Since joining Best Buy last September, CEO Hubert Joly has launched a major campaign to win back Wall Street. He has given detailed information about the company’s poor performance to analysts and his plans to correct it. He has hired former Williams-Sonoma executive Sharon McCollam, a darling among Wall Street, as chief financial officer.
Best Buy even managed to eek a slight gain domestic same store sales during the fourth quarter. Joly’s efforts have mostly paid off: since December 2012, Best Buy stock has more than doubled to over $26 per share.
But there is one analyst who has proven himself immune to Joly’s charm offensive: Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities.
Of the 26 analysts tracked by Bloomberg who have issued ratings on Best Buy stock in 2013, Pachter is only one of two who recommend investors dump the stock.
Even more startling is Pachter’s 12 year price target for BBY: $9 per share. (The next lowest estimate was $21 by S&P Capital’s Ian Gordon.)
That means that when Best Buy stock (which had once surpassed $50 a few years ago) tumbled to as low as $11.20 in early December, Pachter still thought the stock was overvalued.
He did not return a call seeking comment.
Pachter, a long time Best Buy bear, is known for his…uh…strongly worded opinions on the retailer in both his research reports and quotes in the media. He was particularly harsh on former CEO Brian Dunn, whom he called completely unqualified for the job. (Many analysts privately said the same thing but Pachter had no problem saying it publicly.)
But not even a complete leadership change has softened Pachter. He called Joly’s credentials “unimpressive,” especially to turn around a struggler retailer like Best Buy. Joly is a former CEO of travel and hospitality giant Carlson.
Pachter did profess strong words of praise for McCollam. But Pachter said he continues to doubt Best Buy’s turnaround strategy.
Fair enough. A little skepticism is not unwarranted, given Best Buy’s struggles in recent years.
But Pachter’s research note in February, just before Best Buy released fourth quarter and fiscal 2013 earnings, makes you wonder if the analyst will ever change his mind about BBY.
His estimates weren’t just wrong. They were REALLY wrong.
Pachter predicted Best Buy would earn $1.35 per share in the fourth quarter. The company earned $1.64 per share.
Pachter predicted Best Buy’s profit margins would fall 170 basis points in the quarter. Best Buy said margins declined 10 basis points. He did say the “magnitude of the decline is only a guess.”
But McCollam in January already indicated that gross margins would not dramatically fall. So either Pachter was not aware of the guidance or simply wasn't moved by it.
When Best Buy releases its first quarter earnings next Tuesday, Pachter will no doubt be watching.
But no matter what Joly and McCollam say, don’t expect him to change his mind about the stock.
Candy Taylor treats her garage sales as serious business. The Northfield resident explains why it's important for city-wide sale to have "anchors," just as a mall has Macy's or Kohl's. "You've got to bring in traffic," she said. But the anchors in Northfield's garage sales are Bethel Lutheran Church and a Montessori pre-school.
They fit in well in Northfield's charitable sale theme, where each participant must contribute 50 percent or more of the proceeds to charity. Taylor, who is organizing the sale through 5th Bridge charity, thinks it's the only city-wide sale in the country with such a required charitable component.
Many families contribute to the sale just because they know it's for a good cause, said Molly Woerlin of the TORCH (Tackling Obstacles and Raising College Hopes) Program in Northfield, which helps low-income and Latino students stay in middle school and high school and orients students toward college.
Each family and non-profit designates which charity its proceeds will go to and must donate at least 50 percent to the charity. "One family is choosing a suicide prevention program as its charity," said Taylor. Charities such as TORCH can choose themselves as a beneficiary if they want.
Taylor acknowledges that some families may not want to participate if they need a fundraiser of their own. "We recognize a lot of young families need to sell baby stuff to feed the school clothes budget in the fall," she said.
This is the 6th year for the sale and nearly 30 sites, including homes and nonprofits, will be participating. last year the sale raised about $14,500. Unsold leftovers can be donated to the Community Action Center and Northfield Senior Citizens. What they can't sell will be donated or sold to St. Vincent de Paul.
The sale is held rain or shine from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 17-18, 2013.
The pros and cons of global trade perhaps have never been so starkly contrasted than this week.
On Monday, the National Retail Federation and other trade groups released a report they commissioned that articulates how the United States benefits from imported goods.
A few days later, Time magazine publishes this searing photo of two workers who perished after a building hosting apparel factories collapsed in Bangladesh, killing over 800 people.
In many ways, these two publications vividly demonstrates the paradoxical world of international economics: the benefits of low cost clothing in one country can often come at the expense of another country.
Bangladesh is a poor country in southeast Asia that’s home to a multi-billion apparel industry where low cost workers make clothing for the world’s top retailers, including Wal-Mart, The Gap, and Minneapolis-based Target Corp.
By using low cost suppliers in Bangladesh and other countries in Asia and Latin America, Americans enjoy cheap prices which allow us to afford a better lifestyle, or says the NRF report:
“Imports are not the bogeyman some Americans believe them to be. On the contrary, they benefit our economy in a number of ways. They provide consumers of all income brackets with a greater variety of goods at lower prices. They constrain inflation. They encourage manufacturers to constantly improve quality and innovate while providing them with needed inputs at lower prices…It is time to give imports the credit they deserve.”
Fair enough. But the report conspicuously omits how the United States’ appetite for imported goods impacts the countries whose citizens produce them.
Target and other retailers have noted they hadn’t knowingly sold products made from the collapsed factory in Bangladesh but that’s almost besides the point.
That incident, along with a deadly fire at another factory last November, demonstrates the systematic poor conditions garment workers face throughout the country.
Target is well aware of these problems, noting that it took action in 2011 to pull out or modify buildings that presented severe fire hazards. The company says it conducts several audits, some unannounced, of its suppliers.
But these audits seem like no match for an entire industry in Bangladesh that’s beset with fire hazards and dubious building designs.
So does Target stay in Bangladesh and help change things? Or does it pull out of the country? Most of its sourcing comes from China and the Americas anyway.
Target declined to comment on its future plans. But the fact remains that retailers’ business models depend on finding cheap sources of foreign labor.
Those business models produce tangible benefits to Americans, as the NRF report notes, in the form of low prices and jobs. But it also produces photos like Time’s pic.
Well, that was certainly unexpected.
Commuters arriving at Grand Central Station in New York this morning got a full blast of Target Corp.’s Expect More motto when they encountered the equivalent of supercharged pop up store.
Called The Dollhouse, the 1,500 square replica foot of a house, complete with bedrooms, patios, and kitchen, features 3,500 items from Target’s Threshold housewares collection, including bedding, dishes, and towels.
“Putting our Threshold collection in a house would be the most natural setting to showcase the brand,” said Julie Guggemos, vice president of product design and development. “Dollhouse invites people into it to experience the product, to touch and feel it.”
Target is known for heavily promoting its exclusive collaborations with designers and musicians. But this project represents one of the retailer’s most ambitious attempts to plug a store brand, one of several private label programs overseen by Target’s sizable internal design staff.
Threshold is really an effort by Target to rebrand its home goods products. Target’s other store brands include Mossimo, Market Pantry, and Archer Farms.
Planting the store smack in the middle of Vanderbilt Hall during rush hour probably required Target to pull a few strings so to speak. Fortunately for Target, the retailer sponsored Grand Central Station’s 100th anniversary celebration.
Workers built the Dollhouse in Queens and then moved the structure to Grand Central where it took them three days to assemble it.
In a further nod to Target’s focus on multi-channel retailing, the house carries about two dozen products shoppers can purchase by using their smartphones to scan a QR code. Target.com will later ship the product.
The Dollhouse will remain up until Tuesday.
It's a mall tradition. Sooner or later there's going to be a sidewalk sale. And Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis is no exception. It just took them a little longer to catch the wave. The internationally flavored public market opened in 2006 with groceries, food and gifts from around the world but somehow managed to avoid the American tradition until now.
Starting Friday, most of the market's gift vendors will discount selected wares from 5 to 50 percent. The market is known as a wonderful place to eat and shop for groceries, but the gift shops sometimes get lost in the shuffle, said Elyse Bauchle, PR spokeswoman for the market.
A sampling of participating vendors include Arte Hispano (art from El Salvador, Mexico and Guatemala), Fiesta Americana (authentic pinatas, candles, flowers and party supplies), Cafe Finspang (Scandinavian gifts and food), Simba Craftware (African art, jewelry, masks, baskets, and instruments), The Art Shoppe (Minnesota artists), Mill City Merchants (turquoise, silver, stone and Navajo and Zuni jewelry), Mulki Shop (East African rugs), Tibet Arts & Crafts, Rituals (soaps, lotions), And Andes Jewelry.
The sidewalk sale runs from Friday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 920 E. Lake St. in Minneapolis. On Friday night from 5:30 to 7:30, Blue Wolf bluegrass band will play. Saturday, Calypso musician Stoney Savanna will play from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.
For more info, go to www.midtownglobalmarket.org.
Brad Anderson and Al Lenzmeier have officially rejoined the board of directors at Best Buy Co.
But what exactly will they be doing?
A closer read of the company’s recent proxy statement gives an important clue: the two ex-Best Buy executives will both serve on the Finance and Investment Policy committee.
According to the proxy statement, the committee “advises the Board regarding our financial policies and financial condition to help enable us to achieve our long-range goals. It evaluates and monitors the: (i) protection and safety of our cash and investments; (ii) achievement of reasonable returns on financial assets within acceptable risk tolerance; (iii) maintenance of adequate liquidity to support our activities; (iv) assessment of the cost and availability of capital; and (v) alignment of our strategic goals and financial resources.”
That’s a lot of fancy corporate speak. But in a nutshell, this committee will oversee deal making at Best Buy, whether it’s selling something or buying something.
Best Buy declined to comment.
It’s no accident that Anderson and Lenzmeier belong to this committee. The two directors represent the company’s largest investor and founder Richard Schulze.
Schulze, you may remember, tried to take the company private but ultimately gave up and rejoined Best Buy as chairman emeritus.
Should Schulze consider using his 20 percent stake to attempt another deal in the future, Anderson and Lenzmeier could supply Schulze with valuable intelligence.
Anderson “is as much there to keep on an eye on what’s going on in there for Dick,” said David Strasser, an analyst with Janney Capital Management. “There are not a lot of issues but that could change in about a year.”
That’s because Best Buy still faces a precarious situation. Though the company seems to have stabilized its core business, some investors wonder if Best Buy can consistently string together several quarters of growth in sales at stores open for at least a year.
A sudden downturn in Best Buy’s performance could pressure the nascent alliance between Schulze and CEO Hubert Joly.
In addition, the committee would also evaluate any proposal to sell Best Buy assets. For example, many analysts expect Joly to eventually dissolve Best Buy’s joint venture with Carphone Warehouse in Europe and find a buyer for its Five Star operation in China.
And should Best Buy tried to sell anything else off, say leases to any of the 1,000 big box stores in North America, Schulze, through Anderson and Lenzmeier, will no doubt have a say in that.