furniture in small spacesHere's some counter-intuitive news: It seems that people are buying more home products to fill their smaller abodes.

Home furnishings store sales are expected to rise in April, May and June to $23.2 billion, up nearly 8% from the year-ago period, according to an IBM forecast based on data from more than 500 leading U.S. retailers.

The trend toward smaller American homes has compelled consumers to purchase new furniture to fit into these tighter spaces, IBM says.

But the trend away from McMansions isn't the only reason home furnishing sales are up: IBM theorizes that the current Chinese "Year of the Dragon" is turning out to be popular for weddings, hence wedding gifts -- which could also be driving sales.

It's happened before. "We went back to the last Year of the Dragon in 2000 to 2001, and saw a spike back then" in home product sales, an IBM spokeswoman tells DailyFinance. Indeed, "2001 was the third highest sales record for home furnishings over the past 22 years."


And amid the still weak housing market, shoppers are opting to spruce up their homes the same way they're accessorizing their wardrobes -- snatching up items like towels, dishes, bedding, rugs and picture frames, IBM reports.

"The concept of 'accessorizing' is moving from the apparel market to home furnishings as many homeowners during the past few years have decided to stay put rather than move," according to IBM's release.

And the economic downturn has only further fueled the home accessorizing trend.

Indeed, "people have been cooped up in their home since 2008, cutting back on vacations, restaurants and new cars, not to mention being home more because so many of them are unemployed," Warren Shoulberg, publisher and editorial director for Home Textiles Today and editorial director for Gifts & Decorative Accessories, the home furnishings trade magazines, tells DailyFinance. "I think they have finally looked around and decided that their homes, in the immortal words of Bette Davis, can best be described as, 'What a dump.'"

In turn, products for cooking and food preparation have been "especially strong sellers as more meals are eaten at home, [while] other home goods like sheets, towels, rugs, dishes, accent furniture and wall art are relatively inexpensive ways for people to freshen up their homes without the expense of buying big-ticket items like bedroom furniture, couches or new kitchen cabinets and appliances," Shoulberg says. "People are figuring if they're going to be stuck home more, it might as well look a little better."

Shoppers appear to be -- most likely, unwittingly -- taking a cue from Bebe Winkler, the decorator known for her luxurious interiors, who once said, "It's not the first thousand dollars that makes a room, it's the last hundred."

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Ron Hinkle

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April 14 2012 at 7:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply