knowing there must be something going on internally as none of the other retailers have made dramatic adjustments to their return policies, we did some digging through SEC filings and found that the company's cash position is down significantly. In just eight months, the company's cash and cash equivalents dropped from $1.2 billion to $309 million. It's clear to us that the return policy was changed to help conserve cash.

In another company-wide change, Best Buy recently turned its Price Matching Guarantee holiday program into a permanent policy in hopes for costumer retention. The positive move is an attempt to address the problem of showrooming, the practice of using storefronts to browse through and test products before going home and purchasing online at a cheaper price. Abram Brown, a Forbes markets reporter, stated that, "the price-match guarantee may have come too late to save the company. But, there also may be signs of hope as sales recently increased for the first time since 2010."

Partnering with Samsung, Best Buy will also soon set up "Samsung Experience" shops staffed with trained Samsung employees. The Samsung shops will be installed inside around 1,400 Best Buy stores. A number of these convenient in-house stores are currently already in existence.

Helpful Numbers:

Last month Best Buy sold its 50% holding stake in Best Buy Europe, a joint venture with Carphone Warehouse Group (CPW), Europe's largest independent mobile phone retailer. The deal will mark the end of Best Buy's presence in Europe. Best Buy Europe in the ongoing fiscal year was expected to be in the range of $5.5 to $5.6 billion. Therefore with a 50% holding stake, the deal will help fund turnaround efforts for the giant, although still at a loss on investment given that Best Buy sold its 50% interest in Carphone Warehouse back to them for about $775 million. The original buy-in almost five years ago was $2.15 billion.

In 2011, Best Buy's stock lost 40% of its value. Fast-forward to 2013 and Best Buy reported a 0.9% Fourth Quarter Domestic Comparable Store Sales Increase for the 13-week fourth quarter. In its March earnings report Best Buy managed to post sales of $16.71 billion to squeeze a weak gain above the $16.67 posted a year ago.

Ending Thoughts:

Critics claim Best Buy stores are nothing but showrooms for online retailers like With a need for a strong digital presence, Best Buy is currently planning to invest around $750 million on company improvements, including a digital facelift. Best Buy will also cut more than $400 million in overall costs. There may be life left in this sleepy retail giant but the future looks uncertain. Best Buy may still be generating signs of life, but the e-commerce versus brick-and-mortar battle continues onward.

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