Barnes & Noble issued a brief preliminary report on bookstore sales for the nine-week holiday period, saying that comparable store sales rose 9.7 percent through January 1. Results were driven by the the Nook reading devices, with BN saying they had the largest single day of store sales in the company’s history on December 23.
They will report more details on January 6, when we may get a better glimpse of how book sales held up. Most notable about today’s report is that results were ahead of the company’s own forecast at the end of November, when they told analysts they expected store comps to rise from between 5 to 7 percent during the holiday sales stretch. Even though it was driven by devices rather than books, it’s the first increase in holiday sales for the chain since the end of 2005. BN’s stock was up more than 6 percent this morning on the positive news.
Of course as we always like to remember, comparison sales figures are only meaningful in historical context, and for Barnes & Noble the bar was set relatively low. This time a year ago, holiday comps were down 5.4 percent; at the beginning of 2009, comps declined 7.7 percent; in January 2008, holiday comps were down 0.4 percent; and in 2007, holiday comps slid 0.1 percent at the superstores.