Lowe's quarterly earnings down 21 percent from 2008

Home improvement sales at Lowe's were down from last year.
Home improvement sales at Lowe's were down from last year.
In what could be a bad sign for the home construction and construction equipment industries, home-improvement retailer Lowe's Companies reported a 21.6 percent decline in earnings versus the same period a year ago.

Sales for the quarter declined 1.5 percent to $11.8 billion, down from $12.0 billion in the first quarter of 2008. Comparable store sales for the first quarter declined 6.6 percent, the company said today.

Robert A. Niblock, Lowe's chairman and CEO, said the recession and the pressures on homeowners kept sales of big-ticket items down.

"In recent weeks we have seen consumer confidence improve, housing turnover show signs of a bottom in certain markets and home prices slow their decline," Niblock said.

Niblock called these indicators positive signs for the stabilization and ultimate recovery of home improvement industry sales. But since many of these variables remain at or near historic lows, the company will "continue to plan conservatively and manage expenses appropriately," he said.

During the quarter, Lowe's opened 21 new stores. As of May 1, Lowe's operated 1,670 stores in the United States and Canada representing 188.8 million square feet of retail selling space, a 7 percent increase over last year.