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Ace reveals shortfall plan

BY HBSDEALER Staff

In a letter to Ace retailers, president and CEO Ray Griffith said the company’s $152 million shortfall led to the overpayment of patronage payouts — money that retailers will, in essence, need to pay back to the company over a multi-year period.

The Dec. 14 letter also said the co-op has gained the support of its lenders, who will help Ace restore the equity to the $320-million level.

To make up the shortfall, Ace will establish variance allocation accounts that would be based on each store’s proportionate share of warehouse dividend pool purchases between 2002 and 2006, the period under review.

Each retailer’s patronage dividend for 2007 and beyond will be distributed 20 percent in cash and 80 percent in Class C stock — the latter portion being first applied against the variance account. New shares will be issued after the variance account is satisfied.

“In essence, shareholders received excess patronage payouts, and now we must make this unfortunate correction,” Griffith said in the letter. “We sincerely apologize for this event, but believe this to be the most prudent way to recoup this overpayment and restore the equity position of your company.”  

Many stores will be able to satisfy their variance accounts with distributions for 2007 and 2008, with complete restoration for all but a few stores estimated to take place with distributions for 2009, Griffith further explained.

Ace is expected to make further announcements about the shortfall in the coming weeks. Griffith said Ace’s board of directors will distribute an executive summary of an independent investigation report when it becomes available, most likely in early January.

“There are several components to the independent investigation of Ace Hardware’s $152 million shortfall,” Ace public relations manager Christopher Boniface told HCN. “The restoration plan, which was communicated to Ace retailers and employees on Friday, is just one piece of the puzzle.”

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November housing starts show sharp decline

BY HBSDEALER Staff

November housing starts declined 3.7 percent from last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,187,000, compared to the revised October estimate of 1,232,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The figure represents a 24.2 percent drop from November 2006.

The hardest-hit region was the West, which showed a 28.3 percent decline year over year. That compared to declines of 27.4 percent in the South, 16.3 percent in the Northeast and 11.0 percent in the Midwest. The only positive regional numbers came in the South, where total starts increased 0.3 percent over last month, and single-unit starts increased 5.4 percent over last month.

Housing units authorized by building permits in November declined 24.6 percent year over year to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,152,000. This is 1.5 percent below the revised October rate of 1,170,000.

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Home Depot meets YouTube in viral marketing push – UPDATED

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Home Depot concluded a unique Internet-based promotion this week, tapping user-generated content to promote DIY goods and services consumers can find at Home Depot stores.

The page drew 264 video entries for a chance to win a $25,000 Home Depot holiday gift card. Twenty second-prize winners will receive a $200 gift card.

The promotion also received significant consumer news coverage across the country. Additionally, as of Dec. 12, the consumer-produced YouTube videos had collectively been watched 80,000 times.

The winning video, titled “The Long’s Rap,” featured a Houston, Texas family rapping about the retailer, with lines such as “Home Depot – it’s orange not yellow.” Second place winners included titles such as “The Home Depoverture” and “Angelos and Jason’s Ho, Ho, Home Depot Contest.”

This is Home Depot’s first attempt at a YouTube-based viral marketing campaign.  To view the video entries visit www.homedepot.com/youtube.

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