Total bookstore sales for the nation's four largest bookstore chains rose just under 10% for the first half of fiscal 2000. The combined revenues of Barnes & Noble, Borders Group, Books-A-Million and Crown Books totaled $2.95 billion for the six month period ended July 31, 1999. Sales rose just over 10% in the second quarter to $1.49 billion.

Borders and BAM had the largest gains for both the second-quarter and six-month periods, with sales up by more than 14% in the first half of the year and up over 15% in the second quarter. Sales at B&N increased over 9% for both periods. Sales at Crown Books fell 47.8% in the February-through-July period to $83 million.

The decline at Crown was largely due to the reduction in the number of stores; the chain had 179 stores operating through the first half of fiscal 1999, but only 95 stores in the same period this year. Although sales were down 37% in the second quarter, Crown cut its net loss to $3.2 million from $32.7 million in last year's second quarter. The company is believed to be close to officially emerging from bankruptcy.

Superstores continued to lead the growth at the major chains. Superstore sales were up 13.1% at B&N in the first half of the year to $1.25 billion, including a 15.7% increase in the second quarter to $633 million. Sales at Dalton fell 9.2% in the second quarter, mainly due to the closing of 66 Dalton outlets over the last 12 months. Same-store sales were off 0.5%. B&N, which opened 12 superstores and closed 11 in the first half of the year, had 521 superstores in operation as of July 31, while the number of Dalton outlets stood at 448.

Superstore sales at Borders rose 23.5% in the first six months of the year to $833.2 million, while Walden sales fell 1.9% to $370.9 million. Borders had 274 superstores as of July 26; Walden had 888 outlets.