Shares of Barnes & Noble slid more than 16 percent Thursday after the company reported flat sales during the crucial holiday season and warned investors that its full-year earnings will be weaker than previously estimated.
Barnes & Noble lowered its earnings guidance for the rest of fiscal 2019, saying it expects earnings before taxes and other reductions to fall to between $140 million and $155 million. The bookseller had expected a range of $175 million to $200 million.
The company said it reduced outlook because of lower-than-expected holiday sales and higher investment expenses during its third quarter, which ended Jan. 26.
Here's how the company did compared with Wall Street's expectations, based on a survey of analysts by Refinitiv:
- Earnings: $1.21 per share versus $1.10 per share expected
- Revenue: $1.23 billion versus $1.24 billion expected
The company swung to a profit on an unadjusted basis during the quarter with earnings of $66.9 million, or 91 cents a share, compared with a loss of $63.5 million, or 87 cents a share, during the same period in the prior year.
Sales at locations open for at least a year during the quarter rose 1.1 percent, which the company said was its best quarterly performance in three years.
Wall Street had expected an increase of 0.5 percent, according to an average estimate of two analysts tracked by Refinitiv. Total sales for the holiday shopping quarter were $1.2 billion, about flat compared with the same time last year. On a call with investors, Chief Merchandising Officer Tim Mantel said the quarter started off slow in November.
"Traffic and transactions were down significantly and we did not see sufficient momentum from what was expected to be a blockbuster season of new publishing," Mantel said. "This weakness was accompanied by slowness in our cafe and in seasonal gift and other trend and impulse categories."
Mantel cited cookbooks, personal growth, science fiction and fantasy as well as current affairs books as strong sellers. Michelle Obama's "Becoming" was the company's best-selling book this year.
"In fiscal 2019, we have been focused on growing the top line, which contributed to our best holiday in years," Barnes & Noble Chairman Len Riggio said in a press release. "Sales benefited from our new ad campaign, increased marketing and promotions, and an improved omni-channel experience for our customers."
The bookseller has struggled as consumers shop online to buy books or read them on phones or tablets instead. In October, Barnes & Noble named a special committee to review bids to sell the company. On the call with investors, the company said online sales were down 2 percent during the quarter due to its buy online, pick up in store program and pressure on the textbook business.
In January, Barnes & Noble said its holiday same-store sales performance was its best in several years. Sales at stores operating for at least 12 months increased 4 percent between Black Friday and New Year's Day, and 1.3 percent for the nine-week holiday period that ended Dec. 29.
In January, the retailer said it might reduce earnings guidance by as much at 10 percent due to increased costs for advertising and promotions.
Barnes & Noble appointed Sasha Quinton as vice president and general merchandise manager, bookstore on Wednesday. Quinton will lead publisher relations, adult trade books and newsstand retailing, according to a Barnes & Noble press release.