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High-end home goods market struggles, too

BY HBSDEALER Staff

San Francisco-based Williams-Sonoma, parent of upscale home decor and kitchen retailers including Pottery Barn and West Elm, saw net earnings falter in the second quarter, down 29 percent to $18.4 million compared with $26 million in the same period last year.

Net sales fell 5 percent to $819.6 million from $859.4 million in the year-ago period. Comparable-store sales fell 11 percent.

Howard Lester, chairman and CEO of Williams-Sonoma, blamed the poor performance on a “deteriorated” macroeconomic environment in the second quarter.

“As we look forward to the third quarter and balance of the year — considering these trends — it is extremely difficult to know how the consumer will respond in the back half of the year,” Lester said. “While our history would say that trends would improve, what we are seeing today does not support that premise.”

Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn Kids stores showed the steepest declines, with comparable-store sales down 16 percent and 13.5 percent respectively. West Elm, Williams-Sonoma and Williams-Sonoma Home banners performed better than the company average.

The retailer’s combined direct-to-consumer net sales, including catalog and Internet sales, fell 4.3 percent to $356.4 million. The direct-to-consumer segment was hit with a $2.6 million one-time charge because of a product recall.

In the first and second quarters combined, Williams-Sonoma opened 28 new stores and closed 15 stores, including six Pottery Barn and nine Williams-Sonoma locations. The company opened five new West Elm stores, a property that sells home decor items at mid-level price points, as opposed to the higher price points at Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma Home.

At the end of the second quarter, the company operated 613 stores in the United States, as well as seven direct mail catalogs and six e-commerce sites.

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U.S. exporters report gains

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The Worldwide DIY Council, a trade group of U.S. and Canadian manufacturers who also export to other countries, has released a member survey showing sales growth of 20 percent or more in almost every product category this year. Sales to Mexico, Central and South America posted the most gains, and Eastern Europe, especially Poland, were also noteworthy, the survey reported.

Looking ahead to 2009, council members predicted sales increases of 10 percent to 20 percent in most merchandise categories. They listed Latin America, Eastern Europe, and southeast Asia, particularly India, China and Russia, as promising markets for U.S. and Canadian made goods.

Anumber of the council members will be exhibiting together at the upcoming 2008 Expo Nacional Ferretera in Guadalajara, Mexico. The American Hardware Manufacturers Association (AHMA) will sponsor the USA Pavilion at the event, which is scheduled Sept. 12 to 14.

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Charlevoix Homes files for bankruptcy

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Charlevoix Homes, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based home builder, has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, according to a report in the Arizona Republic.

The home builder listed up to $50 million in liabilities to its creditors.

The business is the target of lawsuits by several investors, including real estate agents and private investors. It was founded in 2002, building homes in Phoenix and Glendale, Ariz., and the surrounding suburbs.

Other Arizona companies related to housing have filed for bankruptcy this year, including Gilbert, Ariz.-based Trend Homes, as well as separate entities set up by Charlevoix, including a development called Meridian Hills in south Phoenix.

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