Thursday, November 19, 2009

Check Out Line: Consumers spending again?


Check Out home-related retailers Sears Holdings and Williams-Sonoma reporting better-than-expected quarterly results. Does this mean consumers are feathering their nests again?

Somewhat, according to Barclays analyst Michael Lasser, who said Williams-Sonoma’s results were “an indication that upper-income consumers are spending a bit more, which is not surprising given the rally in the stock market and the stabilization in the housing market.”

Williams-Sonoma, which also operates Pottery Barn and West Elm, has updated its styles and slashed prices on some items to woo shoppers, despite worries that the move might tarnish its image as a high-end retailer.

But it’s not only high-end chains showing signs of life. Kmart, the value-priced retailer that sells everything from appliances to clothing, posted its first increase in same-store sales since 2005, and only its second since 2001. The chain, which is owned by Sears, took back its shoe operations this year from Footstar, which had operated within Kmart stores.

Even Sears, which depends more heavily on the housing market due to its Craftsman tools and Kenmore appliances, posted its best performance since the fourth quarter of 2007, and outperformed competing home improvement chains like Home Depot and Lowe’s.

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