(Adds details on results, analysts estimates)
May 9 (Reuters) - Office supply chain Office Depot Inc , reported a bigger-than-expected profit for the first quarter as its operational expenses fell, in part due to a lower store count.
The company's net income rose to $116 million, or 22 cents per share, in the quarter ended April 1, from $46 million, or 8 cents per share, a year earlier.
Excluding items, Office Depot earned 16 cents per share, beating analysts average estimate of 12 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
The company, which is focused on divestitures overseas to sharpen its focus on North America, said overall net sales fell to $2.68 billion from $2.88 billion.
Sales in the company's North America retail business fell nearly 10 percent to $1.36 billion, mainly due to lower customer visits. The business accounted for half of total sales.
Comparable sales at the business, which houses 1,439 retail stores, dropped 5 percent. That was much steeper than the 2.80 percent decline estimated by analysts polled by research firm Consensus Metrix.
The company also said it expects sales in 2017 to be lower than 2016 due to the impact of store closures and challenging market conditions.
Following Office Depot's failed merger with Staples Inc , the company has been trying to streamline its business, by shutting underperforming stores and cutting procurement and general and administrative costs.
But, like other retailers, Office Depot continues to be hit by slowing foot traffic as consumers shift to online shopping at e-commerce giants such as Amazon.com Inc.
The company has set in motion plans to save $250 million annually by 2018 by closing about 300 more stores in the next three years. (Reporting by Karina Dsouza in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza)