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Staples Q4 Sales Grow 18 Percent, But Net Declines

3/12/2001 02:00:00 AM Eastern

FRAMINGHAM, MASS. -Taking it on the chin from the continued deterioration of the economy during the back half of the year, coupled with its own aggressive growth initiatives, Staples found its financial performance hampered during the fiscal fourth quarter and year.

Although sales in the fiscal fourth quarter ended Feb. 3 grew 18 percent to $3.1 billion, compared with $2.6 billion the previous 12 months, net income, excluding one-time items, dropped to $94 million, compared with $119 million for the same period in the prior year. Comp-store sales grew 3 percent overall and were flat for the retail business.

For the year, sales grew 19 percent to $10.7 billion, up from $8.9 billion the previous year. Net income, excluding one-time items, was $261 million, compared with $315 million in the prior year. Comp-store sales increased 7 percent overall and 4 percent for the retail business.

Looking to 2001, Staples chairman/CEO Tom Stemberg said, "Our Internet business is on track to turn profitable in the fourth quarter of 2001, and our European business is positioned for a strong year. In North America, we have curtailed our store growth from 17 percent in 2000 to 12 percent in 2001, as we benefit from our aggressive real estate program of the last two years.

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