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Ace applies its first coat of Valspar

BY Ken Clark

NEW ORLEANS — The recent marriage of Valspar and Ace Hardware Corp. was by far the most colorful product story at Ace’s Spring Convention and Exhibits held here.

Not only were dealers eager to see Ace’s paint department vision of the future, they were hungry for details on the incentives in place to retrofit their stores.

One retailer suggested that the Valspar topic boosted attendance at the show. Others on the floor ran the gamut from dealers who embrace the change enthusiastically, to those who want to stay with their existing brands, notably Benjamin Moore.

Valspar and Ace employees were busy answering questions, showing colors and generally promoting the new program, which is expected to deploy in October. The vision includes a pair of endcaps and 8-ft. color displays featuring Clark & Kensington on one side and Valspar on the other. In between rests a counter, mixing equipment and an overhead "Color comes home" message.

They also spread the word of Clark & Kensington’s No. 1 ranking in the recent Consumer Reports article on interior paint.

"Clark & Kensington coming out No. 1 in Consumer Reports — that was huge," said Drew Conant, of Lakeland Ace Hardware in Pinckney, Mich.

Still, he wasn’t entirely ready to take the plunge with the new Valspar program. "We’re a smaller store, so bringing in all of that — I don’t know yet," Conant said.

Michael Chulyak, the owner of Ace Hardware in Big Timber, Mont., who was an early adopter of Ace’s Clark & Kensington brand, said the store was gearing up for Valspar. "I think it’s a good thing," he said. "We were Coast to Coast a few years ago, so we know the Valspar brand."

With the Valspar alliance, as Valspar becomes the manufacturer of Ace paints, margins will automatically increase 10% on store sales. Other incentives include 18 months to sell the paint before they pay for it, and free store resets that include tinters, racks, decor and signage. On top of that, there’s national marketing in the works, including plans for a paint grand opening event that Ace VP paint John Surane said will be "our biggest national event ever."

Dale Miller, of Miller Supply Ace Hardware in Northampton, Pa., is a longtime Benjamin Moore dealer, a subset of Ace dealers most likely to resist making a swap for Valspar.

"It’s a tough decision," he said. "The incentives make it pretty attractive. Plus, down the road it will be a problem [if we don’t have Valspar], because the advertising and marketing will be geared toward Valspar."

Ace says that with Valspar it will have a national brand partner with all of the national marketing support that comes with it. It will also allow stores to operate with a single tint machine.

"We as a team recognize that there are a thousand scenarios out there in your paint department," said John Surane, speaking at the convention’s general session. "We’re ready to work with you on that."

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Building a better bulb, the Kickstarter way

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Backed with money from Kickstarter, the online funding platform, the creative minds behind a new brand of bulb have set out to change how the world views the light bulb.

The new energy-efficient LED wonder, called LIFX, is a Wi-Fi-enabled, multicolor bulb that the consumer controls with a smartphone.

"The light bulb hasn’t changed much in over 125 years, and the smart bulb revolution is just beginning. It’s an incredibly exciting time to give people a clean energy alternative and help make their homes smarter," said founder and CEO Phil Bosua.

Here’s what’s so special about it:

  • Controls the lights at home using a smartphone;
  • Adjusts brightness, color, individual bulbs, rooms or the entire house;
  • Installs simply by swapping out the old bulb and screwing LIFX in;
  • Radiates more than 16 million colors;
  • Allows homeowners to wake up naturally by automatically increasing the light in the morning and fall asleep at night by slowly dimming the lights;
  • Turns on automatically when the homeowner arrives home and switches off when he leaves; and
  • Creates mood lighting to match the beat of a music system.

The bulb is rated for a brightness exceeding 900 lumens, which is approximately equivalent to a traditional 75-watt incandescent bulb. It works on the iPhone and Android.

As a Kickstarter project, LIFX raised $1.3 million in six days.

The bulb will retail for $79 online and through its retail partners, which will be announced soon, the company said.

STAT OF THE MONTH

58% Percentage of homeowners who report that the economy is having minimal effect on their plans for remodeling. The figure is up from a low of just 33% during the depths of the recession.

Source: RemodelOrMove.com, Spring 2013 U.S. Remodeling Sentiment Report

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In D.C. court, a victory for hearth and home

BY HBSDEALER Staff

An estimated two-thirds of the 6 million or so gas fireplaces in the U.S. are purely decorative.

And thanks to a recent court order, these decorative fireplaces will not have to abide by Department of Energy regulations on energy efficiency — averting big losses for manufacturers. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals ruled in favor of an appeal filed by the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA) challenging the DOE’s recent actions to regulate decorative hearth products.

The victory for the hearth products industry, according to the NPGA, culminates a nearly two-year battle of the propane and hearth product industries with the DOE on the agency’s ruling of vented gas hearth products.

"If left unchallenged, the effect of the DOE rules would have eliminated entire product lines of decorative gas fireplaces and decorative gas log sets that would no longer be available to home builders or homeowners," said Rick Roldan, president and CEO of NPGA. "Additionally, the rules unfairly targeted the small businesses comprising the propane industry and would have resulted in a more than $20 million loss for our industry."

The Court also rejected the DOE’s notion that these products could be regulated by establishing exclusion criteria, including a ban on standing pilot lights. This equated to imposing a design standard on the industry, and the court ruled that the DOE does not have the statutory authority to do so in this circumstance.

The decision strikes down regulatory requirements imposed by the two DOE Final Rules affecting vented gas fireplaces, and gas log sets (75 Fed. Reg. 20112 and 76 Fed. Reg. 71836).

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