Notes: B&N Comps Fall 7.7%; Rebellion in Lexington
Sales at Barnes & Noble fell 5.2% to $1.1 billion in the nine weeks ended January 3 and sales at stores open at least a year fell 7.7%. At Barnes&Noble.com sales fell 11% during the period.
B&N said that traffic was "diminished" because of "the unprecedented fall-off of retail shopping during the last quarter of the year." Still, after a slow start to the holiday season, "store performance improved and we were able to post comparable store sales increases during the last two weeks of the season."
In its announcement this morning about holiday sales, B&N emphasized that it has "approximately $275 million of cash on hand and no borrowings under its $850 million Revolving Credit facility. The company's inventory levels are appropriate given the current sales environment and, as a result, the company expects to end the year with no debt and a strong balance sheet."
On Tuesday, local police arrested a woman who between 2006 and 2008 was a bookkeeper at Page and Palette bookstore, Fairhope, Ala., and charged her with embezzling about $50,000 from the store, the Press-Register reported. The former bookkeeper, Theresa Canavan Lyda, allegedly wrote a series of checks to pay for personal expenses.
Owner Karin Wilson told the paper that she and others on staff had noticed unexplained and misleadingly recorded expenditures. Wilson then notified Fairhope police, who investigated.
Only last month (Shelf Awareness, December 21, 2008), a former bookkeeper for Quail Ridge Books & Music, Raleigh, N.C., was arrested and charged with embezzling almost $350,000 from that store over a longer period than Lyda's activities.
Customers of the Waldenbooks in Lexington, Mass., are protesting its January 24 closing and have begun a letter-writing campaign to Borders headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich., the Taunton Daily Gazette reported.
"It is a centerpiece of [Lexington] Center," Patricia Manhard told the paper. "This isn't a restaurant--this is an intellectual center in town."
Borders, which has closed many Walden outlets in recent years and whose top executives were replaced this week, says the decision is final.
Nebraska Book Company, which operates some 270 college bookstores, sells textbooks to 2,500 college bookstores and offers technology platforms and e-commerce websites, is seeking to extend its revolving credit facility for 15 months beyond its current expiration date of March 4. In a related change, the company's majority equity holder, Weston Presidio, is investing about $10 million in the company.
If the changes in the credit line are made, the company's maximum borrowing level under the facility will be reduced to $65 million, there will be greater limitations on buying more bookstores, interest rates will increase and the company will have to pay additional fees.
Nebraska Book Company said that it uses the credit line to fund "peak working capital requirements of its business, including additional working capital investments for its expanding chain of retail college bookstores across the country."
In a statement, CEO Mark Oppegard added, "We have a long history of executing on our business model and it's important to note that we remain optimistic about the college bookstore business--but we also recognize that the historic disruption of the credit markets and the general economic slowdown means that we need to look hard at everything we do. While the proposed changes will increase our interest costs, it will also provide us the necessary flexibility and working capital to continue to operate our business in a manner that is conducive to the goals of long-term revenue and EBITDA growth."
Sign of the times. The Tattered Cover, which has three stores in and around Denver, Colo., has laid off more than 10 employees although some were seasonal workers, the Denver Post reported. Owner Joyce Meskis said the cause was "a disappointing holiday season" and hopes to rehire some of the people eventually.
To preserve jobs, Meskis moved some bookstore workers to the stores' coffee shops and "made other shifts." Before Christmas, Tattered Cover had about 180 employees.
MyCentralJersey.com profiled the Bookworm, Bernardsville, N.J., owned for 23 years by Mary Ann Donaghy, who emphasizes customer service. The staff, she said, are "avid readers who go out of their way to help customers find something for themselves, or as a gift."
Independent Booksellers of New York City has added a listing to its website of the latest news about city booksellers, which can viewed here. IBNYC is also posting monthly video spotlights from local bookstores. The first is an amusing farewell to the holidays from Freebird Books in Brooklyn. The group is also planning to run a listing of literary events at IBNYC stores.
HarperOne, which specializes in religion, spirituality and personal growth titles, has launched a blog called Good Books in Bad Times, which aims to be "a resource of consumer information and inspiration for these tough times." Associate marketing director Laina Adler, who created the blog, said that Good Books in Bad Times will "offer information and links to books from other publishers, authors, and recommendations from booksellers."
So far, the blog features The Green Bible, the original "good book in bad times"; The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, "the perennial seeker's guide"; The Green Collar Economy by Van Jones; Mariel Hemingway's Healthy Living from the Inside Out; and the upcoming paperback edition of It's Not About the Money by Brent Kessel, which includes information on how to make personal finances recession-proof.
HarperOne invites booksellers, other publishers and readers to submit their most inspirational titles for today's challenges, whether financial, spiritual or personal.
David Streitfeld's piece on December 27 in the New York Times about buying used books online called "Bargain Hunting for Books and Being Confused About It" caused a lot of unconfused comment among booksellers. On his blog, Tom Campbell of the Regulator Bookshop, Durham, N.C., offered an interesting critique of Streitfeld's numbers and thinking.
In case anyone missed it, last Sunday's New York Times included a hilarious "statement" from Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., crafted with the help of Julian Gough, author of Jude: Level 1. For flavor, here is the first paragraph:
"As we all know, lax writing practices earlier this decade led to irresponsible writing and irresponsible reading. This simply put too many families into books they could not finish. We are seeing the impact on readers and neighborhoods, with five million Americans now behind on their reading. Some are just walking away from novels they should never have been reading in the first place. What began as a subprime reading problem has spread to other, less-risky readers and contributed to excess inventories."
Thanks to Joyce Ripp of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association for the reminder!
On Get Rich Slowly, guest poster Ann Zerkle offers an excellent "defense of buying books," which includes a comparison of books and other entertainment options at their "financial cost per hour." A $15 book, averaging six hours of entertainment, works out to $2.50 an hour, which, among others, beats a movie ($3.50 per hour), a concert ($25 an hour) and a night out ($12.50 per hour).
Thanks to Richard Nash of Soft Skull Press for an entertaining mention of this.
Chronicle Books and Knock Knock, the gift and stationery company whose motto is "We put the fun in functional," have created a new calendar line that will feature "two classic Daily Calendars and two new formats--the Daily Notepad Calendar and the Paper Mousepad Calendar."
Quick Publishing has acquired VanderWyk & Burnham, which will now be distributed Partners Book Distributors, Holt, Mich. VanderWyk & Burnham was formerly distributed by NBN.
Nicholas Brealey Publishing North America has bought the Davies-Black book division from CPP and will keep the division as a separate line.
In a statement, Nicholas Brealey v-p and associate publisher Chuck Dresner said, "Davies-Black has built up an excellent publishing program and a recognized brand in some of the same categories, especially coaching, business and leadership titles. It was clear to us that adding their list to ours would strengthen both and help us become a leader in those areas. We are very excited about the possibilities, particularly coming off a year in which our sales improved and we added to our editorial team."
Both companies are distributed by NBN.
James Gray has been named chief strategy officer of the content group at Ingram Content Companies. He was most recently president and CEO of Ingram Digital.
Mike Lovett, former CEO of Ingram Book Group and most recently senior v-p of Ingram Digital, has become the new CEO of Ingram Digital, replacing Gray.
In a statement, chairman John Ingram commented: "Ingram today is the only service provider in the content industry with state-of-the-art physical and digital capabilities under one roof. While digital has been James' primary focus, he has shown great fluidity in moving between both the physical and the digital sides of the business, as most discussions with industry partners these days move dynamically back and forth between the two domains. Ingram is now poised to take advantage of the fact that our organization can marshal unique competencies to make it easier for our partners to sell more content in both formats, and I expect James will help our partners take advantage of opportunities in compelling, new ways."
Terri Reden has joined Lerner Publishing Group as v-p, marketing. She was formerly v-p of marketing at PLATO Learning and earlier worked at Net Perceptions, TEKsystems and Johns Hopkins University.
Among other changes at Lerner:
- Lois Wallentine has been promoted to director of product development and market research from director of marketing and product development.
- David Wexler has been named executive v-p, sales. He has been with the company for 12 years.
- Margaret Wunderlich has been promoted to executive v-p, CFO, from v-p, CFO.
- Joni Sussman has been promoted to publisher of Kar-Ben Publishing from director of the imprint.
President and publisher Adam Lerner said that with the changes, the company is "laying the ground work for the changes ahead of us in 2009. With Terri's expertise in marketing, brand management, and electronic content and the experience that Lois, David, Margaret, and Joni bring to the company, we are ready to meet the difficult challenges that the publishing industry faces today."