Comparable-store sales of books rose 3.6% for the fiscal year ended January 31, 2003, at Hastings Entertainment, the multimedia retail chain reported last week. Sales were dragged down by a weak fourth quarter in which same-store sales increased only 0.7%. Hastings had made improving the performance of its book departments a top priority in 2002, and company president John Marmaduke noted that the 3.6% increase this year was better than the 0.3% increase in 2001.

Sales for the entire company rose 5% last year, to $495.4 million, although net income fell 52.5%, to $1.9 million. Same-store sales rose 5% for the entire chain, and Hastings said sales were driven by its "3-Across" floor plan that divides stores into three distinct product groups. The decline in earnings was due in part to a 10% increase in selling, general and administrative expenses that included a $2.6 million charge to settle a shareholder class action lawsuit; a $3.3 million increase in advertising costs; and a $1.8 million increase in occupancy costs.

Hastings is predicting a 5% increase in same-store sales for 2003. It said it will implement its "3-Across" plan in the five new stores scheduled to open this year and in 17 outlets that will be expanded or relocated.