Even if you’re more apt to foresee fiscal cliffs than resolutions comprised of wishful thinking, the new year is a time for optimism and renewal.
Most of the most recent retail sales reports, along with early holiday sales tallies give good reason to be hopeful.
The impact of Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast didn’t prevent retailers from finishing nearly 4 percent ahead of last year’s November sales, according to the National Retail Federation. Home furnishings store sales were up nearly 6.2 percent over last year.
The NRF attributed the positive retail sales to “stable employment rates, lower gasoline prices and a recovering housing market.”
Let me repeat those three magical words: Recovering Housing Market—now that’s a sound for sore ears. Consumer confidence is at its highest in four and a half years, according to the Conference Board, and even the troubling unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in four years. Now the housing market is finally following along.
U.S. home prices have risen for six straight months, according to S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices. “With six months of consistently rising home prices, it is safe to say that we are now in the midst of a recovery in the housing market,” said David M. Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices in a statement.
At the same time, home builder confidence improved for eight straight months and the Federal National Mortgage Association, aka Fannie Mae, said it expects total home sales to increase by around 8 percent in 2013.
It’s about time, the collective home furnishings industry says. Some categories, especially furniture, have been reeling for years from the calamitous housing industry. It’s almost impossible to remember a time when sales weren’t couched by the phrase “before the recession.”
Reflecting the tried-and-true motto that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, the survivors of the recession are those that maximized their potential. Many of the companies pared down, entered new categories and did whatever it took to get through.
In this month’s HFN cover story, “2013: What’s in Store,” some of the top home furnishings retailers and vendors speak on how they plan to get their fair share of the hopefully expanding sales pie. Much of their concerns and efforts address the constantly changing consumer and the ever-shifting channels of distribution. Even as macro-economic factors begin to work in their favor, home furnishings’ winners will have to continue to adapt.
The only sure thing about 2013 is that—one way or another—it will be decidedly different from 2012.