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Chain Sales Rise 8% in First Quarter to $1.6 Billion
Jim Milliot -- 6/5/00
Revenue gain comparable to that of last year's first period

Total sales for the nations' four largest bookstore chains rose 8.4% to $1.58 billion in the first quarter ended April 30, 2000. The increase was nearly identical to the 8.7% gain posted by the four chains--Barnes & Noble, Borders Group, Books-A-Million and Crown Books--in last year's first quarter.

Borders had the largest gain in the period, with sales from its bookstore operations increasing 9.8% to $675.6 million. Sales of $5.3 million (up from $3.2 million) from Borders.com brought total company revenues to $680.9 million in the first quarter, a 10.1% increase over the comparable period in fiscal 2000. The company's net loss was just less than $1 million, compared to $4.1 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2000, a figure that includes a $3.4 million one-time charge.

Crown Books had a 2.5% decline in sales for the period, to approximately $40 million. The slight decline was attributed to fewer bestsellers in the period. Crown operated 92 stores in the most recent quarter, the same number it had one year ago; company president Charlie Cumello said the chain intends to remain at that level for the remainder of the year. Cumello indicated he is pleased with Crown's first quarter numbers and is optimistic that with its new buying and marketing plans falling into place, results will improve over the rest of the year. The chain is still on course to issue new stock some time this summer.

With its 7.8% gain in bookstore sales to $774.3 million, Barnes & Noble remained the nation's largest bookstore chain. Revenues include sales from its superstores and Dalton outlets, but not Babbage's or Barnes&Noble.com. B&N opened three new superstores in the quarter and closed one and also shut down 11 Dalton stores, ending the quarter with 544 superstores and 389 Dalton outlets.

Books-A-Million was the country's third-largest chain, with sales of $93.1 million in the quarter, a 9.4% increase over the comparable period in fiscal 2000. It had 179 stores at the end of the quarter.

Borders' sales gain was led by a 14% increase to $447 million in the company's domestic superstore operation, in which seven new stores were opened in the quarter. Waldenbooks, which closed 17 outlets, had a 1.7% decline in sales to $185.3 million. International revenues rose 23.7% to $43.3 million. During the quarter, only the superstore division was profitable, with net income up 62.7% to $8.3 million. Walden had a loss of $300,000, compared to net income of $3.1 million in last year's first quarter. The international division saw its net loss increase to $3.5 million from $2.4 million. Borders.com's loss rose to $4.6 million from $4.3 million.
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