December 11, 2014

“Naught without labor.” That was one of the key super-secret-ritual themes of my cloak-and-dagger college fraternity (from which I’ll probably be expelled now that I revealed it). And it’s also one of the major themes of the year that was 2014.

November 6, 2014

Lowe’s announced that it was launching customer service robots at an Orchard Supply Hardware location, playing right into Oliver’s hands with an easily mocked automaton drone that makes Siri sound like a Scarlett Johansson voiceover.

October 20, 2014

DENVER — Some 4,000 people filed into the Bellco Theatre in Denver to hear the latest on True Value’s much-anticipated unveiling of its strategic plan.

As we settled into our seats, a stringed instrument quartet pounded out the heart-throbbing chords of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir. About two hours later, president and CEO John Hartmann was driving across the stage on a dirt bike. An uninvited fire alarm interfered with his closing remarks, but the point was made: engagement, growth, efficiency — three pillars of a new True Value.

September 23, 2014

Much has been made over the rise of the female home improvement customer, which continues to be a central fixation of hardware store remodels and even a top entry in HCN’s own “trends to watch out for” at this year’s National Hardware Show.

The name of the game is bigger, brighter aisles, easily navigable formats, appealing displays, home and garden sections – women are visual customers, the conventional wisdom seems to go, and when shopping is pleasurable, everyone wins (and buys more).

September 4, 2014

When I look around the country, I’m struck by how similar the home improvement/LBM stores are in appearance and experience.

September 3, 2014

Beginning in Alabama and sparkling up the alphabet all the way to Wyoming, the HCN Hardware Store All-Star class of 2014 — “50 stores in 50 states” — are laid out in our special report.

July 31, 2014

What Silicon Valley company is the reigning “Business of the Year,” as determined by the Campbell, California, Chamber of Commerce?

June 6, 2014

West Chester, Pennsylvania-based PrimePay has been as the payroll and tax services provider for the Home Depot Pro Xtra Loyalty Program.

June 4, 2014

Following the gathering of “open carry” gun enthusiasts at a Texas Home Depot, most HCN readers indicated they would have no problem with a similar event at their locations.

May 29, 2014

Is the NRF trying to make us believe even though a product comes in from China, it's really to be considered a U.S.-made product because it has 'some' U.S. content?  That's stretching the truth.

May 1, 2014

At trade shows, at industry events or even over the phone, I like to promise retailers two things.

March 24, 2014

Like most Americans, the editorial staff of HCN has been watching a lot of basketball lately. It’s all part of the national tradition known as March Madness, the 64-team single-elimination tournament designed to break your heart and bust your bracket.

January 31, 2014

First rule: plan ahead. Does your approach to buying markets and trade shows jibe with our readers’ approach?

January 29, 2014

Sales are up. Is it time to expand? The answer is not as easy as you think. Here are some points to consider on some of the most common ways to expand:

Expanding product lines/service offerings

January 29, 2014

You meet some interesting people in the home improvement industry. Here’s another one: Jared Littmann, the 41-year-old youth sports coach; lawyer; Annapolis, Md., assemblyman; owner of K&B True Value in Annapolis; and — most recently — True Value board member.

Littmann spoke to HCN just before the K&B True Value Hardware Art Show (see it at opened its doors.

December 12, 2013

The American Hardware Manufacturers Association (AHMA) surveyed members on two hot topic questions. 

As sales of existing-homes fell in October for the second consecutive month, the AHMA asked: “Is a strong housing market important to the success of your business?”

Ninety percent responded “Yes,” and 10% responded “No.”

December 10, 2013

Why is it taking so long for the Commerce Department to estimate housing starts?

Here we are in December, and the latest available stats date all the way back to August, when the Bureau’s estimate for total housing starts came in at a disappointing seasonally adjusted annual rate of 883,000.

September 23, 2013

As summer comes to a close, our industry welcomes good news and confronts bad news. The good: Companies are fighting their way out of the recession through ingenuity, superior product development and clever marketing strategies. The bad: Skilled talent is in short supply. In fact, the old adage “finding good help is hard these days” has never been truer than it is today. As companies fight to emerge from the recession and begin the long process of hiring top talent, they are discovering a shortage of skilled (and experienced) individuals.

September 10, 2013

Two-step distribution is riding a housing recovery for both LBM and hardware.

Sales gains and growth were the major themes of the HCN Top 300 Retailer and Top 200 Pro Dealer Scoreboards released earlier this year.

So it’s only logical that the HCN Top 100 Distributor Scoreboard shares in that growth, fueled by rising prices on certain products and a long awaited — though staggering and somewhat unreliable — housing market recovery.

September 9, 2013

As the living-wage bill makes the rounds in Washington, D.C., HCN readers embrace a right-to-work attitude.

The mayor of Washington, D.C., is considering a proposal that hike the miminum wage in the district for big retailers. 

The plan calls for a $12.50 minimum wage – well above the current $8.25 – for employees of companies with $1 billion or more in sales and stores measuring at least 75,000 square feet. 

September 6, 2013

The mayor of Washington, D.C., is considering a proposal that hike the miminum wage in the district for big retailers. 

The plan calls for a $12.50 minimum wage – well above the current $8.25 – for employees of companies with $1 billion or more in sales and stores measuring at least 75,000 square feet. 

Here’s how HCN readers weighed in:

June 27, 2013

The article "Home Depot drops Paula Deen" generated several reader comments.

June 19, 2013

Last month Upfront defended the Marketplace Fairness Act.

Some of you sent kind notes indicating appreciation for remarks in support of a level tax-playing field for online and brick-and-mortar retailers. In doing so, you revealed your fair-minded nature.

Not everyone agreed with every bullet point, however.

"I feel your Upfront piece in the May 2013 issue dismissed the complex issue with a toss-off answer," wrote one reader.

June 3, 2013

Here's the situation when I was on the ladder.

• The ground under the garage gutter sloped hard from right to left.

• Plants prevented ideal positioning of the wobbly painter's ladder.

• And I was already tired from cleaning the gutters in the front of the house.

All the conditions were present for a classic weekend DIY accident.