US booksellers expecting 'unpredictable' Christmas

<p>Top US high street booksellers Barnes &amp; Noble and Borders continue to struggle, both posting quarterly losses overnight, amid lacklustre sales and fears over an &quot;unpredictable&quot; Christmas.</p><p>At Barnes &amp; Noble, sales for the quarter ended 31st Octover rose 4% to $1.2bn &mdash; though the increase was due to revenue from the college bookstores. Excluding that, Barnes &amp; Noble sales fell 2% to $1.1bn, or by 3.2% on a like-for-like basis. The second quarter net loss was $24m. It said it expected that general retail traffic would &quot;remain challenged during the holiday selling season&quot;, with like-for-like sales likely to be down 1% to 3%. As a result it lowered its full-year profit forecasts. But the company said it was ramping up its production schedule for its e-reader the Nook, and would as a result incur &quot;higher production costs than originally anticipated&quot;, but added that it was &quot;increasing future investments related to its digital strategy&quot; as a result of the high demand.<br /><br />Borders US saw third quarter sales shrink 12.7%, but at least reaffirmed its commitment to books investing $16.8m more in book stock during this period when compared with last year. Third quarter consolidated sales were $595.5m, a 12.7% decrease from the same period a year ago. On an operating basis, the company generated a third-quarter loss from continuing operations of $39m compared to a loss of $39m a year ago.<br /><br />Total third quarter sales at Borders superstores, including Borders.com, in the third quarter were $492.4m, down 12.1% from a year ago. Comparable store sales decreased by 12.1% at Borders superstores in the third quarter. Total sales in the third quarter within the Waldenbooks Specialty Retail segment were $72.9m, a 20.3% decline compared to the same period in 2008 as the number of stores was decreased to 361 at the end of the third quarter this year compared to 467 stores.</p><p>Borders Group chief executive Ron Marshall said: &quot;We increased core book inventories, experimented with a range of traffic-driving and in-store promotions and invested in store payroll to get books out on the shelves and our stores in top condition to receive customers.&quot; Borders also launched its &quot;in-stock guarantee&quot; over the period, meaning it will ship books free to customers if they cannot find it in store but it is available on Borders.com. &quot;There will be no wasted shopping trips for our customers this season,&quot; said Marshall.<br /><br />He told the Associated Press that the holiday season would be difficult: &quot;This is an unpredictable holiday selling season as consumers remain unsettled and reactive to economic news.&quot;<br /><br />Publishers Marketplace noted that Borders said its upcoming SEC filing would note the reserves already taken against potential losses on the store leases that Borders UK guaranteed when selling the UK division.</p>