Consumer electronics insiders are hoping that 3D TV adoption
will goose their industry's revenues and profit margins. "If recent
buying patterns are any indication, consumers may make a mad dash
to replace their current TVs with 3D-capable ones as the new
technology matures," tech sales executive Jeff Davis gushed
a consumer electronics trade.
To what extent will Best Buy (
), the country's largest consumer electronics retailer, benefit
from this trend? Not much, in our opinion. The same goes for
competitors like Amazon (
), eBay (
) and Wal-Mart (
Why are we bearish on 3D? Boosters like Davis assume that
TV watchers will embrace 3D as they did HDTV, the last major
breakthrough in TV technology. But there are several reasons why
this confidence could be misplaced. Our analysis follows below.
3D TV is not HDTV all over again
Compared to conventional flat-panel TV sets, 3D sets are much
more expensive and yield higher profit margins. In theory, mass
adoption of 3D TV would increase Best Buy's revenue per square foot
and profit margins, which in turn would lift the company's
You can drag the trend-line in the charts below to create your
own revenue per square foot and gross margin estimates,
respectively, for Best Buy, and see how they impact the company's
estimated stock price.
Here's why we're skeptical. Consumers flocked to HDTV because of
falling set prices and the massive volume of HD content available
from pay-TV service providers like Comcast and Time Warner
Cable. Demand naturally skyrocketed, boosting
HDTV adoption rates to about 50% of U.S. homes by
the end of 2009
But 3D TVs can cost nearly twice as much as comparable HDTV
sets. They require additional spending on accessories like 3D
glasses, and have been linked to unpleasant side effects like
strokes and epileptic seizures in some viewers. We expect
these factors to limit consumer demand for 3D TVs for the
foreseeable future. Consequently, Best Buy's upside from this
technology could be limited.
Even if we're wrong, 3D probably won't move Best Buy's
About 20% of Best Buy's annual sales come from TVs. Let's
assume, optimistically, that 3D TVs constitute 25% of Best Buy's
total TV sales by the end of the Trefis forecast period. In
this scenario, incremental cash flows from higher pricing and gross
margins for 3D TVs would create a limited upside of about 3% to 4%
for the company's stock.
Best Buy's stock could soar by more than 15% in the unlikely
event that 3D technology powers 100% of all TVs sold by the end of
the Trefis forecast period. We're not holding our breath.
You can see
the complete $42.03 Trefis price estimate for
Best Buy's stock here.