As Nook revenues plunge, B&N says it’s “calibrating” strategy but “committed” to devices

Nook Digital Shop

Barnes & Noble had warned investors that its third-quarter Nook earnings would be disappointing. The earnings report was released before the market opened Thursday morning, and indeed, Nook revenues — consisting of devices and digital content — were down 26 percent, to $316 million, despite the fact that Barnes  & Noble released two new tablets during the year. The company attributed the decline primarily to lower device sales. Digital content sales rose slightly, by 6.8 percent. Nook EBITDA losses were $190 million, compared to $83 million a year ago.

The company’s overall revenues for the third quarter of fiscal year 2013 were $2.2 billion, down 8.8 percent over last year. The company saw losses of $6.1 million, or -$0.18 per share, compared to earnings of $0.71 per share a year ago.

Today’s earnings come a few days after B&N’s founder, chairman and largest stockholder, Leonard Riggio, offered to buy the chain’s 689 retail stores and take them private. So how are those stores doing? Not well, but not as badly as Nook is doing. Over the holidays, Barnes & Noble bookstore chain saw sales down at its physical stores and at BN.com as well as in the Nook segment. For the quarter, retail sales were $1.5 billion, down 10.3 percent over last year, “attributable to a 7.3% decline in comparable store sales, store closures and lower online sales.” Core comparable store sales were down 2.2 percent. The company did not break out sales at BN.com.

In response to the problems at Nook, Barnes & Noble said in the earnings release that Nook “is calibrating its business model and has implemented a cost reduction program that the company projects will significantly reduce Nook’s expenses.” As a reminder, Nook is the segment of the business that’s supposed to be doing well: Barnes & Noble spun it off, along with the college bookstores, into a subsidiary called Nook Media last year, with investments from Microsoft and Pearson. For fiscal year 2013, the company said it expects Nook Media revenues to be $2.5 billion. Previously, it had estimated revenues of $3 billion for the segment.

In a statement, B&N CEO William Lynch said the company has “taken significant actions to begin to right size our cost structure in the Nook segment, while also taking a large markdown on Nook devices in order to enhance our ability to achieve our estimated sales plans in subsequent quarters.” Lynch said Nook “remains committed” to the tablet and e-reader business, likely in response to a New York Times article earlier this week that cited an unidentified source who said Barnes & Noble would “move away” from building devices.

Lynch also said, “Without question, our bookstores have made a significant contribution to Nook’s success over the past three years. And, in turn, our award-winning line of Nook’s products have proven to be a strong driver of traffic to our stores.”

Barnes & Noble is holding an investor call at 10 a.m. ET, and we will be on the call.

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