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Renaissance?

Jennifer Marks Editor-In-ChiefJennifer Marks Editor-In-Chief
Despite the impact of JCPenney's overhaul, despite the sluggish pace of economic expansion and despite the slow recovery of the job market, a few signs point to the possibility of a fairly decent year for home furnishings sales.
     Start with the Jan. 17 report from the Commerce Department that found 2012 was the best year for residential construction since the onset of the housing crisis in late 2006/early 2007. The level of building begun in December was the highest it's been since the summer of 2008.
     Last week, Home Depot announced it will hire 80,000 temporary workers for the spring season - which for the home center channel is the peak period of the year. That's 10,000 more workers than it took on last year.
     Citi analyst Deborah Weinswig recently predicted a strong 2013 for home furnishings merchandise. She expects sales volume to climb into the double-digits, with same store sales rising 3% or better over the course of the year.
     To which one can only say: Holy Toledo! Is this industry finally poised to experience some real growth?
     There are, of course, caveats.
     Although housing starts were up 28.1% in 2012 on a year over- year basis, it should be noted that starts in 2011 hit a 50- year low.
     The Home Depots hires will be, alas, temporary. And many of those jobs will be part time.
    Weinswig's report points to Macy's home performance, Target's ongoing Threshold rollout, the potential for dollar stores to become more competitive in the department and...the introduction of Martha Stewart shops at JCPenney. Maybe she missed the part about how much Martha-branded merchandise will actually be allowed on the floor is questionable owing to the Macy's lawsuit.
     Still, one must take ones green shoots where one finds them. Here's hoping....

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