OfficeMax, Staples Both Report Stronger Sales In Fis. 3rd Qtrs.

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Two major office superstores, OfficeMax and Staples, both reported stronger sales for their fiscal third quarters, both of which ended recently.

OfficeMax said increased customer counts and higher average revenue per transaction helped the chain record a 5.8 percent rise in consolidated sales for its fiscal third quarter, hitting $1.3 billion, up from $1.2 billion in the year-ago period.

This resulted in Cleveland-based OfficeMax moving into the black in the third quarter, ended Oct. 26, with net income reaching $16.5 million, compared with a net loss of $25.8 million in the same period in 2001. Same-store sales in the third quarter increased 7.7 percent year-on-year. Results for 2001 include sales from 29 stores closed at the end of last January.

The Microsoft launch of Windows XP software produced incremental sales of $5.3 million in the last three days of OfficeMax's fiscal 2001 third quarter. If the revenue from this one-time-sales event is excluded, same-store sales for the third quarter just ended would have increased to 8.1 percent.

OfficeMax reported a 140-basis-point gross margin improvement in the third quarter, reaching 25.2 percent, up from 23.8 percent in the same three months last year. This climb was partly a result of strong revenue growth in the company's core supplies categories..

For the nine months, consolidated sales gained 2.6 percent, to $3.45 billion, compared with $3.36 billion in the same nine months last year. Net income for the nine months reached $46.7 million, including a $57.5 million tax refund, compared with a net loss of $66.4 million in the same period a year ago.

Staples sales for its North American Retail segment increased 4 percent in the company's fiscal third quarter, hitting $1.93 billion, up from $1.85 billion in the year-ago period. Retail comp sales increased at the Framingham, Mass.-based chain more than 1 percent. The segment reported third quarter income of $136.3 million, up from $100.5 million in the same three months last year.

For the nine months, North American Retail segment sales came in at $5.1 billion, compared with $5 billion in the same period in 2001. Segment income for the nine months reached $241.3 million, up from $179.3 million the previous year.

With both sales and earnings ahead of expectations in the third quarter, Staples consolidated sales hit $3.1 billion, up 9 percent from the $2.8 billion reported in the third quarter last year. Overall comp-store sales climbed 3 percent in the period.

Staples net income was $128 million in the third quarter, ended Nov. 2, up over 40 percent from the $91.3 million recorded in same time frame the previous year.

For the nine months, consolidated sales reached $8.3 billion, up from $7.8 billion in the same period last year. Net income for the nine months was $281.4 million, compared with $171.2 million year-on-year.

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