Despite a 1.3% decline in sales for the year ended January30, net income at Books-A-Million rose 30.1% to $13.8 million, the nation'sthird largest bookstore chain reported Thursday afternoon. Sales fell to $508. 7 million from $515.3 million. The retailerattributed the earnings improvement to "financial discipline." Comparable storesales fell 3.8% for the year. In the fourth quarter, same store sales were off6.0% and total sales fell 4.6%, to $157.2 million. Profit in the period rose to$11.9 million from $11.2 million.
BAM CEO Clyde Anderson said he was disappointed in fourth quarter sales which he attributed to difficult comparisons to last year due to strong sales of Stephenie Meyer titles and the weak economy. Costs controls and improved inventory management led to profit gains in the quarter and the year. Anderson said he didn't think sales of e-books had a meaningful impact on store sales last year, although he conceded that could change in the future. He said BAM is "working on our e-book play" and expects to announce its strategy in the near future. Sales through the retailer's Web site have improved since BAM upgraded the customer experience, Anderson said, and online sales have been especially strong in the first quarter. "We'd like to keep growing that business," he said.