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Barnes & Noble holiday sales drop 6.6 percent

NEW YORK - Barnes & Noble's (BKS) sales fell 6.6 percent at its bookstores and online during the critical holiday season compared with last year. But the bookseller said a core sales figure was essentially flat.

The results were reported a day after the company announced that it promoted the head of its Nook business, Michael Huseby, to CEO. The post has been vacant since July when CEO William Lynch left the company.

Its stock rose in Thursday premarket trading.

Barnes & Noble Inc. said that revenue for the retail unit -- which includes its bookstores and online results -- totaled $1.1 billion for the nine weeks that ended Dec. 28.

The New York company said the performance was hindered by a 5.5 percent drop in sales at stores open at least a year, and store closings.

Sales at stores open at least a year is a key indicator of a retailer's health because it excludes results from stores recently opened or closed.

Core sales at bookstores open at least a year, which excludes Nook product sales, dipped 0.2 percent from a year ago.

Huseby said in a statement that the company was particularly pleased with that figure because it was basically flat and better than its performance during the first half of the year.

Huseby takes the helm of Barnes & Noble as it struggles to turn around results in the face of tough competition and a book market that is shifting to digital books. The company is also dealing with an accounting probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In the Nook division, revenue slumped 60.5 percent to $125 million. Device and accessories sales slid 66.7 percent to $88.7 million because of lower average selling prices and a decline in unit selling volume. Digital content sales -- which includes digital books, digital newsstands and apps -- fell 27.3 percent to $36.5 million on lower prices and lower device unit sales.

Huseby said the Nook segment's softness was mostly because it introduced two new tablet products in the previous holiday season and didn't introduce any new tablets this year.

Barnes & Noble will report its third-quarter financial results on Feb. 27. It has 673 of its namesake bookstores in 50 states.

The company's stock gained 21 cents to $14.84 in premarket trading.

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