Quarterly Report: Harry Potter Hangover

August 23, 2008 | 2 min read

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.

As was noted last quarter, amid a challenging environment for both of the big chains, there was much speculation that Barnes & Noble would snap up struggling Borders. Now, it appears that Barnes & Noble has lost interest in going that route. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Barnes & Noble’s decision not to bid reflects in part the tight lending markets that likely would make it difficult to arrange bank financing. The retailer was also known to be concerned about the length of some of the leases that Borders has signed.”

Beyond that, Barnes & Noble’s Q2 was surprisingly ok, surpassing Wall Street’s admittedly dim view of its prospects by keeping a tight lid on costs.

What follows are insights gleaned from Barnes and Noble CEO Steve Riggio’s comments on the quarterly conference call for the quarter ended August 2nd. (Transcript provided by Seeking Alpha.) The Harry Potter hangover was in full effect in Q2, as it marked a year since the series’ final book came out. Up against the boy wizard-fueled numbers of a year ago, Barnes & Noble’s revenue dipped by -1.6% from a year ago. Just like last quarter, Riggio didn’t really discuss any individual titles, though in the past he has been known to run down top sellers and look ahead to highly anticipated books. It may just be that there’s not much out there getting the book exec excited these days. A couple of other highlights:

  • Riggio explains that the book business may not be in as bad shape as many assume: “The closer examination of sales will reveal that even in this soft retail environment across America, the book business is stubbornly holding up. If we normalized our sales without the impact of Harry Potter and its add on sales last year, throw in the double digit decline we’re still experiencing in the music business, the rest of our business was relatively flat so as we’ve said for many years, the book business is a relatively stable business.”
  • The Olympics are expected to take a small but noticeable bite out of sales in Q3, as folks stay glued to their TVs and put off shopping and reading.

created The Millions and is its publisher. He and his family live in New Jersey.

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