Online book vendor Barnesandnoble.com(Nasdaq: BNBN) announced Tuesday that it is expecting first-quarter sales toclimb to US$109 million, a 23 percent spike from the year-ago period.
The company said it was able to achieve the increase by keeping itspromotional offers — such as free shipping and offline advertising — at aminimum.
“In an environment where the flattening of e-commerce sales is being widelyreported, especially in the book industry, our sales continue to grow,” saidBarnesandnoble.com vice chairman Steve Riggio.
The growth spurt is “a clear indication that e-commerce is animportant component of the bookselling retail marketplace,” Riggio added.
“As the e-commerce market continues to consolidate, we believeBarnesandnoble.com is well positioned to grow sales and market share goingforward,” Riggio said.
The e-tailer, which is majority owned by its brick-and-mortar namesakeBarnes & Noble and German media giant Bertelsmann AG, provided no guidancefor its expected first-quarter loss. Analysts surveyed by First Call/ThomsonFinancial estimate a loss of 22 cents per share.
Barnesandnoble.com is slated to report its full financial results for the period after the markets close on April 26th.
Away from Amazon?
The strong sales at Barnesandnoble.com may indicate that Amazon’s virtual dominance in the Internet book sales sector is on the wane.
“Based on preliminary first-quarter data, we believe that[Barnesandnoble.com] gained significant market share from archrivalAmazon.com,” Prudential Securities analyst Mark Rowen reportedly wrote in anote to investors on Tuesday.
However, Rowen cautioned that ifBarnesandnoble.com’s figures factor in sales at its kiosks located in Barnes& Noble stores, the comparison to Amazon may not be an “apples to apples”comparision.
Checking Amazon’s Books
Once the undisputed champ for online book sales, Amazon said last week that its corebusiness of books, movies and videos saw “very slight” sales growth duringthe first quarter.
Instead, the Seattle-based Internet heavyweight said it will post a narrower-than-expected loss for the period due to a surge in its sales of electronic goods, leaving some analysts to question whether the company cansustain long-term growth and still reach profitability.
Barnesandnoble.com’s rate of sales growth apparently is outpacing that of Amazon, whichsaid it will report a 21 percent increase in sales for the first quarterover the year-ago period.
Still, Barnesandnoble.com has a long way to go before overtaking Amazon’s lead.
Amazon consistently ranks as one of the most visited Webproperties. Last year, Amazon sold $1.7 billion worth of books, music andvideos, and is slated to report net sales of more than $695 million for thefirst quarter. In contrast, Barnesandnoble.com sold $320 million in 2000.
Amazon is slated to release complete first-quarter results after the marketcloses on April 24th.
The contest between the two e-tail giants is far from over. For its part, Amazon has taken steps to move into the brick-and-click arena,which appears to have proven an effective selling strategy forBarnesandnoble.com.
Amazon announced last week that it is taking over theonline operations of Borders, a union that may prove troublesome forBarnesandnoble.com. Amazon and Borders said that the Borders.com site willre-launch as a co-branded Amazon site in August.
The new site will combinethe selection of books, music, videos and DVDs currently available throughAmazon as well as several features unique to the Borders site, namely storelocation information and in-store event calendars.
Analysts say that alliances with brick-and-mortar partners arecrucial for Amazon’s long-term survival.
Behind the Numbers
In February, Barnesandnoble.com posted afourth-quarter 2000 loss of $143.49 million, or 90 cents per share, a morethan three-fold increase over the $38.34 million loss, or 27 cents per share, it reported inthe same period a year earlier.
The company attributed the big loss to several one-time investments in distribution, technology and customerservice, as well as its acquisition of business publisher Fatbrain.com.
In addition, Barnesandnoble.com slashed its workforce by 16 percent,accounting for about 350 full-time positions, and closed two facilities.
The e-tailer also noted that it anticipated its losses for 2001 will narrowas the “effects of [its] consolidation program are realized and [it] gainsleverage in [its] distribution network and infrastructure expenses.”