- CFO Joseph Lombardi is cautious but guardedly optimistic about sales in the all-important fourth quarter, saying that “the hardcover book business has improved” but there have been “some recent mixed retail sales reports.”
- Following a slow second quarter, the third quarter saw a turnaround in sales. CEO Steve Riggio said that the increase in sales began with Bob Dylan’s new CD, Modern Times.
- Diane Setterfield’s The 13th Tale was “one of the most successful new hardcovers… The wonderful ghostly tale was our number one bestseller the first day it went on sale, and the book went on to break all previous Barnes & Noble sales records for a first-time novelist. Almost 60 days after publication, the book is still one of our top-selling titles, due to its word-of-mouth appeal.”
- Fiction bestsellers for the quarter were Mitch Albom’s For One More Day, Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story, Nicholas Sparks’ Dear John, David Baldacci’s The Collectors, and “rising fiction star” Vince Flynn’s Act of Treason.
- On the nonfiction side, the bestsellers were John Grisham’s The Innocent Man, Bob Woodward’s State of Denial, Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck, and Richard Dawkin’s The God Delusion
- Looking at the fourth quarter, “Among the season’s best gift books, the standout is clearly Annie Leibovitz’s A Photographer’s Life, but Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook is off to a great start, as is the magnificent coffee table book called Rainforest.”
- In October, Barnes & Noble upped its discounts for shoppers who belong to its member program. The company expects this to help sales, but its inability to say just how the numbers might work out made investors nervous, the issue being that this plan could put a serious dent in the bookseller’s profit margin.
- Having said that, Barnes & Noble also noted that “margins continue to benefit from lower purchasing from book wholesalers, increased sales of our own publications, and an overall more efficient supply chain.” – i.e. those books published by Barnes & Noble are quite lucrative for the company.
As we have every quarter for the last several, we're looking at Barnes & Noble's recent quarterly report to gauge the trends that are impacting the book industry - which books were big over the last few months and what's expected for the months ahead.Sales were still down for the 1st quarter ended May 2nd, but not quite as bad as they've been in recent quarters. Overall, the decline was -3.5% from a year ago. "Store traffic was down throughout the quarter," according to CFO Joseph Lombardi.After scarcely discussing individual titles or authors at all in recent quarters, the Barnes & Noble execs dropped quite a few names this time around.What follows are insights gleaned from Barnes and Noble CEO Steve Riggio's comments on the conference call discussing Q1 results.Riggio highlighted the two new Barnes & Noble Recommends selections Dog on It by Spencer Quinn and Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas.He also had some interesting comments about the Barnes & Noble Recommends program saying that selected titles "often garner 30, 40% as much as 50% market share in initial weeks on sale," meaning that B&N is responsible for a large chunk of the overall sales of those titles, and furthermore B&N finds "that those books go onto the bestseller lists of other national, local and regional booksellers.""Key site improvements" are expected to improve the performance of bn.com in the second half of the year.After purchasing ebook provider Fictionwise, B&N now says "the implication of a vastly greater amount of content both in our stores and onlineis exciting to us and has inspired us to develop some unique and innovative approaches to the user experience of buying and reading books." There will be announcements on this later in the year.Finally, the fall lineup "actually looks quite strong or fairly strong.""In addition to the already announced Lost Symbol by Dan Brown, which has been expected or anticipated eagerly by booksellers for a number of years, many well known authors, some who have not published books in the last few years have new books coming out. And it includes Jon Krakauer [Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman], Pat Conroy [South of Broad], John Irving [Last Night in Twisted River], Glenn Beck, Garrison Keillor [Life Among the Lutherans], Margaret Atwood [The Year of the Flood], Barbara Kingsolver [The Lacuna], Jeff Shaara, Edward Rutherfurd, Robert Jordan and a posthumous novel by Michael Crichton [Pirate Latitudes]."
I was reading about the recent second-quarter earnings report for Barnes & Noble as part of my day job and I realized how much insight the company's quarterly conference call provides in terms of current trends in the book industry, as well as which books will be are most likely to be the headline-grabbing titles over the next few months. I may do this each quarter from now on, as I think it's an interesting proxy for what's going on in the book industry at a given point in time.The big trend so far this year is a lack of blockbuster titles as compared to years past. From Steve Riggio, Barnes & Noble CEO, on the Q2 conference call (courtesy Seeking Alpha):We look back at the first half of this year as one of the softest periods in recent memory for the book industry in terms of hardcover new releases. There were simply very few new hardcover books that generated media buzz or sustained sales by word-of-mouth recommendations.The lack of blockbusters is thrown into particularly stark light when compared to a year ago, when Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came out. Overall, sales were actually down from last year.Riggio called The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards "one of the fastest-selling trade paperbacks in our history."Barnes & Noble also looked ahead to the books that they anticipate will be big in the third quarter of this year. In fiction, Frederick Forsyth, Anna Quinlan, Robert Harris, David Baldacci, Janet Evanovich, and Robert Parker have new books on the way. The company also singled out Mitch Albom's For One More Day (Riggio said that Albom's previous book, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, "was the second-largest selling fiction book in our history") and Charles Frazier's 13 Moons, while The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld "are getting a lot of buzz."In non-fiction, Barnes & Noble is anticipating big sales from Faith and Politics by Senator John Danforth, The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina by Frank Rich, Never Again: Securing America and Restoring Justice by John Ashcroft, The Confession by James McGreevey and Inside Bush's White House, the Second Term by Bob Woodward "continuing his take on the Bush administration and the war." Riggio also called John Grisham's first non-fiction book, The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town, "one of the most eagerly-awaited books we have seen in a very long time."The company also highlighted several upcoming biographies and memoirs: Bob Newhart, Sandy Weil, Carly Fiorina, Ellen Burstyn and David Crosby. There's also a "major new biography" on Andrew Carnegie and "the definitive book" on U2.Riggio said it "looks like a very strong season for cookbooks," with the 75th edition of the Joy of Cooking, a new edition of The Bon Apetit Cookbook and new titles from Paula Dean, Rachel Ray, Emeril Lagasse and the Barefoot Contessa.
As we have every quarter for the last several, we're looking at Barnes & Noble's recent quarterly report to gauge the trends that are impacting the book industry - which books were big over the last few months and what's expected for the months ahead.For the 4th quarter ended January 31st, it wasn't pretty. Sales fell by -7.3% compared to the quarter a year ago. Barnes & Noble said that a drop in store traffic, not average ticket (the average amount spent by each shopper), was primarily responsible for the decline.What follows are insights gleaned from Barnes and Noble CEO Steve Riggio's comments on the conference call discussing Q4 results. (Transcript provided by Seeking Alpha.)The original impetus for this regular feature was my noticing that Riggio liked, when laying out B&N's results to Wall Street analysts, to share some details on which books had been flying off the shelves and which books he expected to be big sellers in the coming months. Direct from the mouth of the guy running the biggest brick and mortar bookstore chain in the world, it was some insider insight into what stories would soon be buzzing around the industry. However, over the last few quarters, Riggio has essentially stopped talking about books during these quarterly calls. It's quite possible that he's just trying to speed things along, but I can't help but wonder if the enthusiastic talk of individual titles falls by the wayside as the retail environment gets more and more dire.Riggio called 2008 "by far the most challenging retail environment we've ever experienced."It sounds like B&N is feeling the digital itch as Amazon gets aggrssive with the Kindle: "We also plan to return to the business of offering customers digital content inclusive of eBooks, newspapers and magazines. We have a large number of assets in place to enable us to sell digital content, our ecommerce platform is solid and scalable." Riggio didn't give further specifics but said, "we do have a wide range of initiatives in development."
As we have every quarter for the last several, we're looking at Barnes & Noble's recent quarterly report to gauge the trends that are impacting the book industry - which books were big over the last few months and what's expected for the months ahead.To a large extent, things have gone from bad to worse for the big booksellers. Sales for the 3rd quarter ended November 1st were down -4.4% from the same quarter a year ago. Store traffic at Barnes & Noble has been declining all year, and in the 3rd quarter, average ticket (i.e., the average amount spent per visit) started falling as well. Having said that, Barnes & Noble is in better shape than rival Borders which has been at risk of running out of cash this year. Barnes & Noble is now focusing on controlling costs, keeping inventory low, and increasing supply change efficiency.What follows are insights gleaned from Barnes and Noble CEO Steve Riggio's comments on the conference call discussing Q3 results. (Transcript provided by Seeking Alpha.)Riggio noted that this has been a busy year for news, leaving less room for books. Sales have "been affected by lack of coverage of books both in the mainstream media and on cable, news and talk radio, which were all fully devoted to coverage of the Presidential election and then the economic crisis which hit in September."Riggio claims that inventory reductions are not hurting the shopping experience (though I'd imagine they are hurting publishers): "While inventory levels have decreased, we have maintained outstanding breadth of selection in our stores and online. In fact our in stock standards for what we call core titles have never been higher. We have the books the people need and that they ask for everyday."Elaborating further on the effect of media coverage on the book industry recently, Riggio said, "Well we've obviously seen it in books by President-Elect Barack Obama, which has been fantastic. Publishers actually lightened up their September and October publishing lists because they knew that the election would dominate the media. Obviously no one forecasted the economy as well to dominate the media, but we're hoping that things get back on track as we enter the holidays and into the January season so that we can continue to get media interest in books."Continuing last quarter's trend of not mentioning specific titles (one wonders if the economic challenges are sapping the enthusiasm Riggio had typically shared regarding specific titles in past quarters), Riggio only mentioned a pair of books, the new book from megachurch preacher Rick Warren and Jon Meacham's presidential biography, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House.Riggio and Barnes & Noble see a silver lining in the tough times facing shoppers heading into the holidays, however. "Books are fairly affordable and we hope that as consumers get into the holiday season they recognize that a purchase of $15 or $20 or $25 can give someone a fairly memorable gift."
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Every three months I've been looking at Barnes & Noble's quarterly conference call to get some insight into recent book industry trends and to see which books were the big sellers over the past few months and which are expected to be big in the coming months. Barnes & Noble's second quarter ended August 4th. Almost certainly, it'll be the last time that the bookstore chain will experience the rush of sales generated by Harry Potter, and the company made the most of it, riding the Boy Wizard to results that came in at the high end of its forecast and meeting Wall Street estimates that had been padded with high expectations for the final Potter installment. With Potter coming out late in the quarter, however, the vaunted "Potter effect" was only in play for the final two weeks of the period.Here are the highlights from CEO Steve Riggio on the Q2 conference call (courtesy Seeking Alpha):Harry Potter drove sales higher but knocked Barnes & Noble's profit margin lower thanks to "significant discounting." The book was marked down 40% instead of the usual 30%.More Harry - selling well but tailing off: "The book sold even better than our expectations in its first days on sale, but in the following weeks, sales of the book tailed off quite a bit, as it was available in abundant quantity in a large number of mass merchants and non-book store retailers. Nevertheless, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows continues to sell well. It remains our number one best selling hard cover title, and we expect to sell hundreds of thousands of copies through the end of the year."But perhaps the Potter party isn't over yet: "We believe that sales of the entire series are going to continue to dominate children's bestseller lists for many, many years. While the Harry Potter cycle may be complete for those who have read the entire series, it is yet to be discovered by millions of readers now and in the years ahead."Moving beyond Potter, Barnes & Noble saw "a mix of expected bestsellers from brand name writers and the emergence of a few sleepers." The expected: Khaled Hosseini's A Thousand Splendid Suns, Janet Evanovich's Lean Mean Thirteen and James Patterson's two books, The Quickie and The 6th Target. The sleepers: Conn and Hal Iggulden's The Dangerous Book for Boys. Thomas Cathcart's Plato and A Platypus Walked Into a Bar, Denise Jackson's It's All About Him, and Elin Hilderbrand's Barefoot. The fourth Barnes & Noble Recommends selection, Paulette Giles' Stormy Weather also saw "strong sales."Riggio also mentioned a recently published book, Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer. Apparently vampires never go out of style because according to Riggio, the book has "catapulted Stephanie Meyer into the ranks of mega bestselling authors. It outsold Harry Potter, toppled it from the bestseller list and it actually became the fastest-selling teen novel in our history."And finally, Riggio previewed third quarter releases that are expected to be big: Bill Clinton's Giving, Alan Greenspan's The Age of Turbulence, the late David Halberstam's final book, The Coldest Winter, John Grisham's Playing for Pizza, Alice Sebold's The Almost Moon, and the tie-in book for the Ken Burns WWII PBS documentary airing this fall.
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