When it comes to booksellers, most investors and bibliophiles seem most interested in big-box retailers Borders
Second-quarter profit at Books-A-Million increased an impressive 44% to $2.5 million, or $0.14 per share. Here's the downside: Sales dropped almost 1% to $121.2 million, and same-store sales fell 1.2%. Much like Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million pointed to a tough comparison to the same quarter last year, when Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was a hot seller.
Books-A-Million said that it increased its profit through an aggressive merchandising and marketing plan, cost controls, and discipline in controlling inventory. The company also declared a quarterly dividend of $0.08 per share payable in September.
Books-A-Million didn't include a cash flow statement or a balance sheet in its press release. Fools generally aren't too thrilled when companies don't include cash flow statements in their press releases, so the absence of a balance sheet as well is really more than a bit off-putting. Any investor who would like to take a closer look at Books-A-Million's operations should wait until the company discloses those important financial statements in its 10-Q filing with the SEC.
Meanwhile, it's not hard to see the growth challenges that face the industry. My Foolish colleague Stephen Simpson recently took a look at Barnes & Noble's most recent quarter and pointed out the difficulties such booksellers face in the absence of big hits like the Harry Potter installment last year. Barnes & Noble and Borders may have large bookstores through which they can offer a nice selection to customers who want instant gratification or the old-fashioned experience of browsing books, but there are plenty of other, more convenient ways that people can find larger selections of books and CDs, such as Amazon.com
Books-A-Million doesn't look like such a compelling stock to buy at the moment. A P/E of 20 sounds high for a company that may be doing a good job controlling costs but that has its work cut out for it in drumming up growth. While the profit was impressive, there are challenges to growth, and the absence of more financial data in its press release gives investors a good reason to put it on the shelf till later.
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.