Are Americans finally going to reclaim their stepladders and paintbrushes? Lowe's says it believes that may happen soon. After three years of steady sales declines, the company now believes it will see an increase, with sales estimated to climb 3% or so in fiscal 2010, with same-store sales increasing 1%.
In a meeting with investors and analysts, the Mooresville, N.C.-based DIY chain reaffirmed its forecasts for this fiscal year, which call for 3% decline in overall sales, with same-store sales falling another 7 to 9%.
"Although prices have declined in recent years, the home remains many consumers' largest asset," Robert A. Niblock, Lowe's chairman and CEO, says in a release. "What has changed is their approach to tackling home improvement projects. Consumers are shifting to more do-it-yourself projects as they balance convenience with the cost of outsourcing. Opportunity rests in our ability to understand consumers' evolving needs and provide products and customer-valued solutions."
The company also announced plans to shut down an underperforming store in Milwaukee, and the possibility of some $100 million in charges as it evaluates other units for possible closure.
Earlier this month, executives from the Home Depot -- which like Lowe's, has been posting sales declines for several year -- also offered investors a few crumbs of guarded optimism, speaking at the Goldman Sachs Retailing Conference.
Both chains have been hit hard by weak real estate sales in key markets, since moves are the biggest factor in redecorating, and some experts say the market seems to be improving. The Federal Housing Agency reports that U.S. single-family home prices did rise by a seasonally adjusted 0.3% in July, the latest month available, but were still 4.2% lower than a year earlier.