File it under Silk Purses and Sow’s Ears.
Just in case you hear a business headline that seems to suggest that the nooK is spurring huge increases in online sales for Barnes & Noble, don’t let the spinmeisters mislead you. The real meaning of today’s Barnes & Noble quarterly earnings report is exactly the opposite of the spin from B&N. Here’s what they are saying:
Online (B&N.com) sales rose 32% to $210 million. B&N.com sales accelerated during the quarter and were up 67% in January compared to January 2009. CEO Steve Riggio attributed much of the online sales gain to the launch of the nook e-reader, which began shipping in the middle of the quarter. He added that nook sales have been ‘strong at our bookstores since the product became available earlier this month.’
$210 million in total online sales for the quarter ended January 31 is being presented as some kind of triumph and indication of the power of the nooK?
I know, it can be hard to keep track of all the zeroes, but how does B&N’s $210 million in total quarterly online sales compare with Amazon’s total online sales for the quarter?
Amazon’s figure was $9.52 billion for the quarter ended December 31, 2009, or 45 times those of B&N.com.
In 1997, when Barnes & Noble launched its online bookstore, my neighbors at Cambridge’s Forrester Research used the catchy wordplay “Amazon.toast” to predict how the competition between B&N, then America’s largest bookseller, and the upstart Amazon would play out. Let’s just say that Forrester didn’t nail that prediction. In 2003 B&N accounted for about 20% of U.S. bookselling market share, and Amazon for about 10%. The two companies still account for roughly 20% and 10% market share, but they have changed places.
But the markets don’t seem to be fooled by the latest Barnes & Noble spin job, especially after the company’s launch of the Nook was marred by one misleading claim after another. At mid-day in the markets the company’s stock is down about 5 percent.