The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Rent-A-Center Inc, HP, Sony, Whirlpool and Aaron’s Inc

Sep 28, 2011, 09:30 ET from Zacks Investment Research, Inc.

CHICAGO, Sept. 28, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include: Rent-A-Center Inc. (Nasdaq: RCII), HP (NYSE: HPQ), Sony (NYSE: SNE), Whirlpool (NYSE: WHR) and Aaron's Inc. (NYSE: AAN).

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Here are highlights from Monday's Analyst Blog:

Rent-A-Center Adds More Stores

Rent-A-Center Inc. (Nasdaq: RCII), in an attempt to expand its operational roots, is all set to serve the residents of Columbia, Missouri and Aston, Pennsylvania by opening new stores and providing them additional avenue to own luxury furnishings, electrical devices, electronics and computers.

The new 3,500-square-foot showroom in Columbia and the 3,200-square-foot showroom in Aston will offer brands like HP (NYSE: HPQ), Ashley, Sony (NYSE: SNE), Serta and Whirlpool (NYSE: WHR). Rent-A-Center operates through 68 and 155 locations in Missouri and Pennsylvania, respectively.

The residents of these places will get the benefit of acquiring goods with flexible payment options allowing them to pay weekly, biweekly or monthly. Further, the company provides a lifetime recall service while facilitating its customers to re-rent the same or a comparable item and get payments.

Rent-A-Center is one of the largest rent-to-own operators in the U.S. and leverages an extensive network of more than 3,000 stores to effectively penetrate into its target markets, and gain a competitive advantage over its competitors Aaron's Inc. (NYSE: AAN) and Advance America.

The company is taking prudent steps to optimize rental merchandise levels in accordance with the sales trends. Further, Rent-A-Center implemented a centralized inventory management system, which included automated merchandise replenishment. Moreover, a new centralized purchasing system allows it to better manage the rental merchandise.

Further, due to the continued tightening of the credit market, customers witness rent-to-own as a more flexible and viable option compared to credit. However, the sluggish recovery and a fragile job market may make customers reluctant to enter into the new rental purchase deals.

Currently, we have a Neutral rating on the stock. However, Rent-A-Center's shares maintain a Zacks #3 Rank, which translates into a short-term Hold recommendation.

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