With Apple products "accounting for 15%-20% of Best Buy's total sales (with higher than average unit selling prices)," and "[driving] traffic and [motivating] consumers to go to Best Buy's stores," Apple's recent warning that it will miss its revenue forecast has major implications for the big box electronics retailer, according to a Wednesday note from UBS analyst Michael Lasser emailed to Retail Dive.
Apple CEO Tim Cook sent a note to investors warning that first quarter revenue would reach about $84 billion, lower than the $89 billion-$93 billion the company had previously guided. He blamed the slide on "economic weakness in some emerging markets [that] turned out to have a significantly greater impact than we had projected," especially in Greater China, and "fewer iPhone upgrades."
Best Buy could also suffer at Apple's hands in another way: The iPhone maker has recently expanded its retail partnerships, in November adding its full line to Amazon's website and expanding its assortment sold through Costco, according to Lasser's team.
At the time it was anticipated that the deficit would be made up in the next quarter, so investors shrugged it off. But UBS analysts warned in their note this week that Apple's sales woes and new retail partnerships present longer-term risks for Best Buy. "Expanded distribution means that it will be harder for [Best Buy] to sustain its share gains," they wrote, comparing the situation to Dick's Sporting Goods' losses after Under Armour inked a deal with Kohl's. "Apple's moves might not be as draconian for Best Buy. But, they do illustrate the risk."
While Apple may be hoping to sell more devices through more retailers, it remains to be seen how much it can stoke demand without lowering its infamously-never-discounted prices. In comments emailed to Retail Dive after Cook's note, Wells Fargo analysts said that their research leads them "to believe that demand weakness [for iPhone], coupled with channel inventory burn-off, could persist for a few quarters."
Investors are also trying to figure out the effects and the future of the China-U.S. trade war in light of the Apple news and amid reports of economic slack emerging in both countries. White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Kevin Hassett told CNN Thursday afternoon that "a heck of a lot" of companies and not just Apple would likely be forced to downgrade their sales forecasts absent a deal with China. Wells Fargo analysts noted, however, that, based on past patterns, October-November iPhone sales outside of China are likely down in the high-single digit range year over year as well.
Best Buy didn't immediately return Retail Dive's request for comment. However, the retailer apparently anticipated leveling demand for smartphones when it shuttered all its mobile stores last year. Plus it has more irons in the fire than Apple, including shops-in-shop with several other brands, its own tie-up with Amazon, appliance sales it can siphon from Sears' rapidly shrinking store base and services like its Geek Squad and GreatCall units — along with new marketing that urges, "Let's talk about what's possible." Which is exactly what it needs to do.