Why Best Buy May Be Apple’s Biggest Fan

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Among the millions of Apple (AAPL) fans eagerly awaiting today's new-product announcement, none may be bigger than the electronics retailer Best Buy (BBY) .

That's because every time Apple unveils new products or updates, Best Buy's financial results--and its stock--get a nice pop.

Oddly, Best Buy management has downplayed the potential impact to its third-quarter results from today's introductions of Apple products. The company even chose not to cite the Cupertino, California technology beast by name during its second-quarter earnings call on Aug. 26 though it did mention Samsung seven times.

"Absent any changes in these declining industry trends, and with limited visibility to new product launch quantities, we continue to expect comparable sales to decline in the low-single digits in both the third and fourth quarter", said Best Buy's Chief Financial Officer Sharon McCollum.

Wall Street was caught off guard by Best Buy's ice-bucket forecast on the sales and profit potential from new Apple products as the holiday season nears, and sent the stock price down 2.4% on Aug. 26.

But Best Buy shares have rallied 7.1% since then, for one likely reason: The company historically has prospered following Apple product releases, thus rendering management's cautionary comments as irrelevant  as a Blackberry (BBRY)  smartphone.

The windfall could be substantial for Best Buy.  "In fiscal 2014, our 20 largest suppliers accounted for approximately 70% of the merchandise we purchased, with 5 suppliers - Apple, Samsung, Hewlett-Packard, Sony and LG Electronics - representing approximately 45% of total merchandise purchased", notes the company in its 2013 annual report.  Best Buy does not disclose sales directly from Apple. 

In each of the past three years, Best Buy's third-quarter computing and mobile phones segment was second only to appliances (being propelled by the U.S. housing market recovery) as the strongest in terms of same-store sales performance. Last year, Best Buy's computing and mobile phones same-store sales increased 6.7% (iPhone 5c/5s released) in the third-quarter, following gains of 0.9% and 8.8% in the third-quarter of 2012 (iPhone 5 released) and 2011 (iPhone 4s released), respectively.

Further in support of the Apple product effect on Best Buy, U.S. retail sales at electronics stores, according to the Census Bureau, surged in September 2013 and September 2012 predominately due to fresh iPhones arriving to market. In September 2012, retail sales at electronic stores increased 0.7%, stronger than the excluding autos sales figure that improved 0.5%. Going back to 2012, the largest increase within the September retail sales report was electronics stores -- the category's sales rose 4.5%, trumping the 0.9% increase excluding sales of autos.

The stock market has gotten hip to the Apple phenomenon. Per Bloomberg data, Best Buy shares have outperformed the S&P 500 in three of the past four years from September (when the newest iPhone is usually launched) to mid-November when Best Buy releases its third quarter results and holiday guidance. The average stock gain during this three-month window in the last four years, 8.6%.

A wildcard this go-around is whether the long-rumored Apple iBand will be released prior to the holiday season, or if at all. The new wearable device from Apple would essentially give Best Buy a product platform that is unlikely factored into the company's guidance for the balance of 2014 and 2015, and the estimates of the Street. A request for comment on when Best Buy learns of its inventory allocation for new products from Apple was not immediately returned.

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At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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