MUSCATINE, IA - HNI Corporation (NYSE: HNI) reported that improved sales for its hearth division helped compensate for a sales slow-down for its office furniture products during the first quarter.

HNI Posts Slight Profit, Office Furniture Sales SoftenHNI posted net income of $1.4 million on net sales of $442.3 millionin the first quarter ended March 30  compared to a $0.1 million loss on net sales of $445.2 for the same period last year.

HNI's office furniture products include HON, Allsteel, Gunlocke, Paoli and Maxon. The office furniture products group experienced a sales slide of 3.4% in the first quarter as year-over-year sales declined from $378.6 million in the first quarter of 2012 to $365.8 million this year. Most of this sales slack was picked up by HNI's hearth division with first quarter sales climbing 14.8% from $66.6 million in 2012 to $76.5 million this year.

"Strong operational execution, good cost control, and investment returns drove first quarter profit improvement while we continued to invest for long-term growth," said Stan Askren, HNI chariman, president and CEO. "Sales increases in our hearth and supplies-driven businesses offset anticipated softness in our other office furniture businesses. As expected, office furniture sales declined due to project delays related to the economic uncertainty in the fourth quarter of 2012 and continued reductions in federal government spending. Continued growth in the new construction channel led the strong profit increase in our hearth business."

HNI will look to build on the $49 million profit on $2 billion sales it posted for all of 2012.

Askren said he is "encouraged by the gradual improvement in our markets" and looks for improved sales and increased profits this year.

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