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Superstore Sales Increased 23% In Fiscal '98, Topping $4 Billion
Jim Milliot -- 6/1/98
Slower growth in sales and new store openings
Superstore sales rose 23.5%, to just over $4 billion, for the fiscal year ended January 31, 1998, according to PW's annual analysis of superstore sales from the country's four largest bookstore chains. The rate of increase in the past year was slower than that in fiscal 1997 when superstore sales increased 36%. The number of outlets added by the chains slowed noticeably in the year, falling from a net gain of 164 in fiscal 1997 to 136 in fiscal 1998.

The Borders Group posted the largest sales gain among the top four chains, with revenues rising nearly 32%, to $1.26 billion. The company, which had a net gain of 46 superstores last year, plans to open 43 more this year, including at least three international superstores.

Barnes &Noble had a net gain of 52 superstores in fiscal 1998, its lowest number since the company began rolling out its superstore concept. Nonetheless, B&N remained the largest operator of superstores in the country in terms of both sales and number of stores. Superstore revenue increased over 20% last year, to $2.24 billion, and the number of stores rose to 483. B&N said it plans to open approximately 60 superstores in the current year.

Books-A-Million added 16 superstores in fiscal 1998, bringing its count up to 107. Sales at its superstores rose 23.2%, to $281 million. The company said it expects to open about 20 superstores in fiscal 1998.

Superstore sales at Crown Books increased almost 11% in the year, to $249.7 million, and the company had a net gain of 22 outlets in the year. However, Crown had the dubious distinction of being the only chain among the big four where the rate of store growth exceeded that of sales growth. The struggling company hopes to be able to open about four superstores this year.

If the chains carry through with their expansion plans, 127 new superstores will be opened this year, and even accounting for a number of closings, the total superstore count should exceed 1000 by the end of fiscal 1999.
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