Home Furnishing Stores

The International Mass Retail Assn and the National Retail Federation have reported that many consumers in Washington D.C. bought more practical gifts than frivolous gifts during the holidays 1994. Home furnishing stores reported more sales in this area. About 42% of surveyed shoppers were planning to buy bath and bed linens, while other items, such as furniture, were popular as well.

WASHINGTON (FNS)–Forecasts that 1994 would be a “practical” Christmas seem to have come true in the Washington area where several home goods stores experienced heavy traffic and robust sales in the holiday shopping season, which came to a close yesterday.

Gifts of Everyday Life

gifts-of-everyday-lifeLast month, both the National Retail Federation and the International Mass Retail Association released surveys predicting that “gifts of everyday life” would top the shopping lists of most Santas in 1994.

The NRF poll found that approximately 42 percent of shoppers intended to purchase bed and bath linens. IMRA counted pasta and breadmakers as products likely to be popular.

Sales since Thanksgiving at the 20 Pier 1 Imports stores in the Washington-Baltimore area have been running 12 percent ahead of last year, according to Joy Purcell, the company’s public relations manager.

Stores are packed on weekends as well as on weekdays

Wooden and metal plant stands that cost $30 to $50 have been selling well as people spruce up their homes for the holidays. Another hot item is a metal bench that can double as a coffee table, which retails at $75 or $95.

Sales of white wicker furniture for children, including chairs and settees that cost between $40 and $60, had been picking up as the holiday approached, Purcell said. Decorative items such as ornaments, candles and brass objects were also being purchased as gifts.

At The Container Store in McLean, Va., the three best-selling items were an art supply kit that includes pastels and paints, a baseball card box and plastic jewelry stacking trays that fit inside drawers, according to a company spokeswoman.

Other strong sellers were a two-tiered, wood-and-metal entertainment cart that holds a television and a VCR, and a baker’s cart with a butcher-blocktop and chrome grid shelving.Stores are packed on weekends as well as on weekdays

November sales at the store were 20.4 percent higher than last November

The spokeswoman said. The store has been open for two years. Sales at Anthropologie, a stylish spin-off of the trendy Urban Outfitters chain, have been running ahead of plan since it opened in August, with the exception of a downturn in November. December sales have been strong, according to Ellen Hurst, assistant manager.

Anthropologie targets professional women in their 30s and 40s with a 50-50 apparel-home goods mix. The Rockville, Md., store is a warehouse-sized building filled with creative, “rough-hewn” products such as handpainted pottery, clothes hooks made from flatware, old wooden furniture and Christmas tree ornaments made from seed pods.

Bed linens have been selling extremely well, from all-linen sheets that sell for $169 each to Chinese dust ruffles that cost $29, Hurst said. Most of Anthropologie’s linens come in white or natural.November sales at the store were 20.4 percent higher than last November

About every other day, a customer in the Rockville store carries out a mirror with an unusual wooden frame, such as an old window frame or the headboard of a bed. These sell for $125 to $295.

Unlike most retailers, Anthropologie is not finding it necessary to discount merchandise in order to coax it off the shelves. “I think there will be some things left for post-Christmas markdowns, but those are just the mistakes,” Hurst said.

The only retailer interviewed that might not be meeting its plan was a Crate & Barrel store in the Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, Md. Sales there in the first two weeks of December were ahead of last year, but below expectations, said Kim Howland, store manager.

However, Howland said she believes that in the two weeks before Christmas, sales, which have not yet been calculated, picked up enough to meet expectations for the month of December.

Pasta sets and pastamakers were two of the fastest-selling items, Howland said. The pasta sets include a serving bowl and four individual bowls that sell for between $25 and $48. The pastamaker, “which is always a good category for us,” cost $45, Howland said.

Washington-area Crate & Barrel shoppers were also buying up linens, including table runners for $20 to $40, seasonal tableware, glass and brass pot pourri burners ($16 or $25), crates of nuts and dried fruit, tree ornaments and floating candle holders ($13 or $15).

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