Despite a weak demand for core office supplies, Staples is driving growth online and in new categories, which resulted in net earnings of $135.2 million for the third quarter ended Nov. 2, compared with a loss of $596.2 million a year earlier.
Sales for the company’s North American Stores and Online business for the quarter, however, were $3 billion, a decrease of 5% compared to the third quarter of 2012. Third quarter 2013 sales growth was negatively impacted by approximately 1% due to 59 store closures during the 12 months preceding the third quarter of 2013, net of estimated sales transfers to remaining stores.
The sales decline also reflects weakness in office supplies, business machines and technology accessories, as well as computers, partially offset by growth in tablets, facilities and breakroom supplies, and copy and print services. Comparable store sales, which exclude e-commerce sales, decreased 3%, reflecting a 3% decline in traffic and flat average order size versus the prior year.
Staples.com sales grew 3% during the third quarter of 2013. The sales increase reflects increased customer traffic and stable customer conversion, partially offset by lower average order size.
Sales for the company’s North American Commercial business for the quarter were $2.1 billion, an increase of 1% compared to the third quarter of 2012. This primarily reflects growth in facilities and breakroom supplies, tablets, and furniture, partially offset by declines in office supplies, paper and ink and toner.