Total sales at Barnes & Noble dropped 6.6% in the quarter ended July 29, compared to the same period a year ago. Sales in the quarter, the first of fiscal 2018, were $853.3 million, down from $913.9 million in the quarter ended July 30, 2016.
Despite the decline, B&N cut its net loss to $10.8 million, down from $14.4 million a year ago. B&N CEO Demos Parneros attributed the lower loss to continued reductions in expenses. The biggest improvement on the bottom line came in B&N’s Nook division, where the operating loss was cut to $2.7 million from $14.0 million in last year’s first quarter. Sales in the Nook unit, however, fell to $29.5 million, from $41.0 million a year ago.
Sales in B&N’s core retail stores declined 5.9% in the quarter, to $830 million. Comparable store sales decreased 4.9% as, B&N said, “declines in non-book categories outpaced improved book trends during the quarter.” Specifically, B&N said book sales fell 2.8% in the quarter, while non-book categories--which had been a good performer--fell by about 8%. Sales through BN.com also fell in the quarter. The division's operating loss increased to $12.5 million from $7.4 million in last year's first quarter.
Parneros said the company expects its sales performance to improve in the “back-half” of the year, noting that in the second quarter B&N is facing difficult comparisons with 2016 and the release of the hugely popular Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Still, B&N expects EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) of about $180 million for fiscal 2018. Comp store sales are forecast to decline in the lower single digits.
This story has been updated to include remarks from B&N's conference call with analysts.