Barnes & Noble Online Sales Fall

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Barnes & Noble Inc. (NYSE: BKS) has been in the midst of a “going out of business” sales for years, as it has been besieged by Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), which started out as an online book store. The brick-and-mortar retailer has announced holiday sales. Most would expect same-store sales to drop, as the retail industry as a whole has suffered. Matters were worse for Barnes & Noble. Its online sales dropped over the holiday as well.

Online sales are the only lifeline most retailers have as foot traffic retreats and they close stores. Several retailers, most notably Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT), have built up healthy e-commerce operations. The e-commerce story for Barnes & Noble is bleak, according to the company’s own reckoning:

 Barnes & Noble, Inc. today (January 4) reported holiday sales for the nine-week holiday period ending December 30, 2017.

Total sales for the holiday period were $953 million, declining 6.4% as compared to the prior year. Comparable store sales also declined 6.4% for the holiday period, while online sales declined 4.5%.

Entering December, the Company was encouraged by the comparable store sales improvements throughout the second quarter and into November. However, sales trends softened in December, primarily due to lower traffic. The Company’s book business declined 4.5%, outperforming the overall comparable store sales performance. Declines in the gift, music and DVD categories accounted for nearly half of the comparable store sales decrease.

It is almost certainly too late for Barnes & Noble to revive its e-commerce operation. It has tried to compete with Amazon for years, with a website launched early in the two-decade-old e-commerce cycle to its Nook e-reader, which never made much headway against the Amazon Kindle.

Over the past five years, Barnes & Noble shares are down 34% to $5.60, while Amazon’s are up 351% to $1,229.