- Barnes & Noble sales fell 3.9% year over year to $755.4 million in its fourth quarter (which ended April 27) as comparable sales fell 2.3%, according to a press release.
- The bookseller posted an operating loss of $19.7 million, a 23% improvement over the prior year's Q4 loss. Net loss narrowed as well, to $18.7 million. Both earnings and revenue fell short of analyst estimates, according to Seeking Alpha.
- For the full fiscal 2019, Barnes & Noble's sales fell 3% from a year ago to $3.6 billion, and comps fell 1.9%. Operating income for the year substantially improved, to $16.5 million compared to a $127.9 million operating loss the year before. Net income ($3.8 million) turned positive as well. Adding to the bottom line were $50.4 million in cost cuts that Barnes & Noble made during the fiscal year.
Barnes & Noble's falling sales last year show once again why the retailer needs help, and why some investors have pushed for an exit. And, if all goes according to plan, they now have one after a hedge fund that owns the U.K.'s largest bookstore chain cut a deal with Barnes & Noble this month to buy the retailer for $683 million.
Under the deal, the CEO of the U.K. bookseller Waterstones will take the helm of Barnes & Noble, though the two companies will operate independently under common owner, Elliott Management. The companies said in a press release announcing the deal that Waterstones has "prospered over the last seven years following a consistent strategy to invest in its bookshops and to trust its local bookselling teams to run ever improving bookshops."
The destruction wrought on the book retailing sector by Amazon is well-documented. Barnes & Noble acknowledged in its 10-K, released Wednesday, that it lost sales as traffic declined at its stores. It has been able to offset those declines, in part, through attempts to increase customer conversion, including "higher customer engagement as well as increase average transaction values through better merchandise offerings."
The retailer, which has about 630 stores, also said in its 10-K that it lost share on its sales performance but "sees opportunities in an industry that has become more stable." To boost sales, Barnes & Noble has been tinkering with its promotions, narrowing its product assortment (a frequent target of criticism from outside retail observers), implementing layout changes and holding more in-store events, including a book club.
Elliott, for its part, still sees value in brick-and-mortar booksellers. The fund's CEO, Paul Best, said in a statement that the Barnes & Noble deal "demonstrates our conviction that readers continue to value the experience of a great bookstore."