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Amazon, B&N, Noodle Report Strong Holiday Gains
Jim Milliot -- 1/10/00

Early reports from traditional and nontraditional booksellers indicate that the holiday season was a good one for book sales. Amazon.com reported that revenues in the fourth quarter rose to more than $650 million, compared to $253 million in the last quarter of 1998. Retail sales at Barnes & Noble rose 10.2% in the nine-week period--October 31 to January 1--to $847.7 million. Revenues at barnesandnoble.com jumped 214% to $81.5 million for the fourth quarter. At Noodle Kidoodle, sales for the eight-week period running from October 31 through December 25 increased 32% to $57.3 million, compared to the same period in 1998.

According to Amazon, more than half of total revenues came from its new "stores," including toys, electronics, home improvement, software, video games and gifts; its book business accounted for the balance of company sales. Company chief financial officer Warren Jenson warned, however, that the strong sales performance will not result in lower net losses for the fourth quarter; he added that Amazon will have higher than expected inventory-related charges and write-downs, due mainly to the deep inventory it stocked in its new businesses.

Among the factoids reported by Amazon for the quarter: more than 2.5 million new customers used Amazon for the first time in the period; the e-retailer shipped roughly 20 million items in the period with 99% of its orders sent in time to meet holiday deadlines. Investors reacted negatively to the news of bigger losses, and the company's stock fell nearly 15% to $69.75.

Sales at B&N were led by a 10.3% gain in superstore sales to $719.2 million, with comparable-store sales ahead 5.8%. Sales at Dalton dropped 11.3% to $128.5 million, due to the closing of 85 outlets. Comparable-store sales were up 2.3%. The company said it expected earnings for the full year to meet analysts' estimates.

Stanley Greenman, chairman and CEO of Noodle Kidoodle, said overall sales for the season met company expectations, led by additional stores as well as a 6% gain in comparable store sales. Sales through the company's new Internet site quintupled in the holiday season and represented 1.5% of total sales. Greenman noted that enhancing its Web site would be one of the company's "key objectives" in 2000.
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