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HomeLife Furniture Closing Down

July 11, 2001

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. (AP) _ HomeLife Furniture Corp., the eighth-largest U.S. furniture retailer, announced Wednesday that it is shutting down for financial reasons.

The privately held company, formerly owned by Sears, Roebuck and Co., did not issue a formal explanation for the closure. But recent financing problems had caused some furniture manufacturers to stop shipments.

HomeLife Furniture operates more than 130 stores in 26 states.

The brief statement on the company’s Web site said: ``We regret that financial circumstances have resulted in the closure of our stores. We truly appreciate the patronage you have given HomeLife Furniture in the past.″

The site also advised customers how to obtain refunds for undelivered merchandise.

Callers to HomeLife’s corporate offices in Hoffman Estates were greeted by a recording of the same statement, and company spokeswoman Katala Spearman declined further comment.

Telephone calls to several HomeLife stores rang unanswered. A HomeLife store in Manchester, N.H., was closed Wednesday and a sign on the door read ``We regret the temporary closure of the store.″

Sears, Roebuck and Co. sold the furniture unit in November 1998 to Citicorp Venture Capital of New York for $100 million after the growth it hoped for failed to materialize. Its headquarters are in Hoffman Estates, where Sears is based, and Sears retains a minority stake.

Sears spokeswoman Peggy Palter said she was unaware of any official decision by HomeLife. But she said the company asked Sears on Wednesday morning to cordon off the 14 HomeLife stores still located inside Sears department stores.

HomeLife had 2000 sales of $680 million in 2000, according to the trade magazine Furniture Today.

Retail consultant Kurt Barnard said a shutdown would come as no surprise because ``HomeLife has been going downhill for years.″ Barnard, president of Barnard’s Retail Trend Report, said its stores were too spread out and transportation and other costs made it difficult to meet its delivery targets without overrunning budget.

Asked on June 25 if HomeLife was in financial danger, chief operating officer Tim Hourigan told Dow Jones News Service that neither the company’s success nor failure was ``a foregone conclusion by any stretch.″ He said the company was in better shape financially than before it secured $65 million in new financing in late May from Sears, Fremont Investment and Loan and Citicorp Venture Capital.

Some suppliers stopped shipments in April and again last month over unpaid bills.

___

On the Net:

http://www.ehomelife.com

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