Business

Best Buy's hot streak continues

Posted February 27, 2019 11:01 a.m. EST

— Best Buy got a big assist during the holidays from Americans who splurged on Apple watches and Amazon Echo devices.

The electronics retailer — one of the handful of legacy brick-and-mortar giants that is thriving in the Amazon era — said Wednesday that sales at stores open for at least a year rose 3% during its most recent quarter compared with 2018. That beat Wall Street expectations. Best Buy has posted at least 3% sales growth in every quarter for nearly two years.

The company's profit also exceeded expectations. Best Buy's stock jumped 16% in early trading.

CEO Hubert Joly told analysts Wednesday that Best Buy's "improved experience" in stores and online resonated with customers.

Like Walmart, which reported earnings last week, Best Buy was lifted by strong consumer spending and low unemployment. Walmart's sales at US stores open at least a year during its most recent quarter increased 4.2% compared with last year. Best Buy and Walmart have staved off pressure from Amazon by investing heavily in their stores and ramping up efforts online.

Under Joly, Best Buy has poured money into making its stores into a destination for shoppers and vendors like Amazon, Apple, and Samsung.

Best Buy's 1,000 stores also act as warehouses, from which the company can quickly ship deliveries to customers and collect their online pickup orders. The company's online sales grew 9% in its most recent quarter. And close to a fourth of its annual sales are made online.

In recent years, Best Buy has also focused on service, helping customers with tech questions. It has rolled out In-Home Advisor, a home tech consultation service, and Total Tech Support, an annual membership for on-demand help and repairs.

Last year, Best Buy acquired GreatCall, the maker of the Jitterbug cellphone with big buttons for elderly citizens. The company now sells that product in its stores.

Joly told analysts that those programs help Best Buy differentiate from competitors. Best Buy's sales in its service unit increased nearly 14% during the holidays compared with last year.

Wearables, appliances, smart home devices and gaming products were Best Buy's top-selling categories over the holidays. Appliances were a particular bright spot: Sales in that category increased 8.5% during the holidays.

Apple's iPhone struggles plagued the Best Buy, though. The tech company's iPhone revenue fell 15% during the holidays compared with last year. That weighed on Best Buy, since its phone division slowed down.

In 2019, Best Buy plans to expand its business in health technology for sleep and fitness. Joly added that the company thinks digital health is an "enormous opportunity."