If Walmart's second quarter sales trends in electronics are any indication, Best Buy could announce a dud of a quarter and outlook in a few short weeks.
In Walmart's earnings release on Tuesday, the world's largest retailer cited "softness" in electronics at its Walmart U.S. division. And at Sam's Club U.S., sales fell by a high-single digit percentage in the tech, office, and entertainment category.
Walmart CFO John David Rainey struck a cautiously optimistic tone on the state of the U.S. consumer in an interview with Yahoo Finance but noted key behavior changes due to unrelenting inflation.
“I'd say that what we're seeing is they are still relatively healthy," Rainey said. "We've seen some changes in consumer behavior that I put in three categories. One is there's a trade down in both quality and quantity. So instead of buying deli meats, we're seeing things like canned tuna and chicken and even beans, as units were up over 25% in the quarter. They're buying smaller pack sizes to save money."
The savings grace for Best Buy is that the market knows the bad news is coming soon and perhaps already factored that into the stock price. Best Buy stock is down 15% year to date.
The electronics retailer slashed both its second-quarter and full-year financial forecasts in late July. Best Buy sees second quarter same-store sales dropping by 13%, and full year same-store sales are pegged to decline by 11%.
Best Buy also said that it would end the second quarter with inventory levels flat versus a year ago despite a sharp pullback in same-store sales. The unbalanced ratio of inventory to sales suggests Best Buy could experience stiff margin pressure well into year end as it marks down slow-moving inventory.
"Given data points around computing and TVs and the weight in the mix, we expect acute pressure in these categories with most of the box down," JP Morgan analyst Chris Horvers stated in a note. "We estimate down low teens comps in 3Q with some sequential improvement in 4Q (-10%) with the entirety of the back half roughly flat on a dollar basis to 2H19 (or the backhalf of FY20 in Best Buy lingo)."
Nevertheless, despite the warning signs on demand in recent months, Best Buy shares were up 13% in August going into Tuesday.
So now Best Buy's best bet may be to report something similar to Walmart for the second quarter: Not great but not dire.