Bookstore Holiday Sales Lag Behind Overall Retail Picture

With the holidays behind us, and customers redeeming their gift cards, big-box bookstores are taking stock of how they fared, compared with the overall positive holiday retail sales picture. For Barnes & Noble (BKS), the holiday period was not a happy one. The store reported in yesterday's release that store sales of $1.1 billion for the nine weeks between November 1 and January 2, a 5% decrease over that period a year ago, with comparable store sales decreasing 5.4%. The news prompted B&N to lower its guidance on earnings for the full quarter from $1.30 to $1.50 a share to $1.20 to $1.40 a share.%%DynaPub-Enhancement class="enhancement contentType-HTML Content fragmentId-1 payloadId-61603 alignment-right size-small"%% Better news came from the online side: reported $134 million in holiday sales, a 17% jump from last year. (It helped that these sales took into account revenues from its new e-reader, nook, which began shipping during the holidays -- although many customers had to wait to get theirs.)

CEO Steve Riggio acknowledged that demand for the nook still far exceeds supply: "Orders for nook remained strong throughout the holiday season, and, in fact, accelerated after we announced that we had sold out our initial supply. Demand remains strong in the New Year and greater than our supply, however, we expect production to catch-up with demand and be fully stocked in our stores in the next few months."

But the earnings release prompted Michael Cader, in yesterday's dispatch of industry newsletter Publishers Lunch, to speculate on just how much business the nook did over the holidays: Since's reported second-quarter earnings increased by 9% over last year, Cader says one should "figure that recognized nook revenues are roughly between $10 million and $20 million."

Midsize bookstore chain Books-A-Million (BAMM) also had a shaky holiday season. Sales for the nine-week period ending January 2 totaled $122.1 million, an overall drop of 4.5% and down 6.2% on a same-store basis. Sales for all but the last month of FY 2010 decreased 1.0% to $473.6 million from $478.5 million in the year-earlier period.

"As was the case last year, customers shopped late in the season and proved to be value conscious responding well to our marketing efforts, bargain book department and in-store promotions," CEO Clyde Anderson said in the accompanying release, adding that he was pleased with the results "given the challenging comparison to last year's phenomenal success of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series." And as good as Meyer's books are doing, it's going to take a lot more volume from many authors to get both B&N and BAM on track for a rosier 2010.
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