Barnes & Noble Education: Demand Rebounding, But Upside Limited (NYSE:BNED)

onurdongel / E + via Getty Images

Investment Thesis: While Barnes & Noble Education may notice a rebound in revenue growth as demand returns to pre-pandemic levels, clear signs of revenue and cash flow growth are likely to be needed to justify any growth from here.

In a previous article back in July, I argued that while Barnes & Noble Education (BNED) may have significant opportunities to rebound in the long run, stocks were too expensive on a profit basis.

Despite the short jump since then, we are seeing a decline in shares by a significant margin:

BNED shares

The purpose of this article is to investigate whether Barnes & Noble Education could get out of here given the recent fall in prices.


The loss of revenue deepened in 2021 for Barnes & Noble Education as COVID’s continued environment continued to keep personal education attendance lower than it was before the pandemic, and demand for physical education textbooks remained the same until 2022.

Barnes & Noble Education EPS

Barnes & Noble Education: 2021 Annual Report

One of the key risks that Barnes & Noble Education points out in its latest earnings report is that, “Our wholesale business may be unable to effectively manage inventory levels, which could lead to excess inventory or obsolescence.”

I would like to explore this aspect further by looking at historical inventory figures. Even if demand remains below COVID-19 – a key factor in mitigating this is the extent to which Barnes & Noble Education can optimize its inventories to ensure that the company does not overspend on an offer it cannot subsequently sell.

Quarterly net inventory figures along with total quarterly sales were collected from previous quarterly reports. The average inventory by year was then calculated for four quarters during each year and divided by the total sales recorded in each quarter.

Quarter Inventory of goods Total sales by quarter Average inventory by year The ratio of average inventories to sales
1st quarter of 2016 $ 766,767,000 $ 238,983,000 $ 513,256,500 214,77%
2nd quarter of 2016 $ 431,023,000 $ 755,864,000 67,90%
3rd quarter of 2016 $ 542,489,000 $ 518,423,000 99.00%
4th quarter of 2016 $ 312,747,000 $ 294,759,000 174.13%
1st quarter of 2017 $ 724,329,000 $ 239,237,000 $ 513,440,750 214.62%
2nd quarter of 2017 $ 401,338,000 $ 770,671,000 66,62%
3rd quarter of 2017 $ 494,032,000 $ 521,624,000 98,43%
4th quarter of 2017 $ 434,064,000 $ 342,830,000 149,77%
1st quarter of 2018 $ 780,414,000 $ 355,711,000 $ 589,164,000 165,63%
2nd quarter of 2018 $ 515,574,000 $ 886,861,000 66,43%
3rd quarter of 2018 $ 614,499,000 $ 603,391,000 97,64%
4th quarter of 2018 446,169,000 dollars $ 357,654,000 164.73%
1st quarter of 2019 $ 729,877,000 $ 337,484,000 $ 558,931,000 165,62%
2nd quarter of 2019 $ 505,943,000 $ 814,766,000 68,60%
3rd quarter of 2019 $ 579,582,000 $ 550,330,000 101,56%
4th quarter of 2019 $ 420,322,000 $ 334,385,000 167.15%
1st quarter of 2020 717,765,000 dollars $ 319,657,000 $ 538,096,500 168,34%
2nd quarter of 2020 $ 475,422,000 $ 772,228,000 69,68%
3rd quarter of 2020 530,260,000 dollars $ 502,292,000 107,13%
4th quarter of 2020 $ 428,939,000 $ 256,886,000 209,47%
1st quarter of 2021 $ 575,246,000 $ 204,014,000 $ 441,661,500 216.49%
2nd quarter of 2021 $ 457,677,000 $ 595,485,000 74,17%
3rd quarter of 2021 $ 452,611,000 $ 411,613,000 107.30%
4th quarter of 2021 $ 281,112,000 $ 222,778,000 198,25%

Source: Inventory and net sales figures taken from historical quarterly Barnes & Noble Education reports. Average inventories and average inventories before sales calculated by the author.

When charting the average inventory-to-sales ratio, we see that despite significant seasonal fluctuations, the moving average for the four periods increased from 125% by 2020 to just under 150%.

The ratio of average stock and sales of Barnes & Noble Education

Author’s calculations

If we look at the average stocks of goods by year, we see that in 2021 the company has significantly reduced the level of stocks compared to previous years. However, sales remain well below pre-pandemic levels. For example, total sales in 2021 were just over $ 1.4 billion, and in 2019 – more than $ 2 billion.

While it is encouraging that the company has taken steps to reduce inventory to reduce costs as a result of declining sales – this is somewhat balanced, as reducing inventory to too large a margin would mean that the company will not be able to meet a sudden increase in demand.

Looking forward

From an industry perspective, there are clear signs that distance learning is increasingly being abandoned in favor of a return to personal learning, and nearly 100% of K-12 students in schools in the United States are attending as of last December.

From this perspective, one would expect sales to return to pre-pandemic levels. Although inventory levels declined in 2021 due to declining sales, I don’t expect the company to have difficulty increasing inventory levels to meet renewed demand again.

However, it is clear that cash flows from operating activities have suffered significantly since 2020, and it would be desirable for this figure to bounce back to previous levels to justify stock growth.

Net losses Barnes and Noble Education

Barnes and aristocratic education: an annual report for 2021

In addition, although the company has managed to save cash, the company’s cash reserves still make up a small portion of total current liabilities.

For example, we see that cash and cash equivalents as a percentage of total current liabilities were 2.15% in 2021, slightly higher than 2.03% in 2020.

Responsibilities Barnes and Noble Education

Barnes and aristocratic education: an annual report for 2021

In addition, we see that long-term borrowing has increased significantly compared to 2020, suggesting that a larger share of revenue growth should be directed to servicing this debt in the future.


Barnes & Noble Education continues to maintain a strong market position in the education sector in the United States.

However, I believe that even with the recent fall in prices and signs of a rebound in demand – it is unlikely that stocks will grow significantly until profits and cash flow begin to bounce significantly, and long-term debt will not show signs of decline.

Leave a Comment