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Barnes & Noble Education, Inc. (NYSE:BNED) Q2 2024 Earnings Call Transcript

Barnes & Noble Education, Inc. (NYSE:BNED) Q2 2024 Earnings Call Transcript December 6, 2023

Barnes & Noble Education, Inc. beats earnings expectations. Reported EPS is $0.46, expectations were $0.44.

Hunter Barnes: Thanks operator. Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to our Fiscal 2024 Second Quarter Earnings Call. Joining us today are Mike Huseby, Chief Executive Officer; Kevin Watson, Chief Financial Officer; and Jonathan Shar, Executive Vice President, BNED’s Retail and President, Barnes & Noble College. As referenced in our second quarter slide presentation, which can be found on our Investor Relations website, I'd like to remind you that statements we make on today's call are covered by the safe harbor disclaimer contained in our press release and public documents. The contents of this call are property of Barnes & Noble Education and are not for rebroadcast or used by any other party without prior written consent of Barnes & Noble Education.

During this call, we will make forward-looking statements with predictions, projections and other statements about future events. These statements are based upon current expectations and assumptions that are subject to risks and uncertainties, including those contained in our press release and public filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company disclaims any obligation to update any forward-looking statements that may be made or discussed during this call. And now, I'll turn the call over to Mike Huseby. Mike?

Mike Huseby: Thanks, Hunter. Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us today. It's my pleasure to provide our earnings commentary today together with Jonathan and to introduce Kevin Watson, our new CFO, who joined BNED in September and is already contributing significantly to BNED's success. One year ago, we announced decisive actions to accelerate our transition to the First Day Complete model and also implemented significant cost reduction and operational efficiency initiatives to improve our profitability. We made substantial progress on these initiatives and our second quarter financial results are further proof points that our strategy is working. Before we get into the details, I'll touch on the key highlights from the quarter.

First, I'd like to really thank our teams for their commitment to our company's success and their continued efforts to deliver a great experience to our students, faculty, institutions, administration, parents, alumni and strategic partners. Our team's agility and resilience enabled us to not only deliver a successful Fall rush in a very dynamic operating environment, but also to execute on our strategic initiatives over the last year. I am truly grateful for their hard work and commitment. Second, our innovative Equitable Access Program, First Day Complete, continues to positively impact students, higher education and our business. In the second quarter, FDC revenue increased 52% year-over-year to $136 million, and the combined First Day programs revenue reached $199 million.

Our strategic transition to First Day Courseware business model has reached an inflection point. First Day and First Day Complete revenues are approaching 50% of course material revenue. And revenue increases from First Day offerings exceeded the decrease in revenue from the traditional à la carte model by $30 million on a year-to-date basis. This evolution to a subscription like B2B model significantly improves revenue and revenue visibility, which enables us to better align costs with revenue, improve inventory management and operating efficiency and ultimately achieve much higher four wall EBITDA per store. Next, we've improved operational efficiency and maintained top line growth despite operating in 128 fewer stores. We've achieved our planned $30 million to $35 million of annualized cost savings and as a result, consolidated adjusted EBITDA increased 28% to $50.3 million in the second quarter.

Looking ahead, we've identified additional opportunities to improve efficiencies further and reduce operating expenses to continue improving our profitability and cash flow. Importantly, the actions we have taken and continue to take position us to deliver more consistent, sustainable and profitable growth in the years ahead. Shifting to our second quarter performance. Total revenue was $610.4 million, increased by $1.7 million or 0.3% compared to the prior year period. The second quarter sales increase is primarily due to the growth of our First Day programs, which increased 39% to $199 million, partially offset by declines in the à la carte courseware sales, including lower sales from a smaller store footprint as we focused on the profitability of our stores.

Second quarter adjusted EBITDA from continuing operations of $50.3 million [increased] by $11.1 million or 28.3%, primarily driven by a $13 million decrease in S&A expenses compared to the prior year. Before turning the call over to Jonathan to discuss our Retail segment results, I'll provide a brief comment on the strategic alternatives process. Our Board of Directors continues its ongoing review of a broad range of strategic alternatives available to the company, including, but not limited to, potential capital raises, asset divestitures, sales of business and pursuit of standalone growth plans. We're committed to executing on the best path forward for the company and our stakeholders to maximize value and best position our business for the future.

We won't be commenting further on this until the Board of Directors has concluded that disclosure is appropriate or required. Now I'll turn the call over to Jonathan.

Jonathan Shar: Thanks, Mike. Our team delivered a solid second quarter, driven by strong operating performance that enabled us to grow revenue while increasing retail adjusted EBITDA by 23%. Retail revenue growth was driven by course material comparable store sales growth of 5.8%. Our First Day programs, which increased 39% to $199 million, were the primary drivers of this growth. In particular, First Day Complete revenue increased by 52% to $136 million. First Day Complete not only grew in the quarter due to the year-over-year store count growth, but comp FDC stores experienced 6.5% growth in course material sales due to increasing student participation rates, which highlights FDC's positive impact on access, affordability, convenience and academic success.

An aerial view of a well-stocked bookstore, with customers browsing inside.
An aerial view of a well-stocked bookstore, with customers browsing inside.

Since we launched First Day Complete, we've transitioned 157 campus stores to our innovative B2B course material model, which this past fall term, encompassed enrollment of nearly 800,000 students. While this is impressive growth, we believe we are just scratching the surface. Our active dialog with institutions and the FDC contracts already signed for spring term '24 and fiscal 2025 suggests that inclusive and equitable access is rapidly becoming the primary course material distribution model. Given the strength of our pipeline, we remain confident in our ability to successfully accelerate the scaling of FDC and the long term growth and sustainable financial benefits of the equitable access model. Turning to general merchandise. Comparable store sales growth declined by 1.7%.

The decrease was primarily due to declines in trade books and cafe and convenience items. These two categories were most impacted by the delayed inventory receipts we discussed with you last quarter. Partially offsetting the decline was a 0.5% increase in emblematic sales. During the quarter, the benefits from our Fanatics and Lids relationship were on full display at our schools. For example, at the Ohio State University book store, lines began forming around the block at 4:30 a.m. to participate in an exclusive in-store launch of Ohio State branded lululemon merchandise. I continue to be amazed at how our teams provide our students, parents, faculty staff and alumni with unique products and experiences that raise the bar in differentiating Barnes & Noble College Runbook stores.

As we've shared with you before, our commitment to growing profitability is at the heart of our ability to serve our students and institutions in a manner that they deserve and expect. It's been gratifying to see cost discipline, productivity and efficiency embedded into our culture will continue to provide an outstanding experience for our campus partners. As a result, second quarter retail selling and administrative expenses decreased by $12.9 million year-over-year and 210 basis points as a percent of revenue to 12.9% from 15%. Adjusted EBITDA increased by $8.9 million. I'll now turn the call over to Kevin to discuss our financial results in more detail.

Kevin Watson: Thanks, Jonathan, and good afternoon, everyone. It's great to be on the call with you today. It's been an exciting time since joining Barnes & Noble Education back in September. The momentum behind our shift to a more profitable and predictable FDC model, combined with our focus on operating efficiencies, presents a compelling opportunity to create a sustainable long term value for our stakeholders. As such, I'm looking forward to contributing to the continued success of our transformation. Turning to the fiscal 2024 second quarter results and related matters. Consolidated second quarter revenue from continual operations of $610.4 million grew by 0.3% or $1.7 million. Consolidated adjusted EBITDA grew by 28.3% or $11.1 million to $50.3 million.

The combination of top line growth, improving operating efficiencies and further progress on our cost savings initiative actions drove a 180 basis point increase in EBITDA margin to 8.2%. During the quarter, total Retail segment revenue increased by $700,000 or 0.1% to $599.3 million driven by a 5.8% increase in comparable store course material sales, offset by 1.7% decline in comparable store general merchandise sales. Course material sales growth was due to increase in the First Day and First Day Complete revenues, which increased 39% to $199.2 million. With revenues from these subscription like programs approaching 50% of our course material revenues, our course material business is becoming a much more stable and predictable business. Second quarter retail gross profit of $125.5 million decreased by $4 million or 3.1%.

Retail gross margin of 20.9% decreased by 70 basis points from the prior year period. Retail gross sale margins decreased due to a decline in course materials gross margin due to higher markdowns, including markdowns related to closing of underperforming and unprofitable stores, as well as higher percentage of lower margin digital course material sales and lower commissions for our emblematic general merchandise. These decreases were partially offset by lower contract costs as a result of the shift to digital and First Day models and the growth of higher margin First Day Complete revenue. Retail EBITDA [increased] by $8.9 million to $48.3 million due primarily to a $12.9 million year-over-year reduction in selling and administrative costs, offset by a $4 million reduction in gross profit.

Moving on to wholesale. Sales for the quarter were essentially flat at $21 million. Wholesale gross profit was $6.1 million or 29% of sales in the second quarter of fiscal 2024 compared to $5.5 million or 25.8% of sales in the second quarter of fiscal 2023. The increase in gross profit and gross margin rate was due primarily to lower markdowns and lower product costs, partially offset by increase in the returns and allowances. Wholesale selling and administrative expenses for the quarter decreased by 9.7% to $3.5 million. The decrease was primarily due to cost savings initiatives comprised of lower payroll and an incentive plan compensation expense. The lower S&A drove wholesale non-GAAP adjusted EBITDA to $2.6 million, an increase of $1 million.

Moving on to the balance sheet. Our cash balance was $15 million at the end of the quarter with outstanding borrowings of $234 million as compared to borrowings of $250 million in the prior year period and $278 million in the first quarter. CapEx decreased by $5.3 million to $4 million from $9.3 million due primarily to a continued focus to reduce spending and capture additional efficiencies. Regarding guidance, we're maintaining our fiscal 2024 adjusted EBITDA from continuing operations expectation of approximately $40 million. The year-over-year increase in consolidated adjusted EBITDA is expected to be driven by growth in the company's retail segment, primarily due to growth in the company's First Day programs and the impact of the cost reduction actions the company has executed and expects to continue to implement.

With that, I'll turn the call over to Mike for closing comments.

Mike Huseby: Thanks, Kevin. In closing, we had another solid quarter and we are making excellent progress against our strategic priorities. We're all extremely energized by what our team has accomplished in such a short period of time and even more so and where we are headed as a company. We are confident in our strategy, our highly capable and motivated team and our strong competitive position to continue the successful execution of our strategic focus on sustainable and profitable growth. Thank you for participating today. And now I'll turn the call over to the operator so we can take your questions.

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