It's been interesting reading the messages on this board and I sincerely hope either things turn around or you can find a better opportunity.
I'm neither long nor short the stock, and came across the company while reading about the Vintage deal so I decided to dig in a bit and then also talked to a few stores (honestly, need to talk to more).
This is an outsider's perspective so I may be completely off base.
Core Stores: on the surface, the improve same store sales in 2018 looks like a turnaround story as it continues to increase, last quarter it was +8.8%. Overall revenue per location is also increasing. 2017 was a tough year, but even comparing to 2016, the last two quarters have been increasingly positive. Gross margins are down a little bit but operating margins are up nicely. On-rent per average store is also up strong in 2018.
I think the sales strength is due to two things: 1) increasing prices on appliance/furniture (either increasing directly or indirectly) and 2) the implementation of 6 month same as cash.
To the first point, I find this hard to continue considering 80% customers are repeat. I think the second point is interesting. My guess is that this could persuade more customers to purchase (vs just having the 3 month option), but when they inevitably don't pay it off within 6 months they are going to be hit with a much bigger (implied) interest expense as it accrues from day one. My guess is that this will lead to more charge-offs and the last two quarters have had the worst, 3.5%, over the last two years (2Q/3Q in 2016 were affected by the POS issue so this could be a one-time event). I could see this increasing.
On the margin side, it's being helped by all the cost cuts (which I think most will agree are not good for the long run) and then oddly a cut in advertising, which just seems weird. If people do go through with the 6 month same as cash and pay before the deadline, this just speeds up the number of new customers you need to find to replace the agreements.
I haven't dug into ANOW much, but I did a few checks and it seems (plus it was mentioned on the board) some of their customers are moving/testing out Progressive. ANOW cannibalizes the Core, and management says this is minimal, but Progressive is growing really fast and I think the tough part is as this continues to grow this will inevitably impact the Core.
At first I was thinking about buying some shares, but now I'm not so sure. Wishing everyone the best of luck.