GameStop Really Needs Console Demand to Stick

GameStop’s most recent quarter saw only 6% growth year over year, a sharp deceleration from the previous three periods.


Photo:

ANDREW KELLY/REUTERS

At least GameStop GME 0.97%

isn’t buying into a gold mine.

The videogame retailer and original meme-stock reported mixed results for its fourth fiscal quarter late Thursday. Revenue rose for the fourth consecutive quarter since GameStop emerged from a multiyear sales slump.

But the most recent quarter saw only 6% growth year over year, a sharp deceleration from the 20%-plus growth of the previous three periods. And a sharp rise in spending produced losses for a quarter during which a strong bump in holiday sales typically leads to a quarterly profit for the retailer. GameStop shares fell 7% after the report.

In what has become a typically brief call to discuss the results, GameStop Chief Executive Matt Furlong noted that a mix of supply-chain issues and the Omicron variant “had a sizable impact on this past year’s holiday season.” He also said the company chose to “lean in and absorb higher costs” to meet customer demand. The result was GameStop’s fourth straight year of operating losses despite the company’s first pickup in annual sales since the fiscal year that ended in January 2018.

In other words, GameStop’s first full-year results since completely overhauling its management has something for everyone. That includes the enthusiastic retail investors who have kept the stock price several times higher than its pre-WallStreetBets days. It also includes the skeptical short sellers who have been finding their way back into the stock. Short interest has picked up nearly 7 percentage points in the last three months to 15.3% of shares outstanding, according to FactSet.

GameStop’s plans to launch an NFT marketplace by the end of July add another highly speculative element. At its heart, though, GameStop remains a retailer with 4,573 stores that have to move products. Increasingly those products are hardware—gaming consoles and gaming PCs that can’t be downloaded but are vulnerable to other forms of disruption such as the global chip shortage.

The company benefits from the fact that game consoles have historically seen long tails of demand; Sony‘s

PlayStation 4 managed to sell a steady level of more than 17 million units annually in the first three years following its launch in late 2013.

But hardware profits are also typically much thinner than those of game software that once made up the largest chunk of GameStop’s business. The company’s gross margins for the just-ended fiscal year of 22.4% were its lowest ever and well under the 29.9% that the company managed in the first full year of the last console cycle, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

A game-free GameStop isn’t exactly golden.

Write to Dan Gallagher at dan.gallagher@wsj.com

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