Revenue fell 8.1% at Barnes & Noble Education in the second quarter ended October 27, 2018, compared to the second quarter last year. In the crucial back-to-school period, total sales were $814.7 million, down from $886.9 million a year ago. Operating income slipped to $78.5 million from $83.3 million, but net income, thanks to $16 million in lower taxes, rose 8.3%, to $59.7 million.
At the company’s largest operating group, B&N College, sales decreased 7.2%, to $702.8 million, compared to the prior year period. B&NE blamed the decline primarily on a 5.6% drop in comparable store sales, which it said was largely due to lower textbook sales.
Revenue at the MBS Textbook Exchange division fell 11.8%, to $118.9 million, in the quarter. Sales at the MBS Wholesale unit dropped 20.2% compared to last year’s second quarter, due to what B&NE said was lower rental revenue plus lower net sales of traditional wholesale textbooks. At MBS Direct, sales fell 7.2%, due to lower sales from Higher Ed accounts and net new stores, the company said.
B&NE has been working to derive more revenue from various digital services, and in the second quarter, sales from its Digital Student Solutions division rose 8.9%, to $4.9 million.
In a prepared statement, B&NE CEO Michael Huseby said that while the company was pleased with the improvement in net income, the company remains focused “on investing in digital growth platforms and offerings for the future while also taking steps to preserve current levels of profitability and cash flow. ” Huseby added that, during the digital transformation, “we are taking steps to improve our sales execution and more aggressively manage expense and capital spending.”