Retail Apocalypse 1, Dave & Buster's 0

One of the concepts that seemed well positioned to withstand the slow fade of bricks-and-mortar chains continues to come undone. Shares of Dave & Buster's Entertainment (NASDAQ: PLAY) cratered on Monday, nearing 52-week lows after hosing down its guidance.

The big-box purveyor of food and fun has had a rough run during the holiday-containing fiscal fourth quarter that ends later this month. Comps have declined 5.1% so far this quarter, and the company is now targeting negative comps for all of fiscal 2017. Dave & Buster's sees $1.138 billion to $1.142 billion in revenue for the year, slightly lower than the $1.148 billion to $1.155 billion that it was forecasting just a month ago, but a big deal if we narrow down what this means for the current quarter.

Dave & Buster's now expects to grow its revenue during the current quarter by 12.9%, a far cry from its 17.2% perch last month. The news only gets worse as we work our way down the income statement.

Earning back its ticker symbol

It's all fun and games until folks are no longer amused, and Dave & Buster's is showing signs of mortality. It seemed resilient until just a few months ago, bucking the decaying mall traffic trends as well as the restaurant recession that was plaguing many of its food-serving peers. When comps started turning negative earlier in fiscal 2017, the higher-margin amusements end of the business was able to bail Dave & Buster's out.

The chain finally succumbed to the malaise during the third quarter, posting its first period of negative comps since returning as a public company in 2014. If store-level sales slipping 1.3% during the fiscal third quarter was bad, you can imagine how the market's taking what is currently a 5.1% drop this time around.

Dave & Buster's had warned last month that comps were trending negative for the current quarter, but it was hopeful that the holiday push of corporate parties and seasonal shoppers would lift it out of its rut. We're not seeing that happen. Dave & Buster's is now playing up the success of the stores that opened in 2016 and its new smaller store concept, but none of this is going to resonate with investors if sales don't turn around at the individual unit level. Even extending its 13-quarter streak of cranking out better-than-expected earnings isn't going to save Dave & Buster's if traffic is going elsewhere.

The former market darling will be presenting at the 20th Annual ICR Conference in Orlando on Tuesday morning, giving management the opportunity to bounce back after Monday's slide if it offers a convincing performance. The conference is why it's likely preannouncing the negative trends a day earlier, giving it the ability to discuss its current situation more thoroughly to analysts and investors. Something's not right at Dave & Buster's, and the clock is ticking on its turnaround.

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Rick Munarriz has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Dave & Buster's Entertainment. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.