Aug 25, 2021 - Economy & Business

Best Buy's surprise

Illustration of the yellow Best Buy logo tag with the letters WFH

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Best Buy reported surprisingly strong Q2 sales and earnings. The company also had some surprising things to say about customer behavior. Bullish things.

Why it matters: The distribution of COVID vaccines and the reopening of the economy came with an expected shift in spending toward experiences and less on goods.

  • Best Buy’s robust 19.6% jump in comparable-store sales suggests there’s still plenty of demand for the electronics that make being at home more comfortable and enjoyable.

What they’re saying: "Our original outlook also reflected a scenario in which customers would resume or accelerate spend in areas that were slowed during the pandemic, such as travel and dining out," Best Buy CFO Matt Bilunas said on a Tuesday call with analysts.

  • "Although we are seeing some shift in consumer spending occur, the impact has been less pronounced than we previously anticipated."

Zoom out: The pandemic has changed the way people live and work. And companies like Best Buy have been in a position to win.

  • "There has been a dramatic and structural increase in the need for technology," said CEO Corie Barry.
  • She added that customers have an "elevated appetite to upgrade" due to continual tech innovations. And purchasing patterns reflect "permanent life changes, like hybrid work and streaming entertainment content."

Between the lines: Barry notes that they’ve seen some consumer spending shift away from experiences as COVID cases have risen.

  • "But we've just seen this growth continue, honestly, in both experiences and on the retail side," Barry said.

The big picture: Business strength amid rising COVID cases is not just a Best Buy story, says Lori Calvasina, RBC Capital Markets head of U.S. equity strategy.

  • "A sizable majority [of S&P 500 companies that announced earnings last week] have emphasized the strong demand, with a noteworthy minority commenting on decelerating growth," Calvasina wrote in a research note.

The bottom line: As long as the Delta variant lingers, uncertainty will remain elevated. So far, consumer spending has been pretty resilient.

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