Brick-And-Mortar Retailer Posts Profit (Yes, You Read That Right)

-- Hastings has turned in numbers that show not all brick-and-mortar retailers are flailing these days. The company posted a profit of $3.9 million on revenues of $160.5 million in its fiscal fourth quarter ended January 31, 2011. Revenue was down 8.9% from the previous year's three-month period. Comp store music sales were down only 1.1%, a big improvement from the 8.9% decline in the prior period. Surprisingly (given the prevalence of bad news surrounding CD sales at brick-and-mortar retail) Hastings managed a "slight increase" in new CD sales that was offset by lower used CD sales. Video games took a turn for the worse, dropping 12.2% in the fourth quarter after posting a 22.8% gain a year earlier.

For the full fiscal year, Hastings posted a profit of $1.7 million on revenues of $521 million. Revenue was down 1.9% from the prior year. Comp store music sales were down 4.8% for the full year, an improvement from the prior year's 12.6% decline. Even though video games had a poor fourth quarter, the category was up 4.7% in fiscal 2010 (following a 3.2% increase the prior year).

Hastings' changing emphasis on some product categories influenced some of these year-over-year changes. The comics category, for example, enjoyed an expanded footprint in 126 stores while music's decline was aided by a reduced footprint in 96 stores.

Hastings bucks a trend of disappointing earnings trends from other entertainment retailers. Recall that Trans World narrowed its loss to $31 million in its most recent fiscal year, an improvement from the prior year's $42.4 million loss but another loss nonetheless. And the struggles of Borders are well documented: The retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month. Last week Borders announced it is closing an additional 28 stores on top of the 200 it already announced as part of its bankruptcy reorganization. ( Press release)

Lisa Harper Joins Hot Topic

-- Hot Topic is getting a new CEO. Board member Lisa Harper was named CEO on Monday, March 21 after the resignation of Betsy McLaughlin, also a board member. McLaughlin will stay on for three months to assist during the transition. Harper was previously chairman of Gymboree Corp. from 2002 until 2006. She was named to the Hot Topic board in 2008.

Hot Topic is a lifestyle retailer with 657 Hot Topic locations and another 153 locations of its Torrid chain. The company has a deep focus on music. It sells merch and CDs at its brick-and-mortar stores in addition to digital downloads at its ShockHound web site. In its fiscal year ended January 29, 2011, Hot Topic posted a net loss of $8.2 million on revenues of $708 million. Both were declines from the $737 million of revenue and $11.9 million profit posted the prior year. ( SEC filing)

Viva la Vevo!

-- Music video site Vevo has great numbers no matter who's doing the counting. Nielsen puts Vevo #2 in the U.S. in terms of unique viewers in February 2011. That's slightly ahead of Facebook, which is #3 with 31.7 million uniques, and well ahead of #4 Yahoo! at 23.4 million. Recall that comScore had Vevo at #4 in February, just behind Yahoo!

But Vevo doesn't rank as high on number of streams. Nielsen has Vevo at #3 with 318 million streams, well behind YouTube's 7.5 billion streams and less than half of Hulu's 826 million streams. And when it comes to time per viewer, Vevo is not even in the top ten. Nielsen has Netflix at #1 in total viewing time with 9 hours and 16 minutes per viewer. Chinese video site is not far behind at 8 hours and 8 minutes (yes, a Chinese-language site is included in the rankings for U.S.-based viewers). ( NielsenWire)