New GameStop CEO Promises Change; Wall Street isn’t Buying: Stock Down 38%

New GameStop CEO George Sherman, in his first earnings call on June 4, pledged to shake up the status quo in an effort to transform the world’s largest video game retailer in the digital age.

Wall Street beat him to the punch after GameStop reported a 75% drop in quarterly income — driven in part by a 35% drop in console sales. Revenue fell 13.3% to $1.54 billion.

Company shares are down a record 38% in midday June 5 trading, with more than six times the typical daily volume of shares traded in just four hours.

GameStop CEO George Sherman

“We struggle with how much GME will able to monetize new ‘experiential’ and subscription initiatives such as eSports and revamping the PowerUp rewards program,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch wrote in a June 5 note.

Sherman said the “GameStop reboot” must “transform” the retailer to remain a viable player in a changing industry underscored by subscription streaming and digital access.

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He said the retailer would focus on the “20% of our SKUs that drive 80% of our business.” Notable among those performing SKUs: Collectables. The segment saw sales increase 10.5% to $157.3 million, with continued growth of trend items in both domestic and international stores.

“We’ll continue to get better at that piece of the business through inventory optimization and expand the assortment of exclusive products that our customers desire,” Sherman said.

At the same time, GameStop is divesting interest in Simply Mac, with a sale of the unit expected in the second quarter and melding the ThinkGeek.com business within the company’s branded “omni-channel” experience.

Sherman is looking to generate a $100 million operation income improvement while cutting debt more than $350 million. He also wants to better leverage the company’s 60 million PowerUp Rewards members.

“We’re evaluating new revenue streams and how we can and should participate in the digital economy, particularly given the significant number of loyal customers we bring the publishers and console makers,” Sherman said. “This will take time but is a necessity to enable us to continue maintaining our position as the leader in the video game space.”

Michael Pachter, media analyst at Wedbush Securities in Los Angeles, says that despite ongoing consumer shifts away from packaged media, majority demand still exists.

“We don’t expect the next console cycle to eliminate physical discs altogether,” Pachter wrote in a note. “Consumers still value physical games for their portability, ease of gift giving and the ability to trade them in for value at GameStop. Notwithstanding dire pronouncements about the imminent demise of physical media, our covered game publishers still sell over 50% of their console games in physical form.”

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