Record Annual Sales, Earnings for Staples

It was quite a year for office products conglomerate Staples (NasdaqNM:SPLS). The framingham, MA-based cataloger/retailer posted its best sales and earnings ever. For the year ended Feb. 1, net sales were $11.6 billion, up 8% from $10.7 billion for fiscal 2001. Net income skyrocketed 68%, to $446.1 million from $265.0 million.

Fourth-quarter net income rose 76%, to $164.7 million from $93.8 million. Revenue for the quarter rose 14%, to $3.34 billion from $2.93 billion a year ago. Staples attributes the gain to productivity improvements, improved customer service, and investments in the higher-margin delivery business.

Fourth-quarter net sales at Staples’ North American Delivery unit, which includes the Quill and Medical Arts Press catalogs as well as, increased 16%, to $886 million. Income from the unit increased 30%, to $85 million. Web sales exceeded $450 million in the fourth quarter. Staples says the number of orders placed electronically reached 53% of volume in the fourth quarter, compared with 45% the previous year.

Annual net sales for the division increased to $3.4 billion from $3.0 billion last year. Net income increased to $265.1 million from $205.6 million.