Berkshire Hathaway’s 2019 furniture sales lags behind other retail holdings

OMAHA, Neb. — Berkshire Hathaway’s retailing segment posted a 2.5% increase in revenues and a 1.6% increase in pre-tax earnings last year over 2018, largely on the strength of its auto dealership business.

The furniture business, meanwhile posted flat to down sales and a decrease in profit.

Revenues for Berkshire’s aggregate retail group were $16 billion in 2019, up from $15.6 billion in 2018, driven by a 4.1% increase in Berkshire Hathaway Automotive revenues, which account for about 64% of the total. The retail group’s pre-tax earnings totaled $874 million, up from $860 million.

Home furnishings group revenues, which represent about 20% of the combined group revenues, declined 1.3% from the year before, with Berkshire noting sales were relatively flat or lower in each of its home furnishings businesses. Home furnishings group pre-tax earnings declined 14.7% from the year before, “reflecting the decline in revenues and generally higher operating expenses,” Berkshire said in its annual report.

Furniture Today refers to the home furnishings group as Berkshire Hathaway Furniture division for the Top 100. The division consists of Omaha, Neb.-based Nebraska Furniture Mart and the affiliated Homemakers Furniture in Des Moines, Iowa; Salt Lake City-based RC Willey; Houston-based Star Furniture; and East Taunton, Mass.-based Jordan’s Furniture.

Berkshire’s combined business overall posted net earnings of $29.16 billion for the quarter, up from a net loss the year before of $25.40 billion. (2018 results included, among other things, a reported $27.6 billion in investment losses due to a change in GAAP accounting principles that now require companies to include changes in unrealized gains and losses on equity securities investments as a component of gains and losses on earnings statements.)  Operating earnings for the quarter decreased to $4.42 billion from $5.72 billion.

For the full year, Berkshire’s net earnings grew to $81.42 billion from $4.02 billion the year before. Operating earnings declined to $23.97 billion from $24.78 billion. Net revenues for the full year increased 2.7% to $254.62 billion.