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B&N: Nook device sales shrink over the holidays

The Black Friday weekend had given Barnes & Noble cause for optimism, but the company says the holiday stretch as a whole saw Nook device sales fall short of expectations.

Jon Skillings Director of copy editing
A born browser of dictionaries and a lifelong New Englander, Jon Skillings is director of copy editing at CNET. He honed his language skills as a US Army linguist (Polish and German) before diving into editing tech publications back when the web was just getting under way. He writes occasionally, on topics from GPS to James Bond.
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  • 30 years experience at tech and consumer publications, print and online. Five years in the US Army as a translator (German and Polish).
Jon Skillings
2 min read
Nook HD+ tablet
The new Nook HD+ tablet apparently wasn't much of an attraction to holiday shoppers. James Martin/CNET

There weren't as many Nooks under the Christmas tree this year as Barnes & Noble had been hoping for.

The company this morning didn't mince words about holiday sales for its line of tablets and e-readers.

"Nook device sales got off to a good start over the Black Friday period, but then fell short of expectations for the balance of holiday," William Lynch, CEO of Barnes & Noble, said in the grim statement. "We are examining the root cause of the December shortfall in sales, and will adjust our strategies accordingly going forward."

For the nine weeks that ended December 29, a rueful B&N said that its Nook segment had revenues of $311 million, down 12.6 percent compared with the same period a year earlier. Sales of digital content -- e-books, apps, and the like -- increased 13.1 percent, while Nook device unit sales "declined" during the holiday period from the year-earlier period.

That decline has to sting. B&N had a greater variety of Nook devices to choose from this year, including the Nook HD and Nook HD+ tablets released during the fall.

As of late November, the company had been much more optimistic. Sales of Nook devices over the four-day Black Friday weekend had doubled, matching a similar (and similarly lacking in concrete numbers) claim by rival Amazon about its Kindle gadgets.

Because of the holiday sales shortfall for the Nook line, Barnes & Noble says it now expects Nook Media revenues for fiscal year 2013 of approximately $3 billion, and Nook segment EBITDA losses at a comparable level to fiscal year 2012.

The company's Retail segment, which consists of the Barnes & Noble bookstores and BN.com businesses, pulled in revenue of $1.2 billion during the nine-week holiday stretch, decreasing 10.9 percent year over year. B&N attributed that decrease to an 8.2 percent decline in comparable store sales, store closures, and lower online sales.

What can we look for from the Nook operations in the coming year? The company said it still aims to deliver the best digital reading, shopping, and content in the market, while also being diligent about "calibrating expenses to business trends" in order to scale the business to profitability over time.

B&N plans to report full results for its second fiscal quarter on or about February 19.