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Barnes & Noble holiday sales decline

NEW YORK (AP) -- The holidays weren't so bright for Barnes & Noble, with sales in the ever-important shopping season dropping 10.9 percent at its bookstores and online compared with a year ago.

The holiday period is critical for many retailers, as it can bring in up to 40 percent of their annual revenue.

The New York company said Thursday that revenue for its retail division — which includes bookstores and online results — totaled $1.2 billion for the nine weeks ended Dec. 29.

Barnes & Noble said that the soft performance was due to an 8.2 percent drop in sales at stores open at least a year, store closings and declining online sales.

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

Core sales at stores open at least a year, which excludes sales of Nook products, fell 3.1 percent because of fewer shoppers at its bookstores. Nook product sales dropped on lower average selling prices and a decline in unit volume. The Nook unit reported $311 million in revenue for the holiday period, down 12.6 percent from a year earlier. Nook device unit sales dropped, while digital content sales — which includes digital books, digital newsstands and apps — rose 13.1 percent.

"Nook device sales got off to a good start over the Black Friday period, but then fell short of expectations for the balance of holiday. We are examining the root cause of the December shortfall in sales, and will adjust our strategies accordingly going forward," CEO William Lynch said in a statement.

Barnes & Noble said that it now anticipates fiscal 2013 Nook Media revenue of about $3 billion. Last week U.K. publisher and education company Pearson said that it would pay $89.5 million for a 5 percent stake in Nook Media as it looks for a way into the potentially lucrative business of digital textbooks for schools.

The announcement of the lackluster holiday performance sent shares of Barnes & Noble Inc. down 21 cents to $14.30 in premarket trading.

The company still expects fiscal 2013 retail sales at bookstores open at least a year will fall by a low- to mid-single digit percentage rate, since sales of core products at its bookstores topped expectations.

Barnes & Noble will report its second-quarter financial results on Feb. 19. The company has 689 bookstores in 50 states. Its Barnes & Noble College Bookstores LLC operates 674 bookstores at colleges and universities across the U.S.