Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million both announced solid sales gains over the holiday season. B&N had the more impressive performance, with nine-week sales at its superstores for the period ended January 3 up 9.9%, to $984.8 million. Same-store sales were up a total of 6% at the superstores, led by a 7.1% increase for the five weeks ended January 3; comparable-store sales for the four weeks ended November 29 were up 3.7%. For the 48 weeks ended January 3, superstore sales rose 7.9%, to $3.56 billion, with comp-store sales ahead 2.8%.

At Dalton, sales in the nine-week period fell 10.8%, to $65.3 million. The decline was due to the closing of 34 outlets, which offset a 2.9% increase in same-store sales. For the first 48 weeks of fiscal 2004, Dalton's sales were down 15.5%, to $206.6 million, with comp sales off 2.7%.

BAM's total sales for the holiday period rose 4%, to $111.4 million, with comparable-store sales up 3.7%. Company chairman Clyde Anderson said same-store sales in the book segment outpaced gains for the entire company, led by the diet/health and fiction categories. Anderson noted that the holiday season got off to a fast start, dipped a bit in mid-December and came back very strong right before Christmas, a trend that carried through to the end of the year.

He was optimistic that book sales would remain strong for at least the next several months. Books that were doing well at Christmas—"South Beach Diet and anything related to Atkins"—plus fiction—"not just The Da Vinci Code"—are continuing to sell, said Anderson.

BAM also announced that Sandy Cochran, BAM president, is adding the title of CEO, effective February 1. Anderson said he will remain active in the company's day-to-day activities, but noted that Cochran's promotion is part of the process of "moving Sandy along." Cochran joined BAM in 1992 as CFO and was promoted to president in August 1999.

B&N Raises B& Bid

In addition to announcing holiday results, B&N said that it has raised its offer for Barnes& to $3.05 per share. The company had initially offered $2.50 per share, a price that was below the $2.75-per-share price that the e-tailer was trading at at the time of the offer in November. Investors had complained that the offer was below market value and there were indications that some were ready to file suit if the offer wasn't sweetened.