Dragged down by a horrible fourth quarter, in which sales fell 9.0%, total revenue for the country's three major chains fell 5.4% in 2008, to $8.9 billion. This is the first year that their combined annual sales have fallen since Barnes & Noble, Borders and Books-A-Million came to dominate the retail book market. In 2007, sales rose 2.7%, despite a weak holiday season.

Borders turned in the weakest performance; total revenue from continuing operations dropped 8.9% for the year. The decline was due to a combination of fewer stores and declining comparable-store sales. Borders closed 112 Walden outlets last year and reduced the overall number of stores it operates in the U.S. as of Jan. 31, 2009, to 901, down from 999 a year ago. Comp store sales fell 10.8% last year at its superstores and 5.1% in the Waldenbook Specialty Retail segment. New CFO Mark Bierley acknowledged on a conference call discussing year-end results that the gap between Borders's comp-store performance and that of its competitors—B&N's comps were down 5.4%—“is too wide,” adding that the retailer's sales performance “must improve.” Still, Borders, like B&N and BAM, sees the negative sales trend continuing throughout 2009.

2007 2008 % CHANGE
Source: Reed Business information
Full year
Barnes & Noble $5,286.7 $5,121.8 -3.1%
Borders Group 3,597.4 3,275.4 -8.9%
Books-A-Million 535.1 513.3 -4.1%
Total 9,419.2 8,910.5 -5.4%
Fourth Quarter
Barnes & Noble $1,739.0 $1,631.6 -6.2%
Borders Group 1,262.4 1,087.7 -13.8%
Books-A-Million 168.3 164.0 -2.5%
Total 3,169.7 2,883.3 -9.0%