Top office products retailer Staples Inc reported slightly higher-than-expected quarterly earnings on Wednesday, bolstered by its Corporate Express unit.

Staples, which bought Corporate Express in July, said it still expected to save up to $300 million in costs from the acquisition of its Dutch rival.

Net earnings fell to $147.0 million, or 20 cents a share, in the first quarter that ended May 2 from $212.2 million, or 30 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding integration and restructuring expenses of $19 million, Staples earned 22 cents a share, a penny ahead of the average Wall Street forecast, according to Reuters Estimates.

Sales rose 19 percent to $5.82 billion.

Staples said it was on track with its Corporate Express integration efforts, including pricing negotiations with vendors and reducing the percentage of small orders.

North American retail sales fell 9 percent to $2.2 billion as sales at existing stores fell 8 percent, reflecting declines in average order size and weakness in durable goods such as business machines and furniture.

The U.S. recession has hit office supplies sellers hard as consumers and small businesses cut back on buying big-ticket items like furniture and computers.

Last month, rivals OfficeMax Inc and Office Depot reported better-than-expected results after cost cuts helped them offset a sharp decline in sales.

Staples has reduced headcount, frozen senior manager salaries, eliminated corporate-staff bonuses and curtailed store-opening plans to try to cut costs.

The company's shares were up 1 cent at $20.40 in trading before the market opened.

(Reporting by Dhanya Skariachan; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Derek Caney)