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The Sharon McCollam Effect at Best Buy

Posted by: under Best Buy, Retail, Technology Updated: February 21, 2013 - 12:42 PM

Believe it or not but Best Buy is one of the best performing stocks of the year.

Okay, so the year is not quite two months old but given Best Buy’s recent turmoil, we should acknowledge the achievement just the same.
 

Since Dec. 31, BBY has smoked the broader S&P 500 index and competitors like Amazon and Apple. In fact, the only company that has performed better than Best Buy is Netflix. And Best Buy doesn’t even produce original shows.

 

 

 

 

No doubt investors’ new enthusiasm for Best Buy orginates from the company’s rosier sales outlook, thanks in large part to CEO Hubert Joly's Renew Blue strategy. Best Buy reported flat comp sales in December, a relatively strong performance that surpassed Wall Street’s expectations, and all signs point towards a strong January as well.

But there may be another, less quantifiable explanation for the stock’s rise: the “Sharon McCollam Effect.”
 

The company has hired or promoted several executives in recent months, including U.S. retail chief Shawn Score and e-commerce chief Scott Durchslag, a former president of Expedia.
 

But from Wall Street's point of view, Joly's best move thus far was to hire McCollam as chief financial officer and chief administrative officer. As a top executive at Williams-Sonoma, McCollam already commanded respect and admiration from Wall Street.

 

 

 

Since McCollam joined Best Buy in November, that love fest has only grown. Some investors even think Best Buy hired its most credible CFO in over a decade.
 

“Every time someone meets Sharon McCollam, the stock goes up,” said Dave Strasser, an analyst with Janney Capital Management.


Even the often-prickly Michael Pachter, an analyst at WedBush Securities and longtime critic of Best Buy, had warm praise for McCollam.
 

It’s hard to say how much of this goodwill comes from McCollam’s reputation, communication skills, or actual deeds. After all, she has only been on the job for three months or so.
 

But McCollam’s fingerprints have appeared on at least a couple of recent decisions. In January, Best Buy said that it made changes to the way it calculated the costs from its inventory. The move reduced Best Buy’s free cash flow estimate for fiscal 2013 but, in Wall Street’s eyes, demonstrated the company’s commitment to transparency and sensible accounting.

Best Buy also recently announced it will close 15 underperforming stores in Canada. As part of her large portfolio of duties, McCollam is in charge of “rationalizing” the company’s square footage, or in normal parlance, deciding which stores to close, which stores to relocate, and which stores to remodel.

This is a big responsibility. Barclays retail analyst Alan Rifkin estimates the company can save $125 million and add 25 cents a share to earnings if it reduces square footage over the next three years.

“We are encouraged that McCollam will manage the company’s real estate portfolio and believe that she will make positive changes given her  highly successful tenure at Williams Sonoma,” Rifkin wrote.

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