America’s last major physical bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), reported Thursday that holiday sales in its digital segment tumbled from last year’s level.
The NOOK segment, which includes digital content, devices and accessories, had revenues of $125 million for the nine-week holiday period ended Dec. 28, a decrease of 60.5 percent compared to the year-earlier period.
This holiday season, the book retailer didn’t release any new tablets, offering only a black-and-white e-reader and discounted older tablets.
“Sales in the NOOK segment declined year-over-year largely because during the previous holiday season the company introduced two new tablet products, while no new tablets were introduced this year,” Barnes & Noble Chief Executive Officer Michael P. Huseby said in a statement. “Instead, we executed our plan to sell through our existing high-quality devices."
The retail segment, which includes the bookstores and BN.com, also saw sales decline this holiday season from last year’s, though by only 6.6 percent. Revenues were $1.1 billion. But Barnes & Noble has also closed several store locations, including its former flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York, which closed this week. Comparing core bookstores, sales decreased 0.2 percent.
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"We are pleased with our holiday sales results, especially our core comparable bookstore sales, which were essentially flat and an improvement as compared to the first half of the year," Huseby said in the same statement. “During the holiday period we benefited from a strong line-up of best-selling titles, great execution by our booksellers and merchants, an effective advertising campaign and strong increases in our Juvenile, Gift and Toys & Games categories.”
Huseby told analysts in August that Barnes & Noble needed to stay in the device business and praised the company’s design and engineering team. But he also said there was an opportunity to “expand those existing relationships with the largest players in this industry to de-risk the business plan,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
Barnes & Noble is reportedly considering purchasing and selling generic tablets with Nook-like exteriors and Nook content or selling co-branded tablets with an electronics manufacturer.