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Barnes & Noble narrows Q1 loss as "Fifty Shades" lifts sales

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Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE:BKS) reduced net losses for its fiscal first-quarter earnings Tuesday, amid revenue growth and strong sales of "Fifty Shades of Grey".

The bookseller narrowed its net loss to $40.9 million, or 78 cents per share, compared with a loss of $56.6 million, or 99 cents per share, a year-earlier. Revenue edged up to $1.45 billion from $1.41 billion.

Analysts polled by Bloomberg expected a per-share loss of 98 cents on $1.5 billion in revenue for the quarter ended July 28.

"During the first quarter, we continued to see improvement in both our rapidly growing NOOK business, which saw digital content sales increase 46% during the quarter, and at our bookstores, which continue to benefit from market consolidation and strong sales of the Fifty Shades series," Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch said.

"The growth in comps at retail and the continued strong growth of our digital content business, as well as increased cost management focus, were drivers in the business turning from an EBITDA loss last year to slightly positive EBITDA in the first quarter of this year."

The company’s retail unit, which consists of Barnes & Noble’s bookstores, posted $1.11 billion in sales, up from the $1.09 billion a year-earlier. 

Same-store bookstore sales rose 4.6 per cent, thanks to the liquidation of Border’s bookstores and strong books sales for "Fifty Shades of Grey". 

Its college division, which sells textbooks and apparel, took home $220.7 million in sales. That compares to $220.4 million in revenue in 2012.

Revenue from its Nook segment, which consists of the company’s digital business, was flat at $191 million in the first-quarter. However, digital content sales increased 46 per cent.

Gross margin, a measure of profitability, widened to 28.4 per cent from 27.3 per cent.

In a separate news statement, the bookseller announced Tuesday its Nook readers will now be available in the U.K. this fall.

The New York-based company plans to set-up an online storefront, and marks the first time the company will expand into an international market.

Barnes & Noble said the E Ink reader, Nook Simple Touch and Nook Simple Touch with glow light will be the first products available. The company did not say how much it would sell the devices for in the U.K.

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