Home Not Too Sweet for Linens ‘n Things

The disclosure that the Linens ‘n Things home products chain is looking for strategic alternatives is the latest sign of trouble in the home-related retail sector. Yesterday the 589-store chain said in a statement that it has asked the investment banking firm Financo Inc. to evaluate strategies. The move indicates that the chain has staved off an imminent bankruptcy filing that was widely rumored last week. But the news strongly suggests that Linens ‘n Things’ management is considering putting the struggling chain up for sale. As such, the firm joins a growing roster of retailers hit hard by slowing consumer spending and other economic woes. The Wickes furniture chain, the Bombay Co., and Levitz have all gone out of business in recent months. And many market leaders, such as Home Depot, are pulling back on their expansion plans. The outlook for home-related retail, in particular, is dismal for the rest of the year. According to projections by the International Council of Shopping Centers, spending on furniture and other home furnishings will slip 1.5 percent this year after growing 8.3 percent only two years ago. Despite the continuing parade of discouraging news about retail, some retail real-estate executives warn against tarring the entire sector with the same brush. “There is still growth,” Webber Hudson, executive vice president for Related Urban Development, told CPN recently. “We’re not in a depression, and there’s not going to be a depression.”