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Staples sees sales improvement


Framingham, Mass. Staples provided an upbeat outlook Tuesday as it reported that its customers bought more school and office supplies and technology products in its stores in the third quarter.

Staples North American retail sales rose 1% to $2.6 billion in the third quarter, the first rise in five quarters. But contract sales remained weak as small businesses are slow to recover from the recession. Same-store sales in North American Staples stores were flat compared with the third quarter of 2008, the first non-decline in nine quarters. And customer traffic rose -- also for the first time in nine quarters.

In an Associated Press report, CEO Ron Sargent said the company is feeling "increasingly optimistic about the future" and predicted total sales will rise in the current quarter -- which includes January, when many businesses start afresh with new budgets. He also expects a better holiday season than last year's.

Staples earned $269.4 million for the quarter that ended Oct. 31, up 72% from $156.7 million. Sales slipped 6% to $6.52 billion from $6.95 billion, better than the $6.45 billion Wall Street expected.

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