Staples Q1 Sales Down But North American Store Sales Grow Slightly

 First quarter sales at Staples were down mid-single digits but the company’s net income grew substantially.

For the quarter ended October 31, total company sales were $6.5 billion, down 6% from the same quarter the previous year. Net income attributed increased 72% year over year to $269 million.

“With North American Retail growing again, improving trends in our catalog businesses, solid profitability in our European office products portfolio, and record free cash flow, we’re increasingly optimistic about the future,” said Ron Sargent, Staples’ chairman and chief executive officer.

Sales in the company’s North American Retail Division increased 1% to $2.6 billion and comparable store sales were flat versus the third quarter of 2008, reflected positive customer traffic for the first time in nine quarters, Staples officials said.

Strength in sales of computers, ink and toner offset weakness in durable categories such as business machines and furniture.

During the quarter, the company opened three stores and closed three stored, ending the quarter with 1,872 locations in North America.

For the fourth quarter of 2009, the company expects total company sales to increase between 1% and 3% in US dollars, or to decrease in the low single-digits in local currency, compared to the same period of 2008.