Tuesday, March 25, 2008

So What's Up at Barnes & Noble?

Barnes & Noble, the world's largest bookseller, issued a press release earlier this month, announcing their results for the fourth quarter and full year ending 2/2/08.

That press release reported:

Excluding the impact of the extra week during fiscal 2006, Barnes & Noble store sales increased 2.8% for the quarter and 4.3% for the full year as compared to the same periods in fiscal 2006. Comparable store sales decreased 0.5% for the quarter and increased 1.8% for the year . . . Excluding the impact of the extra week during fiscal 2006, Barnes & Noble.com comparable sales increased 13.1% for the quarter and 13.4% for the full year as compared to the same periods in fiscal 2006.

Thanks to Michael Cader of Publishers Lunch, I found a new website today called Seeking Alpha here where you can read the transcripts of conference calls between stock analysts and various companies' executives.

I just finished reading the ten-page transcript of the March 20th call with the executives of Barnes & Noble relating to those fourth quarter and year end results.

Some of the more interesting items follow. Copyright rules given by the site permit the copying of 400 words from any transcript. Let's see if I can use my 400 words wisely:

  • In trade books, fiction and the genres had a strong quarter, especially graphic novels and romance.

  • Hardcover sales were driven by a host of familiar names, including Sue Grafton, Dean Koontz, Ken Follett, Stephen King . . . Both John Grishman (sic) and James Patterson had two bestsellers . . .

  • Last year’s first quarter . . . included phenomenal book and DVD sales for Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, the bestselling combination non-fiction book and DVD title in [the chain's] history.

  • [B&N plans] on opening 35 to 40 stores this year and closing approximately 20 stores.

  • Although [B&N was] disappointed in [the] overall holiday sales results, the key drivers of [the] negative comp store sales was the rapid deterioration of the music business in the fourth quarter.

  • Chief Operating Officer, Mitchell Klipper said: However, I would like to point out some of the positive highlights for 2007. First, the company achieved record sales. With comp store sales growing 1.8%, the addition of 31 new stores, we managed to keep building our business.

  • Klipper continued: In addition to growth in bookstore sales, we achieved record Internet sales in 2007. Sales grew 13.4%, which is the strongest growth in more than five years.

  • Still on the subject of Internet sales, he said: In the past year, we’ve become much stronger on three key metrics. First, we’ve become much more competitive on price due to our new lower prices to members. Second, we offer very fast delivery. Most of our orders are shipped UPS without additional customer charges for the services. And third, the relaunch of our website last October, as well as the new functionality added to the site -- these three metrics have increased our traffic and our page views.

  • Klipper crowed: ...we also saw record growth in our member program. We added more new members in 2007 than any previous year since the launch of the program.

  • He added: We sold a record number of titles last year -- more than $1.1 million unique titles . . . we are in a long tail business. A large percentage of the books we stock sell only a few copies each year.

  • In answer to a question from an analyst, Marie J. Toulantis, CEO of Barnes & Noble.com, responded: . . . e-books have been around for a long time. It still remains a very small market, albeit obviously growing but when you look at the percentage growth, remember it’s growing off of such a very small base. We continue to look and evaluate and we’ll make decisions about when and if to jump in at the appropriate time.

  • In answer to another question about downloading in the store versus the reader format, Toulantis said: . . . I think there’s only one store in the whole country that even has that. Whether or not that’s successful remains to be seen . . .

By my count 397 words. Whew!!!

Not wanting to waste my last three words, here they are: "we," "our" and "a."

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