Total company non-GAAP operating income rate declined 30 basis points to 7.87 percent from an operating income rate of 8.17 percent achieved during the third quarter of 2011. This decline primarily reflects lower product margins in North American Delivery and International and investments to drive growth in Staples.com. The decline was partially offset by reduced compensation and marketing expense.

The company generated operating cash flow of $895 million and invested $204 million in capital expenditures year to date, resulting in year to date free cash flow of $691 million. The company repurchased 9.4 million shares for $111 million during the third quarter of 2012, and has repurchased 27.4 million shares for $362 million year to date. The company also paid off a $325 million bond that matured on October 1, 2012. At the end of the third quarter, the company had $2.2 billion in liquidity, including $1.0 billion in cash and cash equivalents.

North American Delivery

North American Delivery sales for the third quarter of 2012 were $2.6 billion, an increase of one percent compared to the third quarter of 2011. This primarily reflects growth of facilities and breakroom supplies and copy and print services, partially offset by the previously announced loss of two large contract customers during the third quarter of 2011. Operating income rate decreased 76 basis points to 8.73 percent compared to the third quarter of 2011. This decline reflects lower product margins and investments to drive growth in Staples.com, partially offset by reduced marketing expense.

North American Retail

North American Retail sales of $2.6 billion were flat compared to the third quarter of 2011. Comparable store sales for the third quarter of 2012 decreased one percent, as traffic declined two percent and average order size increased one percent versus the prior year. Lower sales of computers and software were somewhat offset by growth of copy and print services and core office supplies. Operating income rate increased 9 basis points to 10.79 percent compared to the third quarter of 2011. This increase primarily reflects lower operating expenses and distribution efficiencies, somewhat offset by investments in promotional activity.

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