Should Amazon (AMZN) buy RadioShack (RSH) or Best Buy (BBY)?
SunTrust analyst Bob Peck is putting out the thought today that Amazon should buy RadioShack. He has a good idea, but has the wrong company. Let me explain: In Peck's piece today, he says:
"As we've been thinking about the expansion of eCommerce into local, we have also noticed the decline of several local chains. This can be for a variety of reason, including: bad locations, over build out of stores, inability to keep up with the changing consumer demands, and poor inventory. The most recent struggling chain is RadioShack. In fact, its CEO, Joe Magnacca, said last week that the company may have to seek bankruptcy and try to reorganize the company and its 4,000+ locations. We think Amazon should consider buying some of the locations in bankruptcy for several reasons: 1) No tax law issues; 2) Amazon is already focused on local; 3) Showcase Amazon products and services (launch new services); 4) Improve pickup and distribution; 5) Broader ecosystem lift."
But as I wrote two years ago, maybe the better bet would be Amazon buying Best Buy. Seemed like a crazy idea at the time, but as I wrote:
"And no, I'm not totally nuts.
Here's the way I'm thinking about it: No matter what anybody will tell you, when it comes to new electronics and other products, such as appliances, most people still want to feel, touch, and hold them ¿ and maybe even actively be sold by somebody who can explain how they work. (Been in an Apple store lately?)
And unless they absolutely and impulsively must have whatever it might be this very minute, most people also want the lowest price.
But face it: We're all guilty of using Best Buy as a showroom for Amazon or other online stores."
"What's more, Amazon' sales growth and operating margins are decelerating.
Enter Best Buy. Overnight Amazon would have 1,000 well-located Internet showrooms with little in the way of inventory (or maybe a lot of inventory ¿ still to be hashed out in my head) but a way to accelerate sales.
As one top executive of a larger retailer (whose idea this was) tells me: 'The 'bricks and mortar' guys now understand the potential of the Internet and everybody is trying to grow that business. Jeff's smart enough and bold enough to attack these 'B & M' guys where they live.'
As an added bonus: Best Buy (annual revenues of $50.7 billion) would help Amazon ($48 billion) get to its goal of $100 billion a lot faster.
The solution: Buy the showrooms."
I believed it then and I believe it now. I think the fallacy of Peck's argument on Radio Shack is twofold: One, he's saying Amazon should buy some of RadioShack's locations. To me, that does nothing. Two, RadioShack's internal footprint is too small.
Either way, we agree on this: Amazon needs to do something more, and, as backwards as it may seem, that something is move into bricks and mortar.
There was speculation a few years ago that Amazon was going to test a retail store in Seattle. So far, that apparently hasn't happened.
But with the elimination of the no sales tax for online transactions, the playing field on pricing is more level -- making bricks-and-mortar stores somewhat less irrelevant. Bricks-and-mortar stores aren't going away any more or less than movie theaters disappeared, as was predicted, when movies on videotapes, DVDs, Pay-Per-View and Netflix arrived on the scene.
Maybe what Amazon should do is buy both RadioShack and Best Buy. It'll give it the local touch (plus convenient pick-up locations) as well as the bigger showrooms. Between its stock and cash on hand (not including the $3.3 billion on Best Buy's books) financing such a deal would be the least of its problems.