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Instant Analysis: Barnes & Noble Releases Holiday Sales Figures

By Eric Volkman - Jan 8, 2016 at 7:15AM

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The company reports some growth but not enough to impress the market.

What happened?
Barnes & Noble (BKS) has posted its results from the holiday period, which it defines as the nine-week stretch ending this past Jan. 2. For the period, total retail sales amounted to $1.1 billion, 0.8% lower on a year-over-year basis.

"Core" comparable-store sales (i.e., excluding sales of NOOK e-readers and associated products) rose by 1.6% on a year-over-year basis, which the company didn't hesitate to say was the second holiday season in a row the metric increased. With NOOK goods included, comparable store sales crept up by 0.8%.

It's no wonder there was such a difference. When teased out from the broader results, NOOK sales recorded a steep decline -- by nearly 26% to just over $41 million.

Looking ahead, the company reiterated its guidance for fiscal 2016. It still believes comparable-store sales growth will be more or less flat, with core comps rising by around 1%.

Does it matter?
Life isn't easy for bricks-and-mortar retailers these days; Barnes & Noble is Exhibit A. The company still has a very strong physical presence, in the form of its many big stores. The cost of keeping those places open and staffed makes it tougher to compete against the likes of a slick, online-heavy operator like Amazon.com. No wonder Barnes & Noble has posted net losses in four out of its five previous fiscal years. The NOOK line was an honest attempt to carve out a niche in the digital space, but the market for dedicated e-readers isn't what it used to be, not least because there is a flood of other products on the market that allow readers to consume e-literature.

So, looked at a certain way, the company deserves some credit for showing any growth at all. But that isn't impressive enough to give any oomph to the stock price, which at under $9 per share continues to tease its one-year low and is down by nearly 44% since Jan. 2015.

Eric Volkman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon.com, and owns shares of Barnes & Noble. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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