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From Home Furnishing Business

Cover Story: INDUSTRY PERSPECTIVE ANTICIPATING THE WORST

Using internet speak, the term “Industry Slowdown” is definitely trending. However, just as anticipating an approaching storm, the stress is almost as bad as the storm itself. But for now, it is not happening, YET. The consumer is still maintaining the course. While not the growth of a year ago, it is holding steady. The graphic (Table A) presents the historical trends of consumer spending for furniture/bedding and the corresponding sales in furniture stores. Then why all the chatter? Part of the confusion is around what key performance indicators should we use to measure - “year-over-year” or “previous quarter?” Also, what year, 2022 or 2019? What used to be a simple statement sounds like an elaborate excuse. The historical comparisons are shown in the graphic below (Table B).

As can be seen from the graphic, the forward-looking statistic (compared to the previous quarter) indicates a definite slowdown while the back focused statistic (compared to the previous year) provides a more positive perspective.

But what about the balance of the year? Given no extreme external factors, FurnitureCore, LLC, sister company to Home Furnishings Business still has confidence in its 2023 forecast of 2.6%. Then why are retailers feeling so unsettled? One reason is the variance across the nation with one retailer reporting sales are up 13.4% (year-over-year) and another 17% down (year-over-year). Table C presents the range of variance.

Let’s now get down to the specific performance factors for the industry and your specific operation (for subscribers).

RETAIL METRICS

Despite inflation, supply chain disruptions, and a slowing in the frenzied demand seen in 2021, the furniture industry grew a respectable 6.47% in 2022 following 2021’s growth of 21.9% coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Furniture stores, however, did not fare as well. Table A shows that furniture store sales for the total U.S. grew only 1.1% last year compared to the traditional furniture stores.(See Figure 1 for the Methodology.)

For years the furniture industry experienced slow growth coming out of the Great Recession. Sales picked up a little steam around 2015 to 2018. Then when the pandemic hit, industry sales skyrocketed before slowing in 2022. Meanwhile, furniture store sales growth continued at a crawl until 2021, then fell to very slow growth last year. Table B shows the dollar growth.

Last year, quarterly growth over the prior quarter for all U.S. furniture stores went negative for three out of the four quarters, with only the second quarter showing positive growth at 8.66%. Quarter four was down 0.56%. Notably the first quarter of this year showed no improvement with flat growth over the last quarter of 2022. Traditional retailers participating in the retail metrics for this article also experienced significant slowing in the last half of 2022 (Table C).

The financials of the traditional furniture retailers participating in the retail metrics in 2021 told a story of high gross profit driven by increased volumes from higher prices. Segue to 2022 and those sky-high profits subsided, especially in the third quarter. Table D illustrates the percent dollar growth in key indicators for gross profit, sales expense, general and administrative expense and net operating income.

Table E shows the total quarterly performance as a percent of revenues, not dollars.

Key Performance Indicators 2022


(Table F)
KPIs at their broadest levels, showed a decline in profits in 2022 compared to 2021 and an increase in expenses. (Table F) Gross profit as a percent of revenue fell to 50.13% last year compared to 51.17% in 2021. The fourth quarter showed the strongest performance at 51.67%.
Sales Expense was up over a percentage point, 23.25% in 2022 versus 22.2% the year before.
General and Administrative Expense (G&A) was up the most of the broad expense items at 16.54% of revenue compared to 14.72% in 2021.
Net Operating Income, as a result of increased expenses, fell from 14.25% of revenue in 2021 to 10.33% in 2022.
Above the Line Performance
(Table G)
Merchandise Returns in 2022 were slightly more than in 2021 at 0.59% of revenue versus the prior year of 0.35%. Merchandise Protection Sales were off slightly last year at 3.11% of revenue versus 3.42% in 2021.
Delivery Income was half a percentage point higher as a percent of revenue in 2022 (3.61%) than 2021 (3.17%) driven by additional revenue in the fourth quarter.
Cost of Goods Sold (Table H)
Of significance is that the total cost of goods sold was up over one percentage point in 2022 at 49.87% of revenue compared to 48.83% the year before. CGS eased somewhat in the fourth quarter.

Gross Profit on Sales (Table I)
Increased cost of goods sold impacted gross profit a full percentage point, down to 50.13% of revenue in 2022 compared to 51.17% in 2021.
Selling Expense (Table J)
All facets of selling expense increased as a percent of revenue in 2022, except for store sales expense. Total selling expense as a percent of revenue grew from 22.2% in 2021 to 23.25% last year. The following details the individual selling expense categories. Advertising/Public Relations took the highest jump in percent of revenue from 3.56% in 2021 to 4.36% in 2022. In 2021 consumer demand was so strong that retailers didn’t feel the need to increase advertising. However, in 2022 across the board – broadcast/air, Internet advertising, print and direct mail increased. Broadcast/ air advertising is still king among retailers at 58% of advertising expenditures in 2022. Internet advertising is still less than 1% of revenue annually.
Sales Expense for 2022 was also up slightly as a percent of revenue – 9.81% in 2022 compared to 9.61% in 2021. Increases in sales commissions and draws account for most of this increase.
Warehouse/Delivery/Services Expense as a percent of sales was mostly the same in 2022 compared to 2021, 8.0% versus 7.88%. Store Sales Expense was comparable to 2021 at 1.04%.

General & Administrative Expenses (Table K)
G & A expenses is the largest group of fixed expenses. These accounts are those that keep the doors open, the lights on and the place running. Each component of this broad category, except human resources, saw an increase in 2022 as a percent of revenue. G&A increased from 14.72% of revenue in 2021 to 16.54% in 2022. Information Systems expense was up over half a percentage point in 2022 to 1.13%. Occupancy Expense, a significant expenditure, increased to 6.27% of revenue in 2022 compared to 5.67% in 2021. Rent and lease payments represent 62% of this category and increased to 3.9%. Utilities, building maintenance and taxes also grew. Administration Expense, is the largest segment of G&A growing to 8.7% of revenue in 2022 compared to 7.97% in 2021, with growth in salaries as a percent of revenue being the main contributor.
Human Resources expenditures remained at less than half a percent of revenue. Net Credit Expense (Table L)
Net credit expense at 2.63% of revenue in 2022 was similar to 2021. Net Income (Table M)
While net income before interest and taxes in 2022 at 7.92% could not compare to the high 2021 number of 13.72% in 2021, it was still higher than the industry has seen in many years before 2021.

Key Performance Indicators
(Table 0)
Gross profit as a percent of revenue in 2022 was a full percentage point lower than 2021; however, it was consistent last year at just over 50% across all sales volume ranges. Retailers $25M to $75M in sales posted significantly lower sales expenses, which in turn impacted the higher 11.57% net operating income compared to smaller retailers at 8.63% and large retailers at 9.71%.
Above the Line (% of Revenue)
(Table P)
Merchandise returns were highest among the $25 to $75 million retailers at 1.86% of revenue. Merchandise protection sales and delivery income were highest among larger retailers $75M and over in sales.
Cost of Goods Sold (Table Q)
Cost of goods sold was consistently just below 50% of revenue for all sales ranges. Gross Profit on Sales (Table R)
Gross profit was consistent across all sales ranges at just under 50%, a full percentage point higher than 2021. However, that increased performance was more than offset by higher fixed and variable expenses.
Selling Expenses (Table S)
Selling expenses were highest for small retailers (25.9% of revenue) and larger ones (24.3%), but somewhat lower for mid-sized retailers $25M to $75M at 21.23%. Smaller retailers spent more as a percent of revenue on advertising and sales expense than the medium and larger counterparts.

General & Administrative Expenses (% of Revenue)
(Table T)
G&A expenses were highest among mid-sized retailers $25M to $75M in sales at 17.24% of revenue compared to 15.8% for smaller retailers with less than $25M in sales and 16.16% for larger $75M and over. Occupancy costs were higher for the midsize group.
Net Credit Expense
(Net of Credit Income)
(Table U)
Credit expense was much higher for larger retailers with sales over $75M at 3.07% of revenue compared to the midsized group at 2.08% and smaller retailers at 2.15%.
Net Income Before Interest and Taxes (Table V)
Lower selling expenses contributed to the mid-sized retail group $25M to $75M having significantly higher net income before interest and taxes at 10.36% compared to 6.62% for small retailers under $25M and larger retailers $75M and over at 6.42%.



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