Existing-home sales up for the first time this year
The National Association of Realtors had slightly more positive news to report this month. Existing-home sales increased for the first time this year in April, bumping up 1.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.65 million.
Single-family sales were up 0.5% to a rate of 4.06 million, but are still 7.7% below last year’s pace.
“Some growth was inevitable after sub-par housing activity in the first quarter, but improved inventory is expanding choices and sales should generally trend upward from this point,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “Annual home sales, however, due to a sluggish first quarter, will likely be lower than last year.”
April’s estimate, for one, is still 6.8% below April 2013’s 4.99 million-unit pace.
However, total housing inventory ticked up 16.8% to a 5.9-month supply, a significant difference from March’s 5.1-month supply.
The median existing-home price was $201,700, a 5.2% improvement year-over-year. For single-family homes, that price was $201,100, up 4.7% since last year.
“We’ll continue to see a balancing act between housing inventory and price growth, which remains stronger than normal simply because there have not been enough sellers in many areas. More inventory and increased new-home construction will help to foster healthy market conditions,” Yun added.
NAR president Steve Brown pointed out that the average time on market also shrunk in April; with more inventory comes better (and faster) choices for buyers.
Amid losses, Sears points to ‘transformation’
Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based Sears Holdings chairman and CEO Edward Lampert beat the drum of “transformation,” as the retailer posted another quarter of declines in consolidated sales and earnings.
The good news: Online and multichannel sales grew 26% over the same quarter last year. And Sears Domestic comp-store sales grew 0.2%.
However, the company’s overall net loss widened to $402 million, compared with $279 million in the first quarter last year. And total revenues (merchandise sales and services) for the retailer that includes Sears and Kmart stores declined 6.8% to $7.88 billion.
"Sears is undergoing a significant transformation, and we fundamentally are changing the way we do business," Lampert said. “We are moving away from a company that was heavily based on selling products solely through a store-based network to a member-centric business model focused on providing benefits to our members anytime and anyplace.”
The pace of store closings may also increase this year, Lampert said. The company may close more than the 80 stores now being closed, he suggested.
The slight sales growth at Sears Domestic primarily reflects an increase in the home appliances and home categories, the company said. The company saw declines in the lawn and garden, consumer electronics and sporting goods categories, as well as a decline in Sears Auto Centers.
Sears also experienced a revenue decline in Home Services.
At Kmart store, comparable-stores sales were down 2.2% as compared with a 4.6% decline last year.
Earlier this month, the retailer announced it intends to attempt to sell its stake in Sears Canada.
Safety Works brings compliance to shelves
With changes in the OSHA rules governing residential construction fall protection for contractors, Safety Works is spreading the word on compliance through creative merchandising and other materials.
Wexford, Pennsylvania-based Safety Works, during the National Hardware Show and elsewhere, distributed its Residential Fall Protection Fact Sheet, which clarified the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s recent changes to the residential construction fall protection regulations for contractors.
One of the main points: Falls are the leading cause of on-the-job deaths among construction workers.
OSHA recently began enforcing what’s known technically as 29 CFR 1926.501(b)(13) for all residential construction work. Among other things, that means that slide guards or safety monitor systems no longer can be substituted for conventional fall protection methods, such as guardrails, safety nets or personal fall arrest systems.
Safety Works is helping bring compliance to the shelves.
“We have organized our fall protection products with merchandising that makes selection as easy as A, B, C,” reads the brochure. “A for anchorages, B for body harness and C for connectors — all clearly labeled on the packaging and in the merchandising.