Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hype and Promise

This week I walked by the always-mobbed Apple store on Michigan avenue where they had a big window display for the new iPad mini. I liked the expression on this woman's face as she looked at her new iPhone.

Down the street you can see the lonely Garmin store. Garmin, the GPS related company, has its only retail store in the world (per wikipedia, at least) on Michigan Avenue and I have been by it many times and it is sparsely populated, at best.

GPS used to be a great hype story, with the possibilities seemingly endless, and companies poised to clean up with huge stock prices. Soon, however, GPS became a widely used tool, background almost, and the hype was forgotten. Garmin (GRMN on NASDAQ) initially was a darling of the stock market, a momentum stock, but which has since transformed itself into what appears to be a well-run and diversified company spread across the marine, flight, exercise, and auto areas. They have changed from a stock touting the limitless growth of GPS to a practical stock that explains their gross and operating margins for each segment clearly and also how they are using the free cash flow that they receive to pay investors a large and growing dividend - go here for a brief presentation for investors from their web site.

It is interesting to see how our perception of a company or stock is based on our personal experience with the consumer devices. We see Apple at home or at work, and interact with it every day of our lives (if you are an "Apple" person). On the other hand, few of us think much about Garmin, but it is integrated into cars, exercise devices (one of the few stand alone devices that really seems to be growing), planes, boats, and many other areas. At one time it seemed that everyone would have a stand alone GPS devices, but then the "coolest" consumer application components were integrated into iPhones and Android phones and became commonplace in autos so it just became less exciting over time.

Cross posted at Chicago Boyz

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