Staples Profit Up 8 Percent, But Fewer New Stores Planned

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Staples Inc. recorded an 8 percent increase in fiscal third-quarter profits, but also said yesterday that it would scale back new store openings next year.

For the quarter ended Nov. 3, net income rose to $91.3 million, or 20 cents per share, from $84.7 million, or 18 cents per share, a year ago. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial/First Call had expected per-share earnings of 20 cents.

Total sales for the quarter increased 1 percent to $2.83 billion from $2.8 billion. However, same-store sales dropped 3 percent. Overall comparable-store sales were down 2 percentage points as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In the North American retail business, store sales for the quarter dropped 1 percent to $1.85 billion.

The Framingham, MA, company plans to open fewer than 80 new stores in the United States next year, down from its previous guidance of 100.

The online business' comparable customer count rose 19 percent for the quarter from the year-ago period. Sales for the Staples Delivery business were $778 million, a 9 percent increase over last year.


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