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Staples Reports Higher Q4 Sales

3/02/2010 10:43:36 AM Eastern

Framingham, Mass. - Staples reported higher net sales in
its fiscal fourth quarter but a double-digit decline in net earnings due to
special items.

For the quarter ended Jan. 30, net sales were up 4 percent to
$6.4 billion compared with the prior year's final quarter. Net income was down
for the quarter year over year by 18 percent to $234 million.

However, due to previously announced special items totaling $62
million and a pretax integration and restructuring expense of $41 million and
other items, adjusted earnings per share were up 6 percent, Staples reported.

"With a strong finish in the fourth quarter, our team delivered a
solid 2009," said Ron Sargent, Staples chairman/CEO, in a prepared statement. "We
made great progress on the integration of Corporate Express, took big steps
toward building a global Staples brand, laid a solid foundation for growth in
our technology services and copy and print businesses, and strengthened our
international leadership team."

For the full year 2009, total company sales increased 5 percent
to $24.3 billion compared with the full year 2008. Net income decreased 8
percent year over year to $739 million. Total company sales for the full year
2009 decreased 8 percent after adjusting sales for 2008 to include Corporate
Express' sales of $3.4 billion for February 2008 to June 2008, prior to the
acquisition.

North American retail operation sales for the fourth quarter were
$2.6 billion, an increase of 8 percent in U.S. dollars and an increase of 4 percent
in local currency compared with the fourth quarter of 2008.

Fourth-quarter 2009 comp-store sales increased 3 percent year on
year, "reflecting positive customer traffic and strength in computers, ink and toner,
offset by weakness in durable categories such as business machines and furniture,"
Staples said.

North American retail sales for the full year 2009 of $9.4
billion, a decrease of 1 percent in both U.S. dollars and local currency
compared with the full year 2008.  Full-year 2009 comp-store sales decreased 2 percent
vs. the full year 2008.

Fourth-quarter 2009 operating income rate increased 21 basis
points to 9.54 percent compared with the fourth quarter of 2008. This
improvement primarily reflects purchasing synergies related to the integration
of Corporate Express, as well as

improved rent and distribution expense,
offset by an increased mix of lower-margin

technology products and increased
incentive compensation.

Full-year 2009 operating income rate increased 16 basis points to
8.27 percent compared to the full year 2008.

The operation opened four
stores and closed five stores during the fourth quarter, and opened 48 stores
and closed 12 stores during the full year, ending 2009 with 1,871 stores in North America.