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ODP makes the grade, OfficeMax fails in BTS sales

NAPERVILLE, Ill. and BOCA RATON, Fla. — OfficeMax and Office Depot had very different things to say about their respective back-to-school sales performances during presentations at the Goldman Sachs Annual Global Retailing Conference.

OfficeMax has been experiencing slower sales as consumers continue to be price conscious. In addition, Ravi Saligram, president and CEO of OfficeMax, reported that back-to-school sales are soft and the company is experiencing weaker technology sales.

"Consequently, we are continuing to focus on providing products that are a good value, as well as managing gross margins and costs in the third quarter and second half of the year," said Saligram.

OfficeMax said it now anticipates that total company sales for the third quarter of 2011 will be slightly lower than the third quarter of 2010, including the favorable impact of foreign currency translation. The company is maintaining its guidance for total company sales for the second half of 2011 to be slightly higher than the prior-year second half, including the favorable impact of foreign currency translation and the benefit of the additional fiscal week in the fourth quarter. 

OfficeMax's presentation at the Goldman Sachs conference can be viewed at investor.officemax.com until Oct. 7 and will be posted on the "presentations" page located within the "Investors" section of the OfficeMax website.

Unlike OfficeMax, Office Depot said its back-to-school sales were stronger than last year, thanks to an earlier start and a better product assortment.

Kevin Peters, president of Office Depot North America, said, “Our back-to-school sales and gross margin are both up over 150 basis points through August compared to the prior year. The reasons why we are performing better in back-to-school this year include launching our effort earlier compared to prior years, a better assortment, improved supplies displays and trendier products. If we look at product categories, supplies have performed well to date for back-to-school.”

Peters added that although its comparable-retail sales were down 2% for the quarter-to-date through August, operating profit is on track to be up slightly versus the prior year. 

Office Depot's presentation will be available at http://investor.officedepot.com