By Sarah Morgan
Even though housing remains sluggish, analysts say stronger furniture sales may be a sign the market is finally be starting to turn around.
Though overall retail sales rose less than expected in November, according to federal data released today, furniture – along with electronics – was one of the few bright spots.
Sales of couches, chairs, and dressers have been steadily increasing in recent retail sales reports: For the past year, they’re up 4.4%, but they’re up 5.4% in the past six months and 6% for the year. In fact, furniture sales have increased for four quarters in a row, in the first such streak since the mid-2000’s, says John Canally, an economist with LPL Financial. “That’s one potential sign that the housing market is starting to stabilize,” Canally says. On its own, the trend doesn’t suggest a sudden boom in home sales, but this data does support the stronger housing-market data that’s been coming out recently, he says. “Furniture isn’t something you buy on a whim,” he says.
Sales of existing single-family homes were up 13.5% in October compared to a year ago, according to the latest data by the National Association of Realtors. The association says it will release revised figures on Dec. 21 and total sales will likely be lower.
Of course, some of the pickup in furniture could be due to pent-up demand from consumers who’ve put off buying a new couch as long as they could. But even that willingness to make bigger replacement purchases “after a long period of austerity” is a positive sign, Brusca says. “It does suggest, along with everything else, that retail sales have made some recovery,” he says. The higher sales could also be attributable to homeowners who are resigned to staying put.