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Housing starts rose between May and June

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Housing starts rose 9.1 percent month-over-month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.066 million units, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. That figure is 26.9 percent below the June 2007 rate of 1.458 million.

Of those, single-family housing starts in June fell 5.3 percent to a rate of 647,000.

Housing completions in June were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.167 million, 1.2 percent above the revised May estimate of 1.153 million. That figure still is 21.7 percent below the revised June 2007 rate of 1.491 million.

Building permits in June were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.091 million, 11.6 percent higher than the May rate of 978,000. That figure is 23.9 percent below the June 2007 rate of 1.433 million.

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Restoration Hardware promotes ‘baby and child’ items

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Specialty retailer Restoration Hardware has launched a new e-commerce site devoted to home improvement and decorative items for ‘baby and child’ rooms, at the URL rhbabyandchild.com.

The site features mid- to high-end home decor items, such as table lamps, chandeliers, window hardware and furnishings. Decorative storage items and a registry are prominent features.

The retailer is also selling no-VOC paint via the site, branded with the ‘baby & child’ logo. The paint is available in five colors — pink, blue, light green, beige and white. The high-end paint retails for $39 per gallon.

The site also includes an option to shop by color, and monogramming options for various items, including rugs and linens.

Restoration Hardware operates more than 100 retail outlets in the United States, as well as two other e-commerce sites — brocadehome.com and restorationhardware.com

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Best Buy may rollout new appliances stores

BY HBSDEALER Staff

A chain of California kitchen and bath showrooms may lead Best Buy into the home-remodeling business, according to comments made at the Oppenheimer & Co. Consumer Growth Conference on July 9. The Minneapolis-based company, known as one of the leading retailers in consumer electronics, told analysts it plans to double its revenues to $80 billion by 2013.

Those plans may involve a nationwide expansion of Pacific Sales, a California subsidiary that sells high-end appliances, plumbing fixtures and home furnishings in a showroom setting.

Mike Vitelli, executive vp-customer operating teams at Best Buy, gave several examples of new business models that will contribute to the $80 billion goal, because they are “completely different or outside of the Best Buy box.” One of them was Pacific Sales. “We believe [it] has opportunity across the country as well,” said Vitelli, whose division is responsible for merchandising and product assortment.

Best Buy purchased Pacific Sales in January 2006 for $410 million. The 14-unit chain, known for luxury brands like Sub-Zero, Miele, Toto and Viking, has since expanded to 22 units that sell to builders, contractors, designers and consumers.

“We have been taking market share [in appliances], and we stepped back and tried to reinvent the business for us,” said Ryan Robinson, Best Buy’s senior vp, CFO and treasurer, speaking to analysts at the Oppenheimer conference.

“We did it through assortment differentiation. A number of key vendors, including LG, Samsung, Siemens and Electrolux all viewed Best Buy as an ideal North American market entry partner and helped us create market differentiating offers for our partners.”

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