Motley Furniture News

The furniture industry is starting to take on the look of a college dorm room. Earnings reports and earnings warnings are crammed in from every angle, but without a whole lot of feng shui. Here's a quick rundown of the last few days' worth of news -- in chronological order, so that there will be at least some order.

Bed Bath & Beyond
Last week, home furnishings star Bed Bath & Beyond (Nasdaq: BBBY  ) issued its first-ever earnings warning. Deflating the Street's expectations of $0.39 per share, management warned that it will earn at most $0.38 this quarter -- missing by the proverbial penny. Bed Bath believes its same-store sales will grow just 1.6% -- less than half the minimum growth that Wall Street was expecting.

Haverty Furniture
The same day as Bed Bath issued its earnings warning, furniture retailer Haverty (NYSE: HVT  ) advised that its own May sales were down 14%, and comps down 15.5%.

Hooker Furniture
As I described on Monday, Hooker Furniture's (Nasdaq: HOFT  ) fiscal Q1 2008 report was a mess. Sales down 15%. Profits down 33%.

Natuzzi
On Tuesday, Santeramo-based sofa-maker Natuzzi (NYSE: NTZ  ) reported not a disaster, but measures being taken to ward one off. Citing "challenging business conditions" and "adverse currency trend that are depressing the order flow," Natuzzi slashed the length of work shifts on its Italian production lines by 38%, to five hours per shift.

Furniture Brands International
In contrast, Furniture Brands (NYSE: FBN  ) investors got a rare bit of good news last night, as the company released a sales update suggesting that things aren't quite as bad as they were looking last month. While FBI CEO Mickey Holliman cautioned that the furniture biz remains "challenging," he now believes sales for this quarter will decline only 12% year over year, and not the 15% previously predicted. Even better, he doesn't expect to lose more than $0.07 per share, a penny better than consensus estimates. How likely is it that Holliman is right? Pretty likely, I'd say -- the quarter he's talking about ends in just two weeks.

What does it all mean?
But does the fact that the most recent news is the most optimistic mean that the furniture industry has finally turned the corner? The continued housing slump says otherwise. And of course, a 12% sales decline is still a decline. No, I'm afraid all we saw yesterday was a variation on the sage old advice: "Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst." One month ago, FBI prepared us for the worst. Yesterday, it gave us a little hope that the worst, at least, may be avoided.

Viewed in the context of the 5% haircut that Bed Bath shares received in the wake of its earnings warning, and the 15% hit that Hooker took after reporting its earnings news, FBI appears to have made the right decision -- at least from a PR perspective -- and saw its shares rise about 3% in after-market trading in reward. But we're not out of the woods yet.

Follow FBI's progress in:

Bed Bath & Beyond is both aStock Advisor and anInside Value recommendation. Hooker Furniture is aHidden Gems selection. All three market-beating newsletters are available for a free 30-day trial.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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