Staples Profit Inches Up

Framingham, Mass. Staples Inc. posted a 1.5% increase in quarterly profit on Tuesday, and stood by its outlook for the full year. The increase matched Wall Street's expectations. The retailer, which has launched a hostile bid to buy smaller Dutch rival Corporate Express NV, warned it expects weak economic conditions to persist through 2008.

Earnings were $212 million in the first quarter that ended May 3, compared with $209 million in the year-earlier period. Quarterly sales rose 6% to $4.9 billion. International same-store sales rose 4% in the quarter, but North American retail same-store sales fell 6%.

Staples' sales have weakened in recent quarters as slowing job growth, the U.S. housing downturn and the credit crunch have forced small businesses to cut spending. Product categories that suffered the most in the most recent quarter, Staples noted, were business machines and furniture, which include higher-priced, discretionary items.

The company said it opened 35 stores in the first quarter and had plans for about 100 more in the year.