Staples attributes annual sales increase to Web, mobile investments

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Staples full-year 2011 sales increased 2% year-over-year to $25 billion, while net income grew approximately 12% to $985 million, the company said Feb. 29. Updates to the Staples.com website and the development of new mobile apps drove this growth, said Ronald Sargent, Staples's chairman and CEO in an investor's call.

Total company sales in fiscal Q4 2011, which ended Jan. 28, remained flat at $6.5 billion compared with the fiscal fourth quarter of 2010. Net income in the quarter increased 3.2% year-over-year to $284 million.   

“Throughout 2011, we made big investments in Staples.com to improve customer experience and to accelerate growth,” said Sargent, during the call. These investments included new mobile apps for iPhone and Android devices, a tablet app and a revamped site design that included proactive chat capabilities, he said.

“We built momentum throughout the back half of the year,” said Sargent, regarding changes to Staples.com. “Customer acquisition improved (and) our customer conversion rate also increased as a result of these investments.”

Staples' North American retail operation reported $9.6 billion in sales for the fiscal full year, a 1% increase compared with the prior fiscal year. Fourth-quarter sales for the North American retail unit increased 2.7% to $2.6 billion, compared with Q4 2010.

The company's North American delivery business reported $10 billion in sales, an increase of 2.1% compared with full fiscal year 2009. In Q4 2011, the North American delivery business generated $2.5 billion in sales, the same as in Q4 2010.

Staples's international business saw a sales increase of 2.7% year-over-year to $5.3 billion during FY 2011. Fourth-quarter sales dropped 4.6% to $1.3 billion compared with Q4 2010.

Mike Miles, president and COO of Staples, attributed poor international business performance in Q4 to the economic crisis in Europe.

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