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Store Closings Continue At Staples

Staples closed 73 North American stores in 2015 and plans to shutter another 50 this year, the No. 1 office-supply chain reported.

The closings, which top 300 stores since 2014, leaving 1,607 North American locations, come as the company preps for a pending merger with second-place rival Office Depot and looks to staunch declining profits.

 “In 2015, our top priority was to stabilize total company sales and earnings after a few years of heavy investment to transform Staples,” chairman/CEO Ron Sargent said in a Q4 earnings announcement.

Apparently the planned worked, at least in part: Net income hit $86 million for the fourth quarter ended Jan. 30, compared to a year-ago loss of $260 million, and full-year profits were $379 million, a 181 percent increase.

But the store closures took a toll on revenue, the company acknowledged, with total sales declining 6.9 percent, to $5.3 billion, for the three months, ended Jan. 30. The chain also attributed the decrease to unfavorable currency exchange rates.

Comps in North America decreased 5 percent, reflecting softness in the tech accessory and mobility categories and a 4 percent decline in average order size and a 2 percent decline in store traffic.

Online comps increased 1 percent during the period, but sales declined 2 percent in U.S. dollars.

Staples restructured its headquarters operations in January as part of a corporate streamlining, and pushed its $6.3 billion buyout of Office Depot back to May while the retailers fight a federal anti-trust suit seeking to block the deal.

Related:Staples-Office Depot Deal Gets Europe’s Blessing