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Consumer Confidence Index slips

BY HBSDEALER Staff

After rising steadily in recent months, the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index decreased from 56.5 in January to 46.0 in February.

A100 on the scale equates to the index level of 1985.

“Consumers’ short-term outlook also took a turn for the worse, with fewer consumers anticipating an improvement in business conditions and the job market over the next six months,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “Consumers also remain extremely pessimistic about their income prospects. This combination of earnings and job anxieties is likely to continue to curb spending.”

Concerns about current business conditions pushed the Present Situation Index down to 19.4, its lowest level in 27 years. Also, the Expectations Index declined to 63.8 from 77.3 last month.

Consumers’ assessment of current-day conditions soured in February. Those claiming conditions are “good” decreased to 6.2% from 8.5%, while those claiming business conditions are “bad” increased to 46.3% from 44.7%. Consumers’ assessment of the labor market was also more pessimistic. Those saying jobs are “hard to get” rose to 47.7% from 46.5%, while those saying jobs are “plentiful” decreased to 3.6% from 4.4%.

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Home Depot swings to Q4 profit

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The world’s largest home improvement retailer posted fourth-quarter earnings of $342 million, compared with a loss of $54 million in the same period last year.

Total company comp-store sales increased 1.2% in the quarter, as sales declined 0.3% to $14.6 billion. The company’s 20 cents per share earnings were higher than Wall Street analysts’ consensus estimate of 17 cents.

“Despite the tough economic environment, we were able to make solid progress against our key initiatives in 2009,” said Frank Blake, chairman and CEO, in a prepared statement. “For the year, we grew U.S. share by more than 100 basis points; we continued to restructure our distribution network, with our Rapid Deployment Centers, now serving more than 65% of our U.S. store base; and we enhanced overall customer service as measured by third-party surveys.”

In the fourth quarter, the company’s sales performance was driven by gains in kitchen and bath, paint, flooring and plumbing, as well as its international businesses.

Like rival Lowe’s, Home Depot’s sales performance improved significantly in the fourth quarter, compared with the full year.

For fiscal 2009, the company reported net earnings of $2.7 billion, compared with $2.3 billion in fiscal 2008. Sales for the year declined 7.2% to $66.2 billion, and total company comp-store sales were negative 6.6%.

“In the face of a very tough selling environment, our associates did an amazing job in 2009,” Blake added. “Their hard work and dedication made these accomplishments possible.”  

In its guidance for fiscal 2010, the company revealed it intends to continue its cautious approach to store expansion by opening only six net new stores. It also expects to see comparable-store sales growth of 2.5% next year.

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Canceled transactions result in arrest

BY HBSDEALER Staff

A 21-year-old Home Depot cashier has been arrested in Boulder, Colo., on suspicion of theft after security personnel noticed he was canceling transactions and pocketing the cash, according to an article in the Daily Camera.

Christopher Reading, who was arrested on Feb. 7, allegedly handed customers “suspended transaction” receipts so that they didn’t realize the fraud, according to a police spokesperson. The items were worth $690, the newspaper reported.

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