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Office Depot Retail Sales Climb In 4th Qtr., '00

2/26/2001 02:00:00 AM Eastern

DELRAY BEACH, FLA. -Admitting that its financial performance in 2000 did not meet expectations, Office Depot said fourth-quarter sales in its North American Retail Division rose 9 percent to $1.7 billion, compared with $1.6 billion in the year-ago three months. For the year 2000, sales climbed 10 percent in the retail division to $6.5 billion, compared with $5.9 billion in 1999.

Store operating profit in the retail division for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 30 was relatively flat at $106.9 million, compared with $107.6 million the previous year. For the year ended Dec. 30, operating profit in the retail division was $452.6 million, down 11 percent from the $508.5 billion reported in 1999.

Office Depot said the highly competitive environment for technology products negatively affected the retailer's operating performance. The chain plans to close 70 stores in the United States and Canada, as previously announced.

Total sales in the fourth quarter climbed 12 percent on a 53-week basis to $3 billion, up from $2.7 billion in the same three months last year. The percentage increase was 4 percent on a 52-week basis. Total sales for 2000 increased 13 percent on a 53-week basis to $11.6 billion, up from $10.3 billion in the year-ago period. The percentage increase was 11 percent on a 52-week basis. Comp-store sales for the quarter rose 4 percent, and for the year, 7 percent.

Office Depot recorded a fourth-quarter net loss of $168.3 million, compared with a gain of $84 million in the year-ago fourth quarter. For the year, the retailer reported net earnings of $49.3 million, down substantially from the $257.6 million recorded in 1999. The 1999 fourth quarter contained 13 weeks, compared with 14 in 2000, while 1999 was on a 52-week basis, compared with 53 weeks in 2000.

Office Depot has downgraded its January sales performance prediction for first-quarter 2001 comp-store sales in its North American Retail Division to a negative high-single-digit range, compared with the earlier forecast of negative mid-single digits.

Office Depot said its domestic Internet sales rose 114 percent to $275.5 million in the fourth quarter, compared with $128.8 million in the year-ago period. For the year, Internet business jumped 143 percent to $849.5 million, up from $349.7 million in 1999.

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