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School Specialty Reports Fiscal 2009 Third Quarter and Year-to-Date Results

GREENVILLE, Wis., Feb. 19, 2009 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- School Specialty (Nasdaq:SCHS), a leading education company providing supplemental learning products to the preK-12 market, today reported fiscal 2009 third quarter and year-to-date financial results. The company reported revenue for the third quarter of fiscal 2009 of $121.7 million, a 9.7 percent decline from the prior year's third quarter. Loss per share from continuing operations in the current year's third quarter was $1.15 per share, reflecting the seasonally low period for educational product sales, as compared to a $0.95 loss per share in last year's third quarter. Restructuring charges and the impact of share repurchases have contributed $0.04 and $0.10 per share, respectively, to the decline from the prior year.

The company generated $93.4 million of free cash flow in the first nine months of fiscal 2009 as compared to $70.3 million in the comparable period of fiscal 2008, an increase of $23.1 million. The company has utilized its free cash flow to reduce its outstanding debt by approximately $85 million during fiscal 2009.

Chief Executive Officer David J. Vander Zanden said he's optimistic that the federal economic stimulus aid for education will work to loosen education spending. "Schools have been very cautious in their spending, preserving their remaining budgets as they await decisions on next year's state education funding," noted Vander Zanden. "The states now have certainty as to the benefits of President Obama's economic stimulus package, and the governors' proposed budgets will be released over the next few weeks. We expect state education funding to improve significantly in these proposed budgets as compared to the states' previously released budget estimates. The stimulus funds should result in higher levels of school spending beginning in our first quarter. Our previously announced $20 million cost saving program is exceeding target and our associates are making great progress in driving cost savings, pursuing revenue growth opportunities, and generating strong cash flow."

Third Quarter Financial Results

Revenue in the third quarter of fiscal 2009 was $121.7 million, a 9.7 percent decrease from fiscal 2008's third quarter revenue of $134.8 million. Specialty segment revenue was down $8.3 million, or 10.6 percent, from $78.3 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2008 to $70.0 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2009. Essentials segment revenue was down 9.2 percent from $57.5 million in last year's third quarter to $52.2 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2009. The decreases in both segments were attributable to a combination of reductions and delays in spending by school districts as state budgetary concerns and the ongoing global economic slowdown have resulted in uncertainty as to the education funding levels in the upcoming state budget cycles.

Gross profit was $43.3 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2009 compared with $51.7 million in last year's third quarter. Gross margin declined 270 basis points from 38.3 percent in the third quarter of fiscal 2008 to 35.6 percent in the third quarter of fiscal 2009. Specialty segment gross margin in this year's third quarter declined 430 basis points from the third quarter of last year. Approximately 160 basis points of the decline was due to product mix within the segment, particularly related to the reduction in higher margin curriculum-based revenue. The remaining decline is due primarily to a combination of Science product promotions impacting the third quarter and underabsorption of overhead costs due to lower volume. Essentials segment gross margin declined 50 basis points from the third quarter of last year. The decline in the Essentials gross margin was due to a higher mix of furniture, which historically has carried lower gross margins as the product is shipped direct from vendors.

As of the close of third quarter, the company has completed its pricing adjustments and cost negotiations with vendors that should result in future quarterly gross margin improvements, when compared with the prior year's comparable quarters.

Selling, general and administrative (SG&A) expenses decreased $3.3 million from $76.6 million, or 56.8 percent of revenue, in the third quarter of fiscal 2008 to $73.3 million, or 60.2 percent of revenue, in the third quarter of fiscal 2009. SG&A in the current year's third quarter included a $1.3 million restructuring charge, or $0.04 per share, associated with the cost reduction efforts. The restructuring charge has been more than offset by both volume-related cost savings and operational efficiencies in transportation and warehousing costs, savings from cost reductions, and a reduction in performance-based compensation costs.

The operating loss for the quarter was $30.0 million, including the restructuring charge of $1.3 million, compared to an operating loss of $24.9 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2008. The loss from continuing operations was $21.6 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2009, including the $1.3 million restructuring charge, as compared to a loss of $19.0 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2008.

Net loss was $21.6 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2009, compared to a net loss of $20.3 million in fiscal 2008, which also included a net of tax loss of $1.2 million, or $0.06 loss per diluted share, for the discontinued School Specialty Media business sold during fiscal 2008. The company's stock repurchases over the past year have increased fiscal 2009's third quarter loss per share by approximately $0.10.

Nine Month Financial Results

Revenue for the first nine months of fiscal 2009 was $890.8 million, down $23.5 million, or 2.6 percent, from $914.3 million in the first nine months of fiscal 2008. This reduction was attributable to an expected $25 million decline in state adoptions of the company's curriculum-based products during the first nine months of fiscal 2009 compared to the first nine months of fiscal 2008. Excluding state adoption revenue, revenue in the first nine months of fiscal 2009 was flat as compared to the first nine months of fiscal 2008. Specialty segment revenue declined $28.9 million in the first nine months of fiscal 2009 from $535.3 million in fiscal 2008's first nine months to $506.4 million in the comparable period of fiscal 2009. Excluding state adoption revenue, Specialty revenue declined 0.8 percent in the first nine months of this year. The company believes the comparison is meaningful because state adoption revenue will have significant variability between years due to the cyclical nature of curriculum adoptions, which are based on schedules established by individual states. The Essentials segment revenue for the first nine months of fiscal 2009 grew 1.0 percent from $383.8 million to $387.7 million. This increase was attributable primarily to increased furniture orders associated with school construction projects.

Gross margin declined by 180 basis points in the first nine months of fiscal 2009 as compared to the first nine months of fiscal 2008, from 42.9 percent to 41.1 percent. Approximately 40 basis points of the decline in gross margin was related to a higher mix of revenue from Essentials. Specialty segment gross margin declined 110 basis points from the first nine months of fiscal 2008 to the first nine months of fiscal 2009. Approximately 50 basis points of the decrease in Specialty segment gross margin is related to changes in product mix due primarily to the reduction in higher-margin curriculum adoption revenue. Essentials gross margin declined 190 basis points for the first nine months of fiscal 2009 as compared to the first nine months of fiscal 2008. Of the decrease, 60 basis points is attributable to a change in product mix due to increased furniture sales, with the remainder due to commodity cost increases and transportation cost increases.

SG&A expenses decreased $2.0 million during the first nine months of fiscal 2009 to $274.4 million, or 30.8 percent of revenue, from $276.4 million, or 30.2 percent of revenue, in the first nine months of fiscal 2008. SG&A expenses in fiscal 2009 included a $3.0 million restructuring charge related to the Lyons, NY distribution center closing as well as other one-time cost reduction efforts. Higher average transportation costs in fiscal 2009's first nine months have been offset by reductions in variable selling costs associated with state adoption revenue, as well as reduced performance-based variable compensation costs.

Operating income in the first nine months of fiscal 2009 was 10.3 percent of revenue as compared to 12.7 percent of revenue in the first nine months of fiscal 2008. Earnings from continuing operations decreased 21.6 percent to $45.8 million, including the $3.0 million restructuring charge, in the first nine months of fiscal 2009 from $58.5 million in the comparable period of fiscal 2008.

Diluted earnings per share from continuing operations decreased 12.9 percent from $2.78 in fiscal 2008 to $2.42 in fiscal 2009, which included $0.10 per diluted share in restructuring charges. The percentage decline in diluted earnings per share was less than the percentage decline in income from continuing operations due to the reduction in the shares outstanding associated with share repurchases over the past year. The incremental diluted earnings per share in the first nine months of fiscal 2009 as compared to the first nine months of fiscal 2008 due to the share repurchases was approximately $0.15 per share.

During the first quarter of fiscal 2009 the company repurchased 497,600 shares for a net purchase price of $15.3 million. The company did not purchase any shares during the second and third quarters. As of the end of the third quarter of fiscal 2009, the company has remaining authority to purchase $34.7 million of outstanding common stock.

Outlook

School Specialty is maintaining its fiscal 2009 free cash flow guidance of $70 million to $80 million. This range excludes approximately $11 million of additional free cash flow expected to be received in fiscal 2009 related to cash tax savings from the sale of School Specialty Media in late fiscal 2008. The company is reducing its prior revenue guidance to a range of $1,040 million to $1,055 million from a range of $1,065 million to $1,080 million, and expects total year state adoption revenue to decline by $27 million compared to fiscal 2008. Previous guidance for diluted earnings per share from continuing operations of $2.04 to $2.24 per share, which excluded an estimated restructuring charge of $0.14 per share, is being lowered to a range of $1.80 to $1.95, which excludes a restructuring charge of approximately $0.14 per share for the year.

Conference Call

School Specialty will host a conference call to discuss its fiscal 2009 third quarter financial results. The conference call begins today, February 19, at 10:00 a.m. Central (11:00 a.m. Eastern). The call will be simultaneously broadcast in the Investor Information section of the School Specialty web site at www.schoolspecialty.com, and a replay of the call will be available.

About School Specialty, Inc.

School Specialty is a leading education company that provides innovative and proprietary products, programs and services to help educators engage and inspire students of all ages and abilities to learn. The company designs, develops, and provides preK-12 educators with the latest and very best curriculum, supplemental learning resources, and school supplies. Working in collaboration with educators, School Specialty reaches beyond the scope of textbooks to help teachers, guidance counselors and school administrators ensure that every student reaches his or her full potential.

For more information about School Specialty, visit www.schoolspecialty.com.

Cautionary Statement Concerning Forward-Looking Information

Any statements made in this press release about future results of operations, expectations, plans or prospects, including but not limited to statements included under the heading "Outlook," constitute forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements also include those preceded or followed by the words "anticipates," "believes," "could," "estimates," "expects," "intends," "may," "should," "plans," "targets" and/or similar expressions. These forward-looking statements are based on School Specialty's current estimates and assumptions and, as such, involve uncertainty and risk. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance, and actual results may differ materially from those contemplated by the forward-looking statements because of a number of factors, including the factors described in Item 1A of School Specialty's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended April 26, 2008, which factors are incorporated herein by reference. Except to the extent required under the federal securities laws, School Specialty does not intend to update or revise the forward-looking statements.



                       SCHOOL SPECIALTY, INC.
                CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF OPERATIONS
              (In Thousands, Except Per Share Amounts)
                              Unaudited

                                Three Months Ended   Nine Months Ended
                                ------------------  ------------------
                                Jan. 24,  Jan. 26,  Jan. 24,  Jan. 26,
                                  2009      2008      2009      2008
                                --------  --------  --------  --------

 Revenue                        $121,710  $134,839  $890,810  $914,271
 Cost of revenue                  78,411    83,151   524,392   521,674
                                --------  --------  --------  --------
  Gross profit                    43,299    51,688   366,418   392,597
 Selling, general and
  administrative expenses         73,283    76,559   274,389   276,415
                                --------  --------  --------  --------
  Operating income (loss)        (29,984)  (24,871)   92,029   116,182

 Other (income) expense:
  Interest expense                 4,304     4,524    13,766    14,811
  Interest income                   (102)       (9)     (322)      (23)
  Other                              714     1,629     2,803     5,345
                                --------  --------  --------  --------
 Income (loss) before provision
  for income taxes               (34,900)  (31,015)   75,782    96,049
 Provision for (benefit from)
  income taxes                   (13,330)  (11,973)   29,947    37,555
                                --------  --------  --------  --------
  Earnings (loss) from
   continuing operations         (21,570)  (19,042)   45,835    58,494

  Loss from operations of
   discontinued
   School Specialty Media
    business unit, net of income
    taxes                             --    (1,220)       --    (1,881)
                                --------  --------  --------  --------

  Net income (loss)             $(21,570) $(20,262) $ 45,835  $ 56,613
                                ========  ========  ========  ========

 Weighted average shares
  outstanding:
  Basic                           18,788    20,010    18,804    20,526
  Diluted                         18,788    20,010    18,927    21,055

 Basic earnings (loss) per share
  of common stock:
  Earnings (loss) from
   continuing operations        $  (1.15) $  (0.95) $   2.44  $   2.85
  Loss from discontinued
   operations                         --     (0.06)       --     (0.09)
                                --------  --------  --------  --------
  Total                         $  (1.15) $  (1.01) $   2.44  $   2.76
                                ========  ========  ========  ========

 Diluted earnings (loss) per
  share of common stock:
  Earnings (loss) from
   continuing operations        $  (1.15) $  (0.95) $   2.42  $   2.78
  Loss from discontinued
   operations                         --     (0.06)       --     (0.09)
                                --------  --------  --------  --------
  Total                         $  (1.15) $  (1.01) $   2.42  $   2.69
                                ========  ========  ========  ========


                       SCHOOL SPECIALTY, INC.
                CONSOLIDATED CONDENSED BALANCE SHEETS
                           (In Thousands)

                                 January 24,   April 26,   January 26,
                                    2009          2008        2008
                                 -----------  -----------  -----------
 ASSETS                          (Unaudited)               (Unaudited)
 Current assets:
  Cash and cash equivalents      $     1,258  $     4,034  $     1,684
  Accounts receivable                 65,220       77,591       93,770
  Inventories                        132,615      149,548      146,500
  Deferred catalog costs              19,435       14,845       17,745
  Prepaid expenses and other
   current assets                     17,911       18,857       20,907
  Refundable income taxes                 --        9,288           --
  Deferred taxes                      16,232       15,726       10,457
                                 -----------  -----------  -----------
   Total current assets              252,671      289,889      291,063
 Property, plant and equipment,
  net                                 70,379       77,311       76,517
 Goodwill                            530,960      543,630      544,552
 Intangible assets, net              170,134      176,771      179,001
 Other                                28,056       29,726       26,512
                                 -----------  -----------  -----------
  Total assets                   $ 1,052,200  $ 1,117,327  $ 1,117,645
                                 ===========  ===========  ===========

 LIABILITIES AND SHAREHOLDERS'
  EQUITY
 Current liabilities:
  Current maturities - long-term
   debt                          $   133,664  $   133,628  $   133,622
  Accounts payable                    47,295       64,340       47,920
  Accrued compensation                14,223       19,476       17,288
  Deferred revenue                     3,645        6,641        5,774
  Accrued income taxes                 7,043           --       11,539
  Other accrued liabilities           32,008       30,593       31,670
                                 -----------  -----------  -----------
   Total current liabilities         237,878      254,678      247,813
 Long-term debt - less current
  maturities                         227,507      312,210      281,767
 Deferred taxes                       81,468       70,671       58,505
 Other liabilities                       785        1,080          850
                                 -----------  -----------  -----------
   Total liabilities                 547,638      638,639      588,935
                                 -----------  -----------  -----------

 Commitments and contingencies
 Shareholders' equity:
  Preferred stock, $0.001 par
   value per share, 1,000,000
   shares authorized; none
   outstanding                            --           --           --
  Common stock, $0.001 par value
   per share, 150,000,000
   authorized and 24,209,938;
   23,631,135 and 23,629,635
   shares issued, respectively            24           24           24
  Capital paid-in excess of par
   value                             391,555      380,073      378,794
  Treasury stock, at cost -
   5,420,210; 4,922,610 and
   3,814,902 shares,
   respectively                     (186,637)    (171,387)    (136,761)
  Accumulated other
   comprehensive income                8,965       25,158       26,341
  Retained earnings                  290,655      244,820      260,312
                                 -----------  -----------  -----------
   Total shareholders' equity        504,562      478,688      528,710
                                 -----------  -----------  -----------
   Total liabilities and
    shareholders' equity         $ 1,052,200  $ 1,117,327  $ 1,117,645
                                 ===========  ===========  ===========


                       SCHOOL SPECIALTY, INC.
                CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF CASH FLOWS
                           (In Thousands)
                              Unaudited

                                                  Nine Months Ended
                                              ------------------------
                                              January 24,  January 26,
                                                 2009         2008
                                              -----------  -----------
 Cash flows from operating activities:
  Net income                                  $    45,835  $    56,613
  Adjustments to reconcile net income to net
   cash provided by operating activities:
   Depreciation and intangible asset
    amortization expense                           18,196       18,892
   Amortization of development costs                4,593        7,217
   Amortization of debt fees and other              1,529        1,521
   Share-based compensation expense                 3,192        4,230
   Deferred taxes                                  10,291        8,148
   Loss on disposal of property, equipment
    and other                                         484           31
   Changes in current assets and liabilities
    (net of assets acquired and liabilities
    assumed in business combinations):
    Change in amounts sold under receivables
     securitization, net                           (3,000)          --
    Accounts receivable                            13,318      (26,712)
    Inventories                                    16,800       31,271
    Deferred catalog costs                         (4,590)      (2,897)
    Prepaid expenses and other current assets      11,259       (2,454)
    Accounts payable                              (18,260)     (29,975)
    Accrued liabilities                             4,488       24,186
                                              -----------  -----------
     Net cash provided by operating activities    104,135       90,071
                                              -----------  -----------

 Cash flows from investing activities:
  Cash paid in acquisitions, net of cash
   acquired                                            --       (5,753)
  Additions to property, plant and equipment       (7,730)     (12,218)
  Proceeds from disposal of discontinued
   operations                                       2,485           --
  Investment in product development costs          (6,152)      (7,955)
  Proceeds from disposal of property, plant
   and equipment                                      192          375
                                              -----------  -----------
     Net cash used in investing activities        (11,205)     (25,551)
                                              -----------  -----------

 Cash flows from financing activities:
  Proceeds from bank borrowings                   533,800      533,000
  Repayment of debt and capital leases           (618,467)    (544,340)
  Purchase of treasury stock                      (15,250)     (60,253)
  Proceeds from exercise of stock options           2,692        5,519
  Excess income tax benefit from exercise of
   stock options                                    1,519          852
                                              -----------  -----------
     Net cash used in financing activities        (95,706)     (65,222)
                                              -----------  -----------

 Net decrease in cash and cash equivalents         (2,776)        (702)
 Cash and cash equivalents, beginning of
  period                                            4,034        2,386
                                              -----------  -----------
 Cash and cash equivalents, end of period     $     1,258  $     1,684
                                              ===========  ===========

 Free cash flow reconciliation:
  Net cash provided by operating activities   $   104,135  $    90,071
  Additions to property and equipment              (7,730)     (12,218)
  Investment in development costs                  (6,152)      (7,955)
  Proceeds from disposal of property and
   equipment                                          192          375
  Change in amounts sold under receivables
   securitization, net                              3,000           --
                                              -----------  -----------
  Free cash flow                              $    93,445  $    70,273
                                              ===========  ===========


                       School Specialty, Inc.
     Segment Analysis - Revenue and Gross Profit/Margin Analysis
                      3rd Quarter, Fiscal 2009
                           (In thousands)
                              Unaudited

 Segment Revenue and Gross Profit/Margin Analysis-QTD
 ----------------------------------------------------
                                                          % of Revenue
                                                         --------------
                                                 Change   3Q09    3Q08
                  3Q09-QTD  3Q08-QTD  Change $     %      -QTD    -QTD
                  --------  --------  --------  -------- ------  ------
 Revenue
  Specialty       $ 69,967  $ 78,254  $ (8,287)  -10.6%   57.5%   58.0%
  Essentials        52,218    57,540    (5,322)   -9.2%   42.9%   42.7%
  Corporate and
   Interco Elims      (475)     (955)      480            -0.4%   -0.7%
                  --------  --------  --------           ------  ------
   Total Revenue  $121,710  $134,839  $(13,129)   -9.7%  100.0%  100.0%
                  ========  ========  ========           ======  ======


                                                           % of Gross
                                                             Profit
                                                         --------------
                                                 Change   3Q09    3Q08
                  3Q09-QTD  3Q08-QTD  Change $     %      -QTD    -QTD
                  --------  --------  --------  -------- ------  ------
 Gross Profit
  Specialty       $ 28,208  $ 34,868  $ (6,660)  -19.1%   65.1%   67.5%
  Essentials        14,713    16,495    (1,782)  -10.8%   34.0%   31.9%
  Corporate and
   Interco Elims       378       325        53             0.9%    0.6%
                  --------  --------  --------           ------  ------
   Total Gross
    Profit        $ 43,299  $ 51,688  $ (8,389)  -16.2%  100.0%  100.0%
                  ========  ========  ========           ======  ======


 Segment Gross Margin Summary-QTD
 --------------------------------

 Gross Margin     3Q09-QTD  3Q08-QTD
                  --------  --------
  Specialty           40.3%     44.6%
  Essentials          28.2%     28.7%
   Total Gross
    Margin            35.6%     38.3%


 Segment Revenue and Gross Profit/Margin Analysis-YTD
 ----------------------------------------------------
                                                          % of Revenue
                                                         --------------
                                                 Change   3Q09    3Q08
                  3Q09-YTD  3Q08-YTD  Change $     %      -YTD    -YTD
                  --------  --------  --------   ------  ------  ------
 Revenue
  Specialty       $506,426  $535,315  $(28,889)   -5.4%   56.9%   58.6%
  Essentials       387,713   383,800     3,913     1.0%   43.5%   42.0%
  Corporate and
   Interco Elims    (3,329)   (4,844)    1,515            -0.4%   -0.6%
                  --------  --------  --------           ------  ------
   Total Revenue  $890,810  $914,271  $(23,461)   -2.6%  100.0%  100.0%
                  ========  ========  ========           ======  ======


                                                           % of Gross
                                                             Profit
                                                         --------------
                                                 Change   3Q09    3Q08
                  3Q09-YTD  3Q08-YTD  Change $     %      -YTD    -YTD
                  --------  --------  --------   ------  ------  ------
 Gross Profit
  Specialty       $250,247  $270,425  $(20,178)   -7.5%   68.3%   68.9%
  Essentials       115,049   121,263    (6,214)   -5.1%   31.4%   30.9%
  Corporate and
   Interco Elims     1,122       909       213             0.3%    0.2%
                  --------  --------  --------           ------  ------
   Total Gross
    Profit        $366,418  $392,597  $(26,179)   -6.7%  100.0%  100.0%
                  ========  ========  ========           ======  ======


 Segment Gross Margin Summary-YTD
 --------------------------------

 Gross Margin     3Q09-YTD  3Q08-YTD
                  --------  --------
  Specialty           49.4%     50.5%
  Essentials          29.7%     31.6%
   Total Gross
    Margin            41.1%     42.9%

CONTACT: School Specialty, Inc.
David Vander Ploeg, Executive VP and CFO
920-882-5854
Communications & Investor Relations
Mark Fleming
920-882-5646