Editors' pick: Originally published April 21.
In the ever-changing world of video games, bricks-and-mortar distributor GameStop (GME) - Get Report has created an expansion pack for its business, adding new levels and operations to capture a greater market share of the gaming community.
GameStop COO Tony Bartel was recently interviewed by TheStreet, where he laid out the company's two-fold plan for growth: investing in core competencies and expanding the types of products it sells.
Bartel, who took the COO role in 2015, said the company will continue to invest in its technology brands business, which sells things like cell phones and other consumer electronics, as well as boost its presence in online sales.
"GameStop is in the midst of a transformation," Bartel says.
When asked about what types of acquisitions the company could make, Bartel says, "the answer is really seen in what we've done with the technology brands."
The technology brands part of GameStop's operations began to take shape in 2013, when it acquired a majority stake in authorized Apple (AAPL) - Get Report retailer Simply Mac for $9.5 million and acquired Spring Mobile, a Salt Lake City-based wireless phone retailer, for $62.6 million. GameStop initially took a minority stake in Simply Mac in October 2012. GameStop entered into a strategic dealer agreement with Cricket Wireless in 2013.
"When we come into a market and do acquisitions, we make investments in what we call white-space stores, stores that weren't there before," Bartel says.
GameStop has diversified already into things outside electronics.
In June 2015, the Grapevine, Texas, company acquired Fairfax, Va.-based ThinkGeek for $140 million, branching out to offer figurines, apparel and other video game paraphernalia. The COO says GameStop has opened separate ThinkGeek stores.
BB&T analyst Anthony Chukumba tells TheStreet he expects GameStop to buy or open 400 to 500 stores for their technology brand lines in the 2016 fiscal year. GameStop announced in a Dec. 10 statement it had opened its 1,000 stores carrying Technology Brands lines, which began after the company opened its technology brand stores.
When GameStop contemplates making an acquisition it will look at four areas of its own business, which Bartel calls GameStop's "core competencies": the company's experience in retail and real estate alongside its buy-sell-trade model and PowerUp rewards program that allows customers to take accumulate points through purchases and then put the points toward merchandise.
"We will look for opportunities where we can take those core competencies and apply them," Bartel says, adding the company mainly expects to "return value to our shareholders through dividends and stock buybacks unless there is a better acquisition."
The video game seller said in a March 9 Securities and Exchange Commission regulatory filing that it closed a $475 million debt issuance, which Chukumba says will, at least in part, finance acquisitions.
Another area the company hopes to increase its presence in is the digital realm, where customers buy games online as opposed to purchasing physical copies of game discs or cartridges, Bartel emphasizes.
"What we see in digital is a growth opportunity," he says. "We help [customers] discover digital content and help them afford digital content. When you walk into a store, you'll be able to talk to people" with first-hand experience of the video games, Bartel explains.
GameStop's shares are up 16.8% year to date, closing at $32.77 per share Friday.