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84 Lumber consolidates in six markets

BY HBSDEALER Staff

84 Lumber closed nine stores today as part of a consolidation plan in six markets. The shuttered units whose operations will be moved to nearby locations are: Frederick and Seabrook, Md.; Omaha, Neb.; Covington, Ga.; Loveland, Colo.; Tampa and Sarasota, Fla.

The company closed its Sacramento, Calif., store and truss plant on March 17. Customers of that location will be serviced out of Auburn, Calif., which was expanded last year, and 84 Lumber will contract with a third party truss fabricator.

The industry’s third largest pro dealer has also closed its location in Santa Rosa, Calif., thereby exiting the market, according to today’s announcement.

“Housing starts [in Santa Rosa] have been woefully low for the past six months,” said Jeff Nobers, vp-marketing and public relations. “It’s an older, smaller store, so it really didn’t fit our model.”

Frank Cicero, executive vp-store operations, said the consolidations will “give us a stronger and more efficient presence in markets that have exhibited strong growth in the past, and that we believe will post high growth again when the housing market turns around.”

In the interim, the company has been forced to make further job cuts at its Eighty Four, Pa.-based headquarters. Last week, 28 employees were let go, 15 unfilled positions were eliminated and 20 employees have taken other positions.

In the privately held company’s most recent financial statement, released last month, 84 Lumber reported revenues of $3.1 billion for 2007, a 21 percent drop from its revenues in 2006. It reduced its head count by 175 positions at its headquarters during that time period. Approximately 850 additional employees were cut at other locations.

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Home Depot makes $30 million pledge to Habitat for Humanity

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Home Depot has announced a five-year, $30 million donation to Habitat for Humanity, part of a national green building initiative through the retailer’s Partners in Sustainable Building. The program will provide funding and resources with the aim of building 5,000 “energy-efficient and sustainable homes” by Habitat for Humanity affiliates.

The $30 million pledge includes financial, in-kind support, technical resources and training costs to “establish a foundation of green building expertise that will impact Habitat builds for years to come.” Green certification will be determined by third-party, nationally recognized groups that provide green building standards, and the funding will help Habitat affiliates secure verification in their respective regions. In addition to energy efficiency, the homes will also be rated for indoor air quality and water conservation standards.

The Home Depot Foundation’s Partners in Sustainable Building program will provide energy-efficient and sustainable building resources for approximately 17 percent of all single- and multi-family homes built by Habitat for Humanity over the next five years, according to the company.

“Our organization supports the construction of homes for families that are healthy to live in and affordable to own,” said Kelly Caffarelli, president of the Home Depot Foundation. “We are thrilled to be partnering with Habitat to create additional opportunities for thousands of families of modest means to experience the economic and health benefits of green building practices. We believe that the impact of this program will be far-reaching and will add to the long-term success of families and communities across the country.”

Green building has been the hottest topic of late in the construction industry, as highlighted at February’s International Builders’ Show, which saw the unveiling of a new green building initiative by the National Association of Home Builders.

The Home Depot/Habitat partnership will kick off with a one-year pilot program, including approximately 30 Habitat affiliates in a variety of climates and in rural and urban areas, “to best gauge the impact of the program,” the company said.

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Existing-home sales show gains in February

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Existing-home sales, including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 2.9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.03 million units in February from a pace of 4.89 million in January, according to the National Association of Realtors, a “notable gain” after several months of dropping numbers.

Sales remained 23.8 percent below the 6.60 million-unit level in February 2007.

“We’re not expecting a notable gain in existing-home sales until the second half of this year, but the improvement is another sign that the market is stabilizing,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast jumped 11.3 percent to an annual pace of 890,000, but are 26.4 percent below February 2007. In the Midwest, sales rose 2.5 percent to a level of 1.24 million, but are 19.5 percent below a year ago. In the South, sales increased 2.1 percent to an annual rate of 1.99 million, a 22 percent decline from February 2007. And in the West, sales slipped 1.1 percent to an annual rate of 920,000, 29.2 percent below a year ago.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $195,900 in February, down 8.2 percent from a year earlier when the median was $213,500.

Half of the metro areas in the United States experienced price increases, with healthy gains in markets like Oklahoma City and Trenton, N.J. In other areas, such as Sacramento, a rapid price decline has induced buyers to come into the market, and sales are now rising, Yun said.

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