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ITASCA, IL-OfficeMax reported a net loss of $3.9 million, or 7 cents per diluted share, compared with a net income of $62.2 million, or 64 cents per diluted share during the same period last year. The company attributed the Q3 loss in part to discontinued operations related to the $10.4 million consolidation and relocation of the OfficeMax headquarters facilities to a 361,000-sf building in Naperville. OfficeMax also noted that the gains in 2004 included the results of the company’s paper, forest products, and timberland assets, which sold in October 2004.

Sales for the third quarter rung in at $2.3 billion, an increase of $53 million compared to last year. The company said the gain was to primarily due to sales growth in the contract segment, which increased 4.4%. The uptick was a result of a 1.4% sales increase in US contract operations and 16% growth in international contract operations.

In the retail segment, sales increased just short of 1% compared to a year ago, and same-store sales were slightly negative when compared to last year. The company said the slump was a because of “varying back-to-school sales performance in geographic regions” and flat comp-sales growth in most product categories. Retail sales were also impacted by Hurricane Katrina, which caused the closure of 24 stores at its peak, all of which have now reopened.

Sam Duncan, chairman and chief executive officer of OfficeMax admitted during the company’s third quarter earning conference Wednesday, that results were disappointing to both the company and for him personally. In an effort to keep results optimistic, Duncan noted that the company has undertaken a number of key initiatives aimed at improving operating performance across both the retail and contract businesses, and at the corporate level.

One of those initiatives is the departure from the chain’s warehouse-design style. Unveiled Wednesday, the prototype of the new design replaces the typical industrial feel of office-supply stores. As described by the company, the new design includes “whimsical photographic banners that direct shoppers to their destinations, and a community area allows customers to check email, sip coffee or catch up on the news.” The first of these new stores will open in Macedonia, OH, with more stores opening to follow.

During the third quarter of 2005, OfficeMax opened nine new retail stores, closed one store and ended the third quarter with 957 retail stores compared to 933 stores at the end of the third quarter last year.

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