After Gains, Why Best Buy Still Gets Crushed by Amazon

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The big question in the retail sector is whether any company can hold on against Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN). Corner bookstores have all but disappeared, Borders is history and Barnes & Noble Inc. (NYSE: BKS) is teetering on the edge of doom.

What may be a more interesting question is whether Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY), which appears to be in something of a turnaround, will be able to beat back Amazon. Best Buy’s quarterly results reported this morning were better than expected, and that pushed the stock to a new 52-week high.

The company’s online revenue grew 10.5% year-over-year to $477 million domestically, representing just over 5% of Best Buy’s total quarterly revenue. Growth in online sales actually is down from 14.2% growth in the second quarter a year ago. Total revenues were also lower and same-store sales were much lower. That is not a turnaround, or at least not a turnaround in the right direction.

Without a gigantic increase in its online revenue, can Best Buy survive? With Amazon willing to post net losses as it expands its offerings and its customer base by selling at razor-thin margins, there is really no way that Best Buy can compete on price. And while other things like customer service do matter, these drain profits in the short to medium term, and that is all the time that Best Buy has.

Investors appear to be willing to give Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos all the time the company wants to turn a profit. They seem to understand that at the end of all the competitive battles that remain to be contested, there will be one company left standing and that company will not be Best Buy. It will be Amazon.

Best Buy has shown some life today, and investors are rewarding themselves by pushing shares to a new 52-week high of $34.65, more than three times the 52-week low of $11.20.