The addition of 41 former Borders stores helped to give Books-A-Million its best holiday season in years for the quarter ended January 28, 2012, but how well that strategy will play out for the full year isn’t yet clear. While fourth quarter sales rose 10.7%, to just under $167 million, comparable store sales fell 5.7%. Earnings in the period rose to $7.5 million from $6.8 million. Executive chairman Clyde Anderson (who turned over the reins of CEO to Terry Finley last week) said in a conference call that despite the absence of Borders, customer traffic did not show a meaningful increase in the quarter. He noted that BAM and Borders stores had competed directly in only 15 locations. Asked about BAM’s future store plans, Finley told PW, “We will continue to be opportunistic in our real estate strategy, looking for underserved markets and attractive deals.” Finley said that BAM’s core book business “did better than expected” and that the postholiday slump in sales that occurred in the previous year as new digital device owners bought e-books was less dramatic this year. The best performing book segments were teen, history, and children’s. BAM also saw a good gain in its expanded general merchandise section as well as in Nook devices, especially the Nook Tablet.
For the full year, total sales fell 3.7% and comp sales were down 9.5%. The company had a net loss of $2.8 million, due in part to $5.4 million in costs associated with reopening the Borders stores as BAM outlets and closing 21 underperforming BAM locations.