Barnes & Noble Plunges After Worst Holiday Quarter in Decade

  • Bookstore chain’s same-store sales tumbled 8.3% in the period
  • Company now expects a decline of 7% for the full year

Barnes & Noble Inc. investors were bracing for weak results over the holidays. What they got was worse.

The bookstore chain posted profit of 96 cents last quarter, well below the $1.13 analysts estimated. And same-store sales -- a closely watched benchmark -- plunged 8.3 percent. That was the biggest holiday-quarter decline since 2005.

The stock fell as much as 9.1 percent to $9 in New York trading, the biggest intraday drop since August 2016. That followed an 11 percent decline this year through Wednesday’s close.

The results suggest that Chief Executive Officer Leonard Riggio has more of an uphill battle against Amazon.com Inc. than feared. Barnes & Noble is struggling to get customers into its stores, and efforts to expand its nonbook merchandise has had limited payoff.

Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-reader platform, once seen as a rival to Amazon’s Kindle, also has failed to deliver. Sales of Nook content, devices and accessories fell 26 percent last quarter, which ended Jan. 28.

The New York-based company warned in January that the holiday results would be weak -- in part because sales of coloring books and other art supplies have slumped. That category had helped prop up results the previous year.

Some retailers have been able to offset a slow Christmas with a stronger January, bolstering earnings. In Barnes & Noble’s case, the post-December recovery was short-lived. Though sales did improve after the holidays, trends “softened” in late January and into the current quarter, the company said.

Same-store sales for the full year will decline 7 percent, Barnes & Noble said. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization will be $180 million to $190 million. Analysts had predicted $190.7 million.

(An earlier version of the story was corrected to remove an inaccurate estimate.)

(Updates shares in third paragraph.)
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