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    HIGH POINT, NC – April 18, 2002 -- In the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, Americans are spending more time at home with their families. That has resulted in a surge in consumer spending for new home furnishings and accessories, according to Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group.

    “Once consumers began spending more time at home, they looked around and decided they needed to spend their disposable income on upgrading their living space, which has translated into a dramatic turnaround for those retailers specializing in home-based products,” Beemer said in the May issue of Chain Store Age Executive Magazine.

    “Specialty stores offering home products have rebounded strongly in recent months, with furniture, bed and bath, and home accessories leading the way,” Beemer added.

    Beemer’s findings are based on America’s Research Group’s Consumer Mind Reader ™ survey, a bi-monthly telephone survey of 1,000 consumers nationwide.

    Earlier this year the Consumer Mind Reader showed average spending in furniture stores dipped 8.5 percent when compared with 2001 levels. But the latest survey showed consumers spending 19.6 percent more than last year, which Beemer described as an “incredible swing.”

    Home accessories stores showed a 9.5 percent jump in consumer spending compared with last year, while bed and bath stores showed 22.5 percent growth.

    “This is a major increase for home products retailers who struggled throughout 2001 just to match their 2000 sales levels,” Beemer said.

    In addition to the fact that Americans are now spending more time at home, Beemer said home product retailers have also benefited from low interest rates which continue to drive new home sales. He also noted that 2001 saw the largest number of homes refinanced on record, leaving many Americans with more money to spend because of reduced mortgage payments.

    The Consumer Mind Reader findings were reinforced by America’s Research Group’s Furniture Buying Index, a monthly tracking survey of consumers reporting a specific furniture item they intend to buy. The Furniture Buying Index for April stands at 78 percent, up 17 percent from October, 2001.

    It’s too early to tell whether the surge in spending on the home is simply a release of pent-up demand or the start of a new trend toward more money going into the home on a continuing basis but either way, Beemer said, “it’s good news for some retailers badly in need of a shot in the arm.”

    With four million consumer interviews since its founding in 1979, America’s Research Group follows the nation’s shopping habits more than any other research firm in the country. ARG is also the leading research firm in the home furnishings industry, representing Sealy Mattress Company and Furniture Brands Intrenational, comprised of Broyhill, Thomasville, Lane and other industry leaders.

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