Conn's has managed to outlive human life expectancy. Begun as a plumbing and heating business, the regional retailer now has more than 120 years under its belt. The company sells primarily consumer electronics and appliances through some 65 mostly leased stores located in Texas, Oklahoma, and southern Louisiana, as well as through its website. Conn's markets about 2,100 brand-name products, such as refrigerators, freezers, washers, dryers, air conditioners, vacuum cleaners, TVs, and home theater systems. The retailer, which offers its customers financing, also sells lawn mowers, furniture, bedding, and track items, including DVD players, digital cameras, video game equipment, camcorders, and speakers.
Unlike some of Conn's rivals, the company offers its customers in-house credit options for product purchases. Since 2009 it has financed an average 60% of its retail sales through credit programs. As a result, the consumer electronics retailer generated some 17% of its 2012 sales from finance charges. The company buys its products from about 200 different manufacturers and distributors. Of those, Conn's largest vendors include Samsung (26% of inventory), LG (22%), and Sony (9%).
Unfortunately for Conn's, its retail revenues have taken a beating during the past few years due to the economic downturn and tightened credit markets. In fiscal 2012 revenues dipped 1% due to store closures. The Conn's retail network shuttered 10 stores, most in strip malls, during the course of the year. In fiscal 2013, it plans to add up to seven new stores, which average 22,000 sq. ft., to boost sales. But the consumer products retailer isn't out of the woods yet. Sales declines in 2012 were paired with higher selling, general, and administrative expenses that comprised a 27% rise vs. 2011. Total revenues for its credit segment dropped nearly $9 million as compared to the prior year due to lower interest income and fee revenues. Its credit customers are keeping up with payments, creating shrinking account balances. Conn's is still struggling to turn itself around. Considering same-store sales in pre-recession 2008, Conn's logged a 3% growth rate vs. declines of 14% in 2010 and slips of 10% in 2011.
The rapid deterioration has been somewhat surprising, however, given that the company enjoyed sales growth in 2009 despite the US recession. The concentration of its stores in Texas, where the economy has fared better than the rest of the nation, has generally helped to insulate the regional retailer from the global economic downturn. In an effort to push itself in a positive direction, Conn's is adding a handful of stores in its new format, which sets aside additional floor space for furniture and mattresses -- items that generate higher profit margins.
In addition to the weak economic performance, the company's top management spot has been a revolving door for several years. Former chairman and CEO Thomas Frank Sr. stepped down in 2009 as the recession took root and handed the job to son Timothy Frank, who had served as president and COO. The younger Frank eventually left in early 2011, looking "to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities with earlier growth stage businesses." Conn's chairman Theodore Wright was appointed interim president and CEO. He was made permanent in November 2011. Wright brings experience as president and CFO of Sonic Automotive. – less