Best Buy Co. Inc., the nation's largest consumer electronics retailer, delivered robust earnings on strong sales Tuesday — further evidence that shoppers are doling out more money for GPS navigators and game consoles than for apparel and shoes.For the three months ended Dec. 1, earnings leapt 34.2 percent to $228 million, or 53 cents a diluted share, from $150 million, or 31 cents, in the year-ago period. This growth is attributed to new store openings, an increase in the average selling price of key goods, as well as an extra week of post-Thanksgiving revenue. Sales for the quarter grew 14.7 percent to $9.9 billion from $8.4 billion in the same period last year. Domestic and international revenue jumped 15 and 32 percent, respectively, as a favorable foreign exchange rate, coupled with the opening of new stores, bolstered sales.The retailer's results quantify recent government spending data that shows a shift in consumer spending away from apparel and shoes. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, real personal consumption expenditures on apparel and shoes grew 0.3 percent from the second quarter of this year to the third quarter. This compares with 2.4 percent for furniture and household equipment, which includes consumer electronics. Year-over-year, expenditures in home goods climbed 8 percent versus apparel and shoes' 2.1 percent gain.Top sellers for Best Buy as it was heading into the critical holiday shopping season included flat-panel TVs, game consoles (and related software) and GPS navigation devices.But similar to its apparel retail counterparts, Best Buy's strong sales growth is coming at the expense of gross margins. Goldman Sachs retail analyst Matthew J. Fassler said in a research note that the "quality of [Best Buy's] earnings was solid. That said, we would point out that gross margin, while it beat published consensus, met, rather than beat, our forecast."Best Buy raised its full-year earnings guidance to a range of $3.10 to $3.20 a diluted share from $3 to $3.15.
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