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Hunger Games leaves Scholastic feeling empty

BY CSA STAFF

Sales at Scholastic Corp fell sharply during the company’s fourth quarter ended May 31 and most of the drop was blamed on the waning popularity of the Hunger Games trilogy.

The global children’s publishing, education and media company said sales declined to $506.9 million in the fourth quarter compared to $676.6 million last year and earnings per share fell to 76 cents from $1.86 last year.

The weakness was blamed on lower U.S. and international sales of The Hunger Games trilogy, lower Book Clubs revenue per order compared to the prior year period, offset somewhat by strength in the company’s education businesses.

Weakness related to Hunger Games also caused full year revenues to suffer, declining to $1.792 billion from $2.139 billion.

"Despite the decline in U.S. and international sales of The Hunger Games, Scholastic achieved the high end of our revised guidance range for fiscal 2013 revenue and exceeded our revised earnings per diluted share and free cash flow guidance due to strong sales of our education programs in the fourth quarter," said Richard Robinson, chairman, president and CEO. "We are operating at a time of significant change in the book business and in education, and we are well-positioned to capitalize on the opportunities presented by evolving needs in the classroom and buying behavior in children’s books.”

According to Robinson, with fewer retail outlets for children’s books, third-party industry research indicates that parents are increasingly relying on Scholastic’s Book Fairs and Book Clubs channels to find age-appropriate, quality print and ebooks for their children. He added that educators are looking to the company to provide customized print and digital curriculum packages and technology-based programs and content.

"Our significant role in the reading and learning lives of children both at school and at home continues to be a core strength of the company,” Robinson said. “We expect to drive growth in fiscal 2014 by capitalizing on further opportunities to deliver books to families that help link children’s independent reading to Common Core State Standards, and to provide teachers and administrators with customized curriculum packages and professional development solutions that now cover grades pre-K to 12.”

Scholastic expects to achieve sales of $1.8 billion during the current fiscal year and earnings per share from continuing operations in the range of $1.40 to $1.80, before the impact of one-time items.

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Digital insights on tap next week in Aspen

BY CSA STAFF

The future of multichannel commerce at Walmart will be detailed next week in the mountains of Colorado where the retailer’s two top digital executives are scheduled to participate in a conference hosted by Fortune.

The exclusive — and sold out — three day event held at the Aspen Institute and will feature Neil Ashe, president and CEO of Walmart Global eCommerce and Karenann Terrell, EVP and chief information officer, discussing the topic of, “How does technology fuel the success of both on-and offline at the world’s largest retailer.”

At a lot of events, Ashe and Terrell might be considered headliners, but the Fortune Brainstorm Tech event in which they are participating is loaded with plenty of heavy hitters, venture capitalists and startups that might make for good acquisitions candidates.

The agenda for the event can be viewed here, but those interested in attending will have to get in line because Fortune limits attendance to maintain exclusivity and there is a waiting list for next year.

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Walmart is leader of the promotional retail pack

BY CSA STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS — According to Kantar Media’s Marx report, retailer promotion activity continued to grow with a 21.6% increase to more than 11.3 billion pages in the first half of 2013, with Walmart leading in retailer activity.

Following on Walmart’s heels were Walgreens, Target and Family Dollar.

Seven of the top 20 retailers more than doubled their pages circulated in the first half of 2013. Walmart increased its pages circulated by 40.3% to 3.6 billion pages. Family Dollar had the largest actual decline in pages circulated among the top ten, down 37.1% in the first half of 2013.

“[Freestanding Inserts], which reach an average of more than 70 million households on a specific Sunday, remain a significant advertising vehicle for both manufacturers and retailers to influence consumer behavior,” said David Hamric, general manager, Marx. FSI coupon activity increased 3.3% based on coupons dropped during the first six months of 2013 versus the same time period a year ago.

During the first half of 2013, more than $247 billion in consumer incentives were delivered via FSI coupons in Sunday newspapers, up 8.8% from the same period in 2012. During the same six-month period, more than 153 billion coupons were distributed within more than 112 billion FSI pages.

FSI coupon average face value increased 5.3% to $1.61 for the first half of 2013. Average expiration dropped to 7.1 weeks, down 5% versus a year ago.

In the first half of 2013, non-food categories distributed more than 96.1 billion coupons, up 4.7% versus the same time period in 2012, while food categories distributed 57.2 billion coupons, an increase of 1.4%.

Rounding out the top 10 in first-half promotional activity were Safeway, CVS Pharmacy, Dollar General, PetSmart, Vons and Kroger.

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