Books-A-Million caters to readers who aren't millionaires. The third-largest US bookseller (behind Amazon and Barnes & Noble) operates some 250 stores in about 30 US states and Washington, DC. It does business mostly under the Books-A-Million, Books & Co., and 2nd & Charles banners and offers discounted books, magazines, music, DVDs, and general merchandise. Many stores include Joe Muggs cafés. Beyond superstores, Books-A-Million runs 50-plus smaller stores, Bookland and Books-A-Million. Other activities comprise online unit booksamillion.com, gift card issuer BAM Card Services, and book wholesaler American Wholesale Book. In mid-2012, the controlling Anderson family scrapped plans to take the company private.
Chairman Clyde Anderson and his family own approximately 53% of Books-A-Million. Their proposed bid to buy the rest of the company that they didn't already own was weighed by a special committee of the Books-A-Million's board of directors, who likely viewed the deal as inopportune for the company's public shareholders. The Anderson family has run the business for three generations and also owns and runs Anderson News, one of the largest US magazine distributors.
Books-A-Million divides its business between the retail brick-and-mortar and electronic commerce space. Retail operations, which generate more than 90% of revenues, focus on selling books and magazines paired with general merchandise, such as cards and toys, electronics and accessories, and some food. More than three-quarters of all stores are based on a superstore format, with room for browsing, reading, as well as shopping and picking up a coffee or a frozen yogurt. The remaining stores offer a traditional format and, although smaller, reflect the demographics and competition of their surrounding market. Retail results include the company's wholesale subsidiary, which receives most of the chains' inventory and oversees its delivery. Orders are processed through two facilities in Alabama. In the electronic commerce space, Books-A-Million retails books and other merchandise similar to the brick-and-mortar offerings through its website.
Most of Books-A-Million's stores are located in the eastern US. With the liquidation of its larger rival Borders in 2011, Books-A-Million's heft as bookstore chain gained national attention. Books-A-Million submitted a bid to the bankruptcy court to buy the inventory and lease interest in 30 Borders stores, a move which would have vaulted Books-A-Million across the Northeast. The bid, after some turmoil, was approved for 14 widely dispersed superstores and traditional formats.
Books-A-Million has taken a hit from the uncertain economy that has driven up unemployment and slowed consumer spending. Sales have continued to slump modestly since 2008. Earnings, which declined roughly 35% in 2011 from the prior year, tumbled more than 130% to a $2.8 million loss in 2012. Cash generated from operations have slipped year-over-year for the last four years. The company cited lower sales on top of higher costs for opening and closing stores. During 2012 it opened more than 52 stores in new and existing markets, relocated one, and closed three stores, versus 11 openings and three closings in 2011. Comparable store sales (referring to stores that have been open for at least a year) decreased nearly 10% from 2011, primarily due to the accelerating shift by some book categories to an electronic format. The descent was softened by sales from new store openings.
The recent results highlight the changing environment of bookselling. Size and location in the brick-and-mortar space has its advantages, both in attracting customers and in increasing the per ticket sale through a larger selection of books and impulse merchandise, such as cards and coffee (the latter of which keeps customers in the store longer, tempting them to buy more).
To this end, one of the company's growth strategies focuses on opening stores in new and existing markets along with a close review of store performance trends. Growth is further targeted through several value-based merchandising strategies. For example, the company sells books on its best-seller list at or below publishers' suggested retail prices. Customers are further enticed to join the Millionaire's Club and save a minimum of 10% on their purchases. The company also entered used book retailing by launching 2nd & Charles in 2010.
Concurrently, Books-A-Million sees growth in its e-commerce space, accounting for 6% of sales in 2012. Year-over-year, electronic commerce sales jumped some 17% and 10% in 2012 and 2011, respectively, fueled in part by Books-A-Million's decision to sell Barnes & Noble's Nook e-reader and e-books on its website. – less