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Hunger Games leaves Scholastic feeling empty

Sales at Scholastic Corp fell sharply during the company’s fourth quarter ended May 31 and most of the drop was blamed on the waning popularity of the Hunger Games trilogy.

The global children's publishing, education and media company said sales declined to $506.9 million in the fourth quarter compared to $676.6 million last year and earnings per share fell to 76 cents from $1.86 last year.

The weakness was blamed on lower U.S. and international sales of The Hunger Games trilogy, lower Book Clubs revenue per order compared to the prior year period, offset somewhat by strength in the company's education businesses.

Weakness related to Hunger Games also caused full year revenues to suffer, declining to $1.792 billion from $2.139 billion.

"Despite the decline in U.S. and international sales of The Hunger Games, Scholastic achieved the high end of our revised guidance range for fiscal 2013 revenue and exceeded our revised earnings per diluted share and free cash flow guidance due to strong sales of our education programs in the fourth quarter," said Richard Robinson, chairman, president and CEO. "We are operating at a time of significant change in the book business and in education, and we are well-positioned to capitalize on the opportunities presented by evolving needs in the classroom and buying behavior in children's books.”

According to Robinson, with fewer retail outlets for children's books, third-party industry research indicates that parents are increasingly relying on Scholastic’s Book Fairs and Book Clubs channels to find age-appropriate, quality print and ebooks for their children. He added that educators are looking to the company to provide customized print and digital curriculum packages and technology-based programs and content.

"Our significant role in the reading and learning lives of children both at school and at home continues to be a core strength of the company,” Robinson said. “We expect to drive growth in fiscal 2014 by capitalizing on further opportunities to deliver books to families that help link children's independent reading to Common Core State Standards, and to provide teachers and administrators with customized curriculum packages and professional development solutions that now cover grades pre-K to 12.”

Scholastic expects to achieve sales of $1.8 billion during the current fiscal year and earnings per  share from continuing operations in the range of $1.40 to $1.80, before the impact of one-time items.