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Executives

Steve Rolls - SVP and CFO

Ralph Scozzafava - Chairman and CEO

Analysts

Brad Thomas - Keybanc Capital Markets

John Baugh - Stifel Nicolaus

Sam Bergman - Bayberry Asset Management

Chad Bolen - Raymond James

Mike Ogborne - Ogborne Capital Management

Furniture Brands International, Inc. (FBN) Q1 2012 Earnings Conference Call May 3, 2012 8:30 AM ET

Operator

Good day ladies and gentlemen and welcome t the Q1 2012 Furniture Brands Earnings Conference Call. My name is [Gruns] and will be your operator for today. At this time all participants are in listen-only mode. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder this call is being recorded for replay purposes.

I’d now like to turn the call over to Steve Rolls, Chief Financial Officer. Please proceed.

Steve Rolls

Thank you. Good morning everyone and thanks for joining us today. I want to take a moment to read the Safe Harbor statement before I go over the financial results of our first quarter. Ralph Scozzafava, our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer will then follow with the discussion of the highlights of the quarter.

I need to remind you that certain comments made during this call may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 21E of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934. Our actual results and future financial condition may differ materially from those expressed in any such forward-looking statements, as a result of many factors that maybe outside of or control. Please refer to our SEC filings including our Form 10-Qs and Form-10-Ks for a discussion of the major risks and uncertainties that may affect our business.

Forward-looking statements made today are as of the date of this call; we do not undertake any obligation to update our forward-looking statements. We do not have a copy of today’s press release and may obtain one along with copies of prior press releases and past SEC filings. I linked it through to the Investor Relations page of our website on FurnitureBrands.com.

Now onto our financial results. As reported in this morning’s press release total sales were 287.3 million for the first quarter, decrease of 3.6% from the same period last year. Gross profit for the first quarter 2012 was 71.4 million and gross margin was 24.9% as compared to 77.5 million in gross profit, and 26% gross margin in the first quarter of last year.

The year-over-year change in gross margin was primarily due to new product rollout and clearance of older inventory partially offset by higher retail margin and lower expenses resulting from prior restructuring activities.

SG&A expenses totaled 70 million for the first quarter compared to 79.6 million first quarter of last year. A decrease in first quarter SG&A was primarily due to lower expenses is all in from prior restructuring activities and lower non-working marketing spend.

SG&A for the quarter was below our previous guidance range of 73 million to 77 million as a result of timing of certain marketing and benefits costs. For the remaining quarters of 2012, we expect SG&A to track towards the lower end of this 73 to 77 million (inaudible).

On the retail side of our business, sales of the 44 Thomasville stores that we have operated for more than 15 months or even with the first quarter of 2011, following a 17% same-store sales increase in the first quarter of 2011.

Retail sales at the 64 company owned stores and showrooms were 35.5 million in the first quarter of 2012 as compared to 39 million in the first quarter of 2011. The company owned stores and show rooms numbered 65. Our retail operating loss for open stores improved to 4 million from 6.2 million loss reported in the first quarter of 2011, driven by reduced year-on-year inventory clearance activity and lower SG&A cost.

Moving on to our balance sheet. Working capital consisting of inventory plus receivables less payables resulted in a $7.7 million use of cash during the quarter. March was our strongest sales month of the quarter, driving a large increase in receivables.

Cash at quarter end totaled 15.4 million and long-term debt was 77 million. We can borrow an additional 28.7 million above our $35 million threshold into our ABL at the quarter end, resulting in total liquidity of 44.1 million.

Capital expenditures for the quarter came in at $1.4 million. For the full-year of 2012, we continue to expect to generate positive free cash flow before our capital expenditures to be toward the lower end of our 16 to $18 million guidance range. Depreciation to be also towards the lower end of our 22 to $24 million guidance range and some contributions to be $14.5 million. We contributed $2.5 million to our pension plan in the first quarter of 2012; we will contribute $12 million of pension plan in the remaining three quarters of 2012.

I’ll now turn the call over to Ralph to provide more commentary on our results.

Ralph Scozzafava

Thanks Steve and good morning everybody. We reported sales of 287.3 million for the first quarter down 3.6% over the prior year, much like prior quarters, we saw above average performance on our higher end brands. And upholstery once again drove stronger volume than our Casegoods business.

I will discuss the highlights of particular brands in a few moments, but want to say that while we have much work to do to increase our revenues; we are pleased with our improved profitability. We spent considerable time in each earnings call over the past year detailing our cost and efficiency initiatives and their associated benefits. The improvement in our operating profit this quarter to 1.4 million was driven by the impact of these initiatives.

Our Mexico and Indonesia plants are both ramping up very nicely with production on-track to deliver the enhanced profitability sometime in the second half of this year. So, we remain on-track to generate the expected 10 to 12 million in annual run rate pretax savings for both of these projects in 2014.

One of the associated benefits with this lower cost capacity, it has enabled us to value engineer some of our product offerings to hit some lower opening price points of retail and do it in an acceptable margin. We have been very pleased with the customer reaction to this new product.

Moving on to our brands, we saw our same-store sales at Thomasville finish the quarter even with our 2011 first quarter which was up 17% versus the first quarter of 2010. In March, we had our first mailing to consumers of our Thomasville catalogue and it exceeded our expectations. We were able to communicate to our consumers the Thomasville style and design story with a high quality marketing piece delivered directly to their homes. The catalogue was also complemented by our traditional TV and online marketing support enabling us to deliver a cohesive message across different marketing mediums to our customers. We saw strong improvement in our Thomasville written business in March in response to our enhanced efforts and the in-store effectiveness of our design associates at retail.

At Lane, we are pleased with the traction that our entry level price point product is getting in the marketplace. The product style and value did represents is resonating with our dealers and making us more competitive on retail floors. The increase usage of our Mexico cut-and-sew facility is enabling us to be more competitive in the new product area at Lane and at Broyhill.

At the recent higher brand market, we introduced a number of new products across our wide range of styles from cotemporary to very traditional, and we have launched these styles at a range of price points. We have good traffic in our showrooms and we look to see a number of these new product introduction shipping over the next two or three months.

At Broyhill, we are excited to launch our mixed direct container shipping option to our dealers in late 2011. As we told you on a prior call, this program allows our dealers to order and ship a wider variety of Broyhill Casegoods product collections on a single container load and have it shipped directly to them from our mixing center in Asia, thereby creating cost savings for them and for us and giving a large number of dealers the ability to be more competitive with their retail pricing on our products.

This program begins shipping in the second quarter; in fact we shipped our first container two weeks ago. With regard to upholstery the continued updating of our Broyhill product offerings continue to include newer updated traditional and contemporary product, that have seen good traction as Broyhill upholstery is among our strongest performing product lines on the market today.

As many of you who follow us know we have been working hard to drive lean thinking into our culture, to eliminate a necessary waste, to leverage our resources and ultimately make us a better company. We continue to see those efforts contribute to our product value proposition also helped in the gross profit area and reducing our SG&A expenses. The ability and commitment to find better and more competitive waste to run our business will continue and this will now become an engrained element to our culture across our company.

We also continue to improve in the planning and replenishment areas as evidenced by our improved inventory position on a year-over-year and also sequential basis. We will continue to look for ways to be more disciplined in this area as we move throughout the balance of this year.

So, in summary we are pleased to deliver a significant improvement in operating profits in the first quarter. The cost and efficiency initiatives put in place are yielding the desired results. On the sales front, we still have lots of work to do and our focus remains on developing strong relevant product and values that resonate with our customers and our dealers, working hard to provide the highest level of service to our dealers and customers and improving our performance in our company owned stores. We are going to do all of this while staying disciplined and efficient and the cost and capital allocation areas and in order to continue to improve our profitability and deliver positive free cash flow.

Well, that concludes our prepared remarks, I want to now hand this back to the operator so we can start our Q&A session.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from Brad Thomas from Keybanc. Please go ahead.

Brad Thomas - Keybanc Capital Markets

I wanted to just follow-up on some of the commentary around sales, it's clear that you guys have a lot in works right now, having seen the products in high point, it looks like you have good products at good price points. So, as we think about the benefit that you get from new price points in Lane and Broyhill and consolidating containers. Is it reasonable to think that we would see positive sales growth this year or are there other things that are bigger headwinds that may ramped up from happening in the coming quarters.

Ralph Scozzafava

Brad it's the number one initiative that we have here is to grow top line, so that’s the key area for this company. I was glad that you were able to get into the showrooms and see product like, because we know it's a product driven business. And if we can deliver the right styles at the right values and get them floored appropriately at retail, we are going to have a very good chance to drive top line. I think the initiatives that we have got in place are all designed to drive top line growth and I think what you saw particularly at Lane and Broyhill we were hitting strong price points, were volume tends to happen where we can have motion sofas at 699 or 799 the sub 399 on good reclining product, we think that we have the ability to really drive velocity when we get those products in distribution. So, a lot of the work that we have done this quarter and we will continue to do in Q2 and Q3 is to work with our dealers to transfer our new product in and take some old product out. And that’s a little bit of what you saw in the gross margin this quarter frankly is us beginning to turn those floors over. When we get that product on the floor, we feel confident that we are going to be able to address our top line opportunities.

Brad Thomas - Keybanc Capital Markets

And follow-up on that, Ralph, so coming away from high point having talk to existing customers and getting new orders, do you have enough clarity to believe that the sales will be positive or is it still too early to tell us the magnitude of these initiatives, it's going to be great enough to drive positive top line.

Ralph Scozzafava

Yes, I think overtime, it's going to be great enough to drive positive top line. I can’t pinpoint exactly when the floors will turn and we will start to get velocity at retail, but that’s the design we expect that to happen and I think it's a matter of when and how quickly we get it to happen.

Brad Thomas - Keybanc Capital Markets

Okay, great. And then just to follow-up on expenses, Steve I believe you said that you expected SG&A to track at the lower end of that range that you gave us last quarter. I think you just give us an update on what it is that will help you to get to that low end of the range, that would be very helpful.

Steve Rolls

It's probably really a lot of things Brad, and we are controlling cost as we always have. So, we always look for ways to save some money, it could be that our benefit cost will be lower in the form of healthcare cost as we move forward. We did some favorability in the first quarter there. So, it's a pretty broad spectrum of things.

Brad Thomas - Keybanc Capital Markets

Okay. And then just one last question on the gross margin. Is it possible to quantify how much of a drag there was from some of the new product introduction and clearance activity that you had that might be isolated to this quarter, or is that not something worth calling out here?

Steve Rolls

No I think it is Brad, I think the vast majority of it is us trying to move old product through and replace it with new product. I think we saw the biggest run of it in Q1. I think we will see a little bit more of it in Q2 as well as we bring new product to retail and flush older product out. That said I don’t expect a tremendous impact I think you saw about how large it's going to be.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from John Baugh from Stifel Nicolaus. Please go ahead.

John Baugh - Stifel Nicolaus

I wonder if you could give us examples of what non-working marketing spend is. And then could you comment in dollars or percentage what ad spends was year-over-year in the first quarter. And then maybe thoughts around how calendar ’12 ad spends may stack up against calendar ’11.

Ralph Scozzafava

Sure, let me answer it, I kind of go in reverse order John, I think when you are going to see working media impressions to the consumer be probably dead on with what we did year ago. There may be a slight increase depending on how we track through the year. Non-working is and those are simple things like research, like production, those are costs that agency fees, that you want to have at the lowest level that you can’t but also deliver high quality vehicles into the marketplace. And I just think we are getting better at it, we built more of an inventory if you like of different pieces that we can put out in front of the consumer and we don’t need to continue to create lots and lots of new ads for that matter we got the ability to drop in new images and things. So, we have been a little bit more thoughtful around being able to take work that we have created and then repurpose it. And so that now you are seeing the reduction in the cost of that.

John Baugh - Stifel Nicolaus

So, what wee the numbers in the first quarter and then again what are the number look for the year in terms of ad spend?

Ralph Scozzafava

Yes, so I think in front of the consumers the numbers are about flat and these are working dollars and then going forward we try not to talk too much around what we are going to do, but we are going to be more than flat. So, we are going to be above that, and we are not going to talk about how much.

John Baugh - Stifel Nicolaus

Okay. It strikes me as though in this environment we need to increase ad spend, if the number one goal is to drive sales, we have the increased marketing spend in this environment. So, again it sounds like going forward you are going to do that, but I can’t seem to get a feel for how much benefit there was year-over-year in the first quarter from lower marketing spend and how that’s going to look as ’12 plays out versus ’11. Do we still get leverage for the year or do we increase depressions in front of the consumer offset the non-working stuff that will repeat. How does that look?

Ralph Scozzafava

It looks just like what said, it will offset and I’m going to tell you as far as brand support, it's a lot bigger than just the advertising piece. Most important thing that we can do here and that we have been doing is aggressively ramping up new product introduction. So, when you see the gross margin effect that we had in the first quarter because we were placing out old product with large amounts of new of what we believe more exciting better valued product that is a much larger financial commitment than any that we can talk about in the advertising area. Even in our showrooms John you saw lot of new product introductions, we are excited about them and that’s where a lot of dollars get spend.

John Baugh - Stifel Nicolaus

And is there a way to quantify because this is a product driven industry and (inaudible) years Las Vegas we are constantly brining out new product. Is there a way to quantify how this new product launch compares to a year ago or typical in terms of percentage of the product line you are changing out and the year-over-year change.

Ralph Scozzafava

I think different brands there is a different answer to that. I think what’s happening at Lane and Broyhill in particular is far more aggressive and the numbers are a lot larger in terms of percentage of our portfolio that we are changing out and upgrading then across anywhere else in our company. So, those are the two that I’d say have been the most aggressive and I think a close third would be probably Drexel Heritage.

John Baugh - Stifel Nicolaus

Okay. And then lastly on the gross margin, assuming the plants in Mexico and Indonesia are up and running in the lower price point products you are introducing are in the marketplace. How does that affect the gross margin percentage and I don’t know what the starting base is, I don’t know if it's 26% or 25 or what? How do you see that playing out?

Ralph Scozzafava

I think what’s going to happen, Mexico is tracking extremely well, I think as we get into the probably the third quarter of this year, we will see some lift definitely by the fourth quarter. And I think Indonesia will be the same thing. So, you are going to see a little bit in the back half of the year and then you are going to see a lot more of it accelerate as we get into Q1 and the rest of 2013. So, those facilities are on-track and you know you have been around long enough. When you are ramping the factory there are lot of things you have to do to get it right. And we have executed it, (inaudible) credit they have executed extremely well. So, now we just have to get ourselves through into Q3, Q4 and into next year and we will reap the benefit.

What I like now frankly is what we have been able to do with our price points. If you were in the Thomasville showroom you saw couple of new groups made in our Indonesia facility much better value propositions at retail and I think for Lane and Broyhill on upholstery. The sole reason we were able to get to these price points is really the ability to cut-in-sew in Mexico and that’s enabled our ability to put some competitive product in the market. So, you will see all of that in the back half of this year and then you will see it much more next year.

John Baugh - Stifel Nicolaus

And then last question, Ralph, you made a comment about your reference price point selling better than your lower. And I assume try to drive volume in the lower end with these lower price point. Any way to give us a feel, obviously we’d love a number, but like we are up 5% in our upper end product, but we were down like mid-single-digit in our lower end. Any kind of feel for the bifurcation of performance within all your brands and price points.

Ralph Scozzafava

Yes, the numbers that you gave aren’t the numbers but I can tell you directionally you are right, the upper end brands are up, and the brands that compete at the more aggressive price points are tracking behind. And that’s really the portfolio we used the word bifurcation, that’s it. The upper end consumers in the market are route to market through the design trade is very clear and fair. And we are able to leverage that. And of course we battle on the floor every day, in the mass channels if you like than the traditional furniture dealers up for floor space and floor sell through and all of those things that you know about.

Operator

Thank you. (Operator Instructions) Our next question comes from Sam Bergman from Bayberry Asset Management.

Sam Bergman - Bayberry Asset Management

Couple of questions. What was the biggest reason that Thomasville stores were flat for the quarter versus last year?

Ralph Scozzafava

I think the biggest reason is we probably managed the little bit more for margin with Thomasville this quarter. We saw the profitability increased, the margin increased. I think there is really, there is a tight rope that you walk between driving top line and making sure you are trying to get to a profitable place. And I think we come up against a plus 17 comp. all of that said, we are not pleased with that, we need to grow our same-store sales. We put the catalogue in place. It ran in March, we got good orders in March, we want to ship those this quarter. But we got a lot of work to do to make Thomasville better and we got a lot of plans in place.

Sam Bergman - Bayberry Asset Management

What are your plans to either open stores or closed stores that are non-performing up to corporate standards?

Ralph Scozzafava

Yes, I think from a closure point of view we are pretty close to where we are going to be. And from now on I think you will see maybe more relocations as leases go up or come due and we move to better real estate. As far as new store, we had given guidance of potentially 2 to 5 new locations this year. I think we are going to be at or near the lower end of that. We want to make sure that this model is performing the way we wanted to. And that we got to make sure we have great locations, and if we can’t get the right location at the right price, we will consider it, if the numbers were, but I think sitting where we sit today in May, we haven’t opened any, we have got a couple of sights we are looking at. I don’t hold out a lot of promise for either one of them. So, I think if we do something it will be the smaller end of the range probably later in the year if we do it at all.

Sam Bergman - Bayberry Asset Management

And can you talk about the Mexico manufacturing plant and the Indonesian plant. Has Mexico contributed (inaudible) margins this quarter or we still little bit away from that?

Ralph Scozzafava

We are little bit away on both, I think Mexico is closer, I think Mexico will cross the profitability line. I know they will before Indonesia. So, I think both of those will ramp up and they are on-track for the most part and Mexico probably little bit ahead. And I think by the end of the year we will start to search engines the positive numbers that we have been promising.

Sam Bergman - Bayberry Asset Management

On the last conference call, I believe mentioned some real estate that is for sale. Has anything has been consummated on anything at this point.

Ralph Scozzafava

We have got a couple of those properties that are actually being leased at this point in time. One of them is a lease with a buy option that doesn’t take place for a while a couple of year if that gets exercised. I’d tell you that we are trying to be smart about how we sell them, when we sell them for how much. So, we certainly haven’t gone into any kind of (inaudible) mode are any of that with their listed, we think their decent properties bidding to price and we need the right buyer.

Sam Bergman - Bayberry Asset Management

And last question, there hasn’t been any inside buying for quite a while, I mean the stock is trading at $1.65, 40 million on the book value. I mean do you feel there will be some inside buying going forward to show align with the shareholders?

Ralph Scozzafava

That’s a great question. It's unfortunate I can’t answer it, I bought lot of shares in the past, I think a lot of guys who follow us know, I might be the number one or two individual shareholder. I think we had pretty good activity across our management team last year. We will have to wait and see what the team does in 2012. Everyone of our executives here and our board members has a stock ownership threshold.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Chad Bolen from Raymond James. Please go ahead.

Chad Bolen - Raymond James

Steve I think in your comments you said that the total availability on the ABL was about 63.7 million or at least based on what you told me. I think that’s what the number is. If I have done the math right, it looks like the release percentage in terms of which inventory and receivables are eligible to contribute to the borrowing base came down to around 44% this quarter versus 48 last quarter, 49 in the prior year. Is there any kind of change or anything we should be aware of in terms of the quality of the working capital or how that calculation is being done. Anything you can share with us there?

Steve Rolls

It changes every month as inventories and receivables go up or down, and of course there are some tractions from those levels. But I’d say the quality is probably getting better as appose to getting worse, because certainly as you heard we did sell some discounted inventory during the quarter and those would be typically older pieces of our collection. So, that helps the quality. And then our receivables certainly moved up a lot in March and that’s not the number that we have talked about, because that’s the February number. March number doesn’t come out until the end of April and it will be higher.

Chad Bolen - Raymond James

The March number for total availability?

Steve Rolls

Yes, so in other words, you have to measure what your receivables and inventories were at month end and then you have to go through all of the calculations. So, physically at the end of the quarter, our availability was based on February’s results. The March results would affect our borrowing capability now. And it swings with inventory receivables and obviously our inventories receivables have gone up.

Chad Bolen - Raymond James

So, is the 63.7 million total availability that’s the most correct number that we have got, when will the next update be?

Steve Rolls

At the end of the second quarter.

Chad Bolen - Raymond James

And we will see that in the Q I presume?

Steve Rolls

At the end of the second quarter, yes.

Chad Bolen - Raymond James

And you talked about with regard to the SG&A, what did you accrue for incentive comp in the quarter or at least relative to sort of the 5 million at quarter above that you have talked about before?

Steve Rolls

Yes, it was a little less than 5.

Ralph Scozzafava

It's about 4.5 Chad, we accrued for the full amount so that 70 million SG&A number you saw is what we would call fully allocated with everything in it.

Steve Rolls

And part of it depends on what stock prices are and things like that.

Chad Bolen - Raymond James

And then you talked about better sales trends as the quarter progressed. Could you help us out at all, kind of quantify what you saw from month-to-month with March up year-over-year, was it less negative, and any commentary on what you have seen in April.

Ralph Scozzafava

March was up year-over-year, it was the best month of the quarter. So, lot of things that we did culminated with strong shipments in March. And we are sitting here one month into Q2, we typically don’t comment in quarter about how we are performing. I will tell you that we got a lot of initiatives in marketplace and we just left high point market week and half ago. And I can tell you our guys are in the field, hitting the ground running as of last Thursday, Friday when many of them got back, and now it's a matter of delivering all of the commitments that we got from our dealers in market and turning those into purchase orders.

Chad Bolen - Raymond James

Okay. As I think about revenue for next quarter, I mean typically normal seasonality would put 2Q as a step down from where you were in Q1, what business picking up through the quarter. And it sound like there as good written business for Thomasville in March. Is there any reason to think that 2Q might be better than Q1 or maybe not as big of a normal seasonal decline any color you can give us there.

Ralph Scozzafava

Chad, the historical trends have been true here through the years and Q1 is typically our biggest quarter. Q2 is usually less than that. I don’t see anything, this is going to make a dramatic difference, but we will have to see how the rest of the quarter flow. And then of course we got the back half of the year which for us had some soft numbers and we are excited about lapping first numbers and beating them, but we got work to do.

Chad Bolen - Raymond James

Obviously, we have heard a lot about firm cost increases in recent months, can you just give us a sense of what you are seeing in terms of raw material and input cost and how you expect that to play out through the year?

Ralph Scozzafava

I think adding things like you mentioned foam, foam is one of those commodities that’s actually come down year-on-year, but up a little since fourth quarter. So, it tends to kind of fluctuate, but by and large if you want to compare many of our materials Q1 2011 to Q1 2012. Most of those costs are flat to slightly down, with the exception of things like energy and fuel. And frankly up a little from Q4, so you are seeing these things kind of move around a little bit, but not near the inflation that we saw last year which was I think unprecedented for quite a while. We planned a number of productivity initiatives to offset any raw material increases we might face. So, that’s built into our budget, but we will have to get through the year and see what happens.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Trevor Hamilton from Ogborne Capital. Please go ahead.

Mike Ogborne - Ogborne Capital Management

It's Mike Ogborne, I wanted to go back to the last question, question about March and seasonality. What you saw in March typical to first quarter. Is your business gaining momentum that much in March. I know you are trying to be conservative and it's been a long recession. This industry, but can you give us some color on March and why, I want to go into little bit more detail in March, have you seen that carry over into April. What’s going on there?

Ralph Scozzafava

I think a lot promotions and events that retailers were on including our sales kind of happen in January and February. And President’s Day and events around the holidays and I think you search engines those orders, you get the orders in, you get them into your system and you ship a lot of them in March. I think the next big event that we are going to see is going to be (inaudible) large promotional time for the industry for our business and we will expect to see order rates increase in the month of May and deliver out June. That’s been pretty much what we have been seeing.

Operator

Thank you. I’d now like to turn back over to Ralph for closing remarks.

Ralph Scozzafava

Well, I just want to thank everyone for being with us today. I appreciate your interest in our company. We are always happy to answer questions and take any good ideas. So, if there is anything else that we can get to on the call today, please feel free to call us here and we look forward to seeing and hearing from everyone on our next earnings call. Take care everyone.

Operator

Thank you for your participation in today’s conference. This concludes the presentation you may now disconnect. Have a good day.

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