Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Longing for Pottersville

Remember that Voldemort fellow? Total loser. Through seven long books, he couldn’t figure out how to kill a nearsighted, risk-loving schoolboy who barely knew his expelliarmus from his levicorpus.

In fairness to the evil one, Harry Potter is hard to kill. The final book of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, came out in the summer of 2007, but the boy is such a force of nature that he keeps showing up in SEC filings – nearly 100 filings already this year.

For example, two bookstore chains just reported significant year-over-year drops in store sales and placed the blame largely on Harry’s disapparation. (That’s a J.K. Rowling, word, OK? Don’t get all English teacher on my ass.)

At Books-a-Million (BAMM), sales dropped a nasty 10.4% over the same quarter in 2007; the company's 10-Q (filed yesterday) states that this was “primarily due to sales of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in the prior year as well as difficult macro-economic conditions and a quiet media cycle in the current year.”

The Borders Group (BGP), in a 10-Q filed last Friday, said store sales were down by 8.9% for the quarter, but hey, really only 5.1% when adjusted for the Harry factor. The post-Harry effect was even more pronounced at the firm’s struggling Waldenbooks subsidiary, with a 7% sales drop that would have been only 1.4% if the kid hadn’t gone and inflated their bloody figures last year.

In the book business, Harry has been the black swan, the 100-year flood, the magical Mega Millions jackpot. If there's ever an eighth volume, it should be called Harry Potter and the Deathly Blow to the Following Year's Sales Figures.

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