Best Buy and the reluctant shopper. Sales fall as Americans pull back on spending

NEW YORK (AP) — Sales and profits at Best Buy slid in the second quarter as the nation's largest consumer electronics chain continues to wrestle with a pullback in spending after Americans splurged during the pandemic.

The decline in sales was smaller than what Wall Street had anticipated, however, and profits were better than expected, sending shares higher in early trading.

The U.S. job market has remained resilient, but Americans are facing higher prices and more expensive credit with the Federal Reserve hiking benchmark interest rates to combat inflation. It's more expensive to take out loans for appliances, cars and houses, or to use a credit card. As a result, consumers have become reluctant to spend unless there is a sale. They’re being more selective with what they will buy and, in many cases, trading down to buy cheaper stuff.

Retailers including Best Buy are also now bracing for the impact from the ending of the student loan moratorium, which had provided one-time college students a little more financial breathing room.

“We believe that the consumer is in a good place," CEO Corie Barry told analysts on a call Tuesday. ”But as we have said, they are making careful choices and trade-offs right for their households."

But she expects this year will be the low point in demand for new technology after two years of declines, and next year the consumer electronics industry should stabilize and enjoy possible growth as shoppers look to upgrade and replace their gadgets.

Barry said shoppers are deal-focused, and she expects the holiday season will revert back to the same promotional cadence prior to the pandemic, with peak spending right around the end of October, Thanksgiving week and the last few days before Christmas.

Comparable sales — sales from physical stores open at least a year, and digital channels — fell 6.3%, dragged down by declines in computing and appliances. Appliance sales fell 16.1%, while sales of computer and phone devices slid 6.4%. Computer electronics sales fell 5.7%. The entertainment category, including gaming, jumped 9.1% increase.

Best Buy, based in Minneapolis, earned $274 million, or $1.25 per share, during the quarter ended July 29. That easily topped the per-share earnings of $1.06 that Wall Street was expecting, according to a survey by FactSet, but below the $306 million the company earned in the same period last year.

Sales fell 7.2% to $9.58 billion, slightly better than analyst estimates.

Best Buy Inc. lowered the high-end of its full year revenue outlook to the midpoint that it had previously issued but left the low-end of its revenue guidance unchanged. At the same time, it narrowed its profitability ranges.

Shares rose 6% to $78.50 Tuesday.

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