Best Buy Hits Reset to Win Back Wall Street
As a little preview, reports over the weekend suggest Sharon McCollam, former chief financial officer at Williams-Sonoma, will take over the CFO position.
The former CFO, Jim Muehlbauer, is scheduled to leave the company at the end of the year as part of a larger management shake-up. As a reminder, Muehlbauer is not the only one in the senior Best Buy ranks being shown the door as the new CEO Hubert Joly cleans house after only a few short months with the company. (Mike Vitelli, the president of Best Buy's U.S. operations, and Tim Sheehan, chief administrative officer and executive vice president, are also out).
The domino effect of management changes all started with the abrupt departure of CEO Brian Dunn, a 26-year Best Buy veteran, back in April. (Read More: Can't Blame Best Buy CEO for All the Retailer's Woes)
Sheehan's and Vitelli's departures were announced last month, and eliminated a combined 61 years of expertise. While you can't blame all Best Buy's woes on management (showrooming has played its part), the addition of fresh faces is not exactly unwelcome. After all, the three executives presided over a 68-percent plunge in shareholder value over the past five years.
So now that the CFO cat is out of the bag, what could move the stock tomorrow?
Two words: store closings. While Best Buy has announced previous plans to close stores, investors would simply like to see more on the way. And the good news is McCollam is not new to the process of shrinking square footage after presiding over store closings at Williams-Sonoma.
While incremental store closures would be welcome and not unexpected, an equally significant focus on Tuesday will be the sales/gross margin trade-off. Best Buy recently announced same-store sales will decline at a rate similar to the past two quarters (down 5.3 percent in the first quarter and down 3.2 percent in the second quarter). While plans for free shipping and price matching this holiday season may help plug the acceleration in market-share losses, the hit to the bottom line is a Catch-22.
The question is: will Best Buy be able to compete without giving away the farm?
Stacey Widlitz is the President of SW Retail Advisors Inc. She has worked at UBS, SG Cowen, Fulcrum Partners and in 2005 was one of three analysts to launch the Research Department at Pali Capital, where she covered Retail and Home Video for 5 years. Follow Stacey on Twitter @StaceyRetail.