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At Ace convention, an international flavor

BY Bill Addison

ORLANDO, FLA. —With multiple initiatives in play—including a plan to create a subsidiary to run its international division—Ace Hardware Corp. posted declines in sales and earnings for the third quarter of 2010.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based co-op said the strongest selling categories were tools, plumbing, housewares, and lawn and garden.

Ace Hardware Corp. reported total revenues of $824.9 million for the third quarter of 2010, a decline of 0.9% from $832.6 million in 2009. Net income for the co-op was $13.9 million, a decline of 48%, compared with $26.7 million in the third quarter of 2009.

“While our year-to-date results are down significantly as compared with last year, most of which was planned, we are optimistic about our ability to meet our full-year plan,” said Ray Griffith, Ace president and CEO. “We remain encouraged by our various retail initiatives including Craftsman and Benjamin Moore, which will provide our retailers opportunities to grow their businesses. In addition, we are excited about our recent announcement to restructure our international division, as we believe there are tremendous opportunities to enhance and grow the Ace brand outside the United States, especially with some of our existing retailers.”

At the co-op’s fall convention, record attendance, international growth and an overhaul of Vision 21 were just some of the topics covered during the morning merchandising and consumer marketing presentation. The event, held at the Orange County Convention Center, saw an increase of more than 600 members in attendance over the 2009 fall convention, the company said. Total attendance, including vendors and dealers, approximated 14,000.

One of the major agenda items at the morning presentation was the co-op management’s update on the recently implemented SAP supply chain system—a process John Surane, VP merchandising, advertising and marketing, equated to a traffic jam through road construction. He had a simple message to those retailers who were struggling through the implementation: “We have to make the pain worth it,” he said. “At the end of the day, that roadway is going to open up. They’re going to remove the cones, and the flags are going to get out of our way, and you are going to have a wider road with a fresh blacktop.”

The new system went live at the end of September, and the co-op has been working out the kinks in the system since then. David Ziegler, Ace chairman, acknowledged issues that affect members. “Many of those issues have been resolved, and the lingering ones are being addressed,” he added.

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Kleer Lumber gains distribution through iLevel

BY HBSDEALER Staff

iLevel by Weyerhaeuser is now distributing Kleer Cellular PVC Trimboard, sheet goods and other Kleer cellular PVC building products from its Baltimore, Md., and Easton, Pa., distribution centers.

iLevel is a new partner for Kleer as the company serves the key building markets of New Jersey, metropolitan New York and other Mid-Atlantic regions including Eastern Pennsylvania, Northern Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.

“iLevel is an ideal partner for Kleer Lumber because of its strong brand name, the products it represents in the marketplace and its commitment to outstanding service,” said Walt Valentine, president of Westfield, Mass.-based Kleer Lumber. “iLevel’s renewed commitment to focus on specialty product groups aligns perfectly with the core product development strategy at Kleer Lumber.”

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Construction industry loses more jobs

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The construction unemployment rate rose to 18.8% in November as the sector lost another 5,000 jobs since October, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, which just released an analysis of new federal employment data. The analysis indicates that the construction sector has been the hardest hit of any industry during the economic downturn, association officials said.

The industry’s 18.8% unemployment rate, not seasonally adjusted, was the highest of any industry and roughly double the overall unemployment rate. The construction industry has lost 2.1 million jobs since employment in the sector peaked in August 2006, according to the association. Since November 2009, the industry has lost 117,000 jobs, while the private sector added 1,088,000 jobs.

“The unemployment report shows construction still has not broken free of the recession that has gripped the industry since 2006,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Other than the stimulus and other temporary federal programs, it has been a pretty bleak four yours for the industry.”

The only construction segment to add jobs in the past years has been heavy and civil engineering construction, which has benefited from federal stimulus, military base realignment and Gulf Coast hurricane-prevention projects, Simonson observed. Meanwhile, residential construction has lost 79,000 jobs over the past 12 months, while nonresidential specialty trade contractors and nonresidential building — the other two segments in the nonresidential category — have lost 62,000 jobs.

Association officials cautioned that the stimulus and other temporary federal programs would begin winding down in 2011, most likely before private, state or local demand for construction picks up. They urged Congress and the Obama Administration to act on a series of long-delayed legislative bills for water, transportation and other infrastructure programs.

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