Something big will be flying into — and ideally out of — Best Buy (BBY) next month. Hopping on the drone trend, Best Buy will begin selling 3D Robotics’ Solo. The meandering consumer electronics superstore chain already sells drones, but the store-stocked flying machines tend to be at the low end of the pricing and features spectrum.
Solo won’t come cheap, packing a suggested retail price of $999. It does come with some pretty slick specs, including a pair of Linux computers, the ability to stream video wirelessly to any device, an intuitive video game-style controller, and 25 minutes of airborne time. Perhaps more importantly, 3D Robotics worked with GoPro (GPRO) for integration of a wearable camera, making this the first drone to offer complete control of any GoPro Hero3+ or Hero4 camera.
BuzzFeed calls it the most powerful consumer drone to hit the market, and it will launch in a handful of specialty camera shops as well as Best Buy.
Getting Off the Ground
Solo could be huge for Best Buy, and we’re not just talking about the initial $999 payment. Someone buying a drone might very well pick up a GoPro camera to mount on the device. That could lead to the eventual purchase of SD memory cards for recording, drone accessories, and PCs to edit the airborne clips.
Best Buy can use the help. Sales have declined for five consecutive years. Things have started to stabilize, and sales actually inched higher over the holidays relative to the prior year’s peak shopping season.
It won’t be easy to keep the turnaround going. Folks continue to flock online to find lower prices on consumer electronics, and the same smartphones and tablets that Best Buy is selling now will be used in the future for comparison shopping. However, with consumer drones getting better — and 3D Robotics’ Solo looking pretty cool — and Apple (AAPL) about to validate the smartwatch as a new product category, things could start to get a lot better for consumer electronics in general and Best Buy in particular.
The neat thing about drones and smartwatches is that they lend themselves to bricks-and-mortar shopping experiences. Drones can fall into disrepair after a rough flight, and smartwatches can always use an initial fitting. They are jewelry, after all.
Wall Street isn’t convinced. Analysts see a slight dip in sales and profitability for Best Buy this fiscal year, even after the marginal rebound over last year’s holiday quarter. Then again, that’s also why Solo’s potential success at Best Buy next month could really turn things around for a chain that’s been too busy cutting overhead to focus on ways to grow again.
Drones could be the ticket to get Best Buy flying high again, and next month the chain wouldn’t mind if that flight is a Solo mission.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and GoPro. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out The Motley Fool’s free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.