Uh-Oh for Overstock

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This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," December 29, 2005, that was edited for clarity.

STUART VARNEY, GUEST HOST: Next case, shopping online, it was all the rage this Christmas, right? So, why were sales a disappointment for Overstock.com this holiday season?

That stock punished on news that sales grew at a slower pace than they had hoped. So, what is the problem?

Well, let`s ask Overstock`s president, Patrick Byrne.

Patrick, welcome back to "Your World," Cavuto`s "World."



BYRNE: The honor is mine, Mr. Varney. Nice to be here.


VARNEY: Mr. Varney? So formal, I like that. That`s very good. Look...


BYRNE: Well, it is your British accent.

VARNEY: Thank you very much.

I keep hearing that online shopping is here. It`s taken over. But it still is less than 5 percent of total retail sales. It`s not all it`s cracked up to be, is it?

BYRNE: Oh, I disagree, respectfully.

I think it is terrific. And it`s 3 to 5 percent, depending on who you believe. I went into a department store some months ago to buy a DVD player. I waited 20 minutes. There were 12 DVD players. I waited 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, a guy could help me. And what he knew was, there were 12 different prices. And it was just a horrible experience, compared with going online and, in two minutes, you are the world`s...


VARNEY: Yes, but wait, wait, wait, wait.

Look, Patrick, fair point. I take your point. But we were supposed to be way up towards 10 percent of total retail sales handled online. That was the expectation just a couple of years ago. Your company was based on that expectation, and you still haven`t made a profit.

BYRNE: Well, wait a second. Wait a second. We are confusing different issues.

What I said the other day that is getting multiplied is that we grew twice as fast as the industry did. Now, everybody is used to us growing three or four times as fast as the industry. We have grown twice as fast as the industry. For some people, that is a disappointment. Some people think growing twice as fast as everybody else is pretty good.

VARNEY: You haven`t made a profit, though, have you?

BYRNE: Well, we have had quarters where we make profit.

But I have been pretty clear. You`re not going to see us make a profit when we grow like this. We are not doing the thing that some other company did, where they lose billions of dollars getting there. We lose 1, 2, 3 percent. Sometimes, we make a little bit. But we are growing at these phenomenon rates. I have been...

VARNEY: I remember watching TV a lot....

BYRNE: I`d rather be...

VARNEY: ... in the couple of months right — running up to the Christmas period. And I saw TV just plastered with ads for Overstock.com, the O., as I recall.

BYRNE: Ah, good.

VARNEY: Great ads.

BYRNE: Sabina.


BYRNE: Thank you.

VARNEY: But it cost you an arm and a leg. It cost you an arm and a...


VARNEY: But it didn`t bring in the money in the amount that you were paying out for this advertising time. It is a bit like dot-coms 1999, isn`t it?

BYRNE: No, except the difference is, OK, to name names, Amazon, when they were our size, was losing $1.2 billion in operations. They were losing $100 million a month.

We are skimming along, and we are losing a few shekel here or there. It`s nothing we can`t handle. And, meanwhile, we have built one of the great brands on the Internet. We are one of the top five shopping destinations on the Internet. We are — you know, Amazon had lost $2.5 billion by this point. We have lost $90 million, and we generated...

VARNEY: Patrick...

BYRNE: We actually had...


VARNEY: Patrick, I am terribly sorry.

BYRNE: Go ahead.

VARNEY: I am going to be rude. I`m going to interrupt. We have got 30 seconds.

I know you want to say something about education and education reform. Go. Make your point, please.

BYRNE: Well, the — just that I have been — I`m sorry — they asked me if I wanted to talk about that.

I am involved in the school-voucher movement. The point can be made real quick. We give lower-income people food stamps. We think that is great. We don`t say they have to spend it at some government grocery store. We know that the government doesn`t have a special edge in producing or disturbing food.

Well, now we give out education stamps, but we make people spend them at government-run schools. What makes us think the government has some special edge in producing or distributing education?

VARNEY: Fair point. And, Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com, it was a pleasure having you back on this program.


VARNEY: Thanks for joining us, sir.

BYRNE: All right, Stuart.

VARNEY: All right. Thanks.

BYRNE: Thank you, Stuart.

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