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Advanced monthly retail sales for December show gains

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The U.S. Census Bureau reported this morning that U.S. retail and food services sales for December were $380.9 billion, up 0.6% from the previous month. 

Even better news came from the comparison to last year — December sales were up 7.9% from December 2009. And Total sales for the October through December 2010 period were up 7.8% from the same period a year ago.

Looking specifically at NAICS classification 444 — Building material & garden equipment & supplies dealers — advanced sales in December were $25.224 billion, up 2.0% from $24.734 billion in November 2010, and up 13.1% from $22.298 billion in December 2009.

All the figures above are adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes.

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Target to enter Canada via Zeller’s deal

BY HBSDEALER Staff

In its first-ever expansion outside of the United States, Target Corp. on Thursday said it would acquire up to 220 Zellers discount department stores in Canada from the Hudson’s Bay Co. for $1.8 billion. The deal will allow Target to open 100 to 150 Target stores throughout Canada in 2013 and 2014.

“This transaction provides an outstanding opportunity for us to extend our Target brand, Target stores and superior shopping experience beyond the United States for the first time in our company’s history," said Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and CEO of Target Corp. "We believe our investment in these leases will strengthen the surrounding communities, as well as create strategic and financial value for Target stakeholders."

In a related announcement, Target said that company’s chief marketing officer, Michael Francis, will serve as the executive committee sponsor of Target’s entry into Canada.

Target will not start converting the Zellers locations until 2013. Until the new Target stores begin to open, Hudson’s Bay will sublease the stores back from Target and keep operating them as Zellers.

“This transaction provides attractive long-term value and will allow us to invest substantial capital into our department store and specialty store businesses to continue to drive growth,” said Richard A. Baker, the chief executive of NRDC Equity and the governor of Hudson’s Bay, in a statement. Hudson’s Bay and its Zeller’s subsidiary was acquired NRDC, whose holdings include Lord & Taylor, in 2008.

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Readers Respond

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Eco-stamp: A good idea
The following letter is a response to “iLevel promotes an easy eco-labeling option with SFI.”

“[iLevel by Weyerhaeuser VP] Carlos Guilherme and iLevel have taken the simple stamp idea and acted on it and applied it to iLevel lumber by the piece. This is very important, as it is easily identifiable by the supply chain and the customer. The key being each piece of lumber is stamped — not just the wrapping, which gets torn off or disintegrates. Weyerhaeuser is to be commended for handling the situation in this manner. The fact that iLevel can do this could in time prove to the rest of the world that this is a viable solution and comes at virtually little or no cost.

“The Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), as well as the other three or four world certifying agencies, should come together and create a green stamp and make it available to the harvesters of their certified forests to use and stamp each piece of eco-friendly wood. [This way], the public can decide individually whether they want to use sustainably grown wood or wood harvested without any regard for longevity and perpetuation of the forest. Small producers may have problems certifying their wood, and exceptions could and should be made. However, large timber tracts are either certified or not, and the public has the right to know.”
— Harold Baalmann 
President

B&B Lumber Co.

Wichita, Kan.

Still mad about MID
Home Channel News received several  letters in response to a Dec. 13 editorial, “A deduction, endangered.” The editorial defended the mortgage interest deduction as the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform called for major reform.

“Your editorial in defense of the mortgage interest deduction was as predictable as it was unimaginative. You fail to see the forest for the trees. …

“Our government is awash in red ink. The National Commission [on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform] did a great job in providing a way to reduce the deficit to a manageable level. There is more than one way, but their way is reasonable and makes sense. All citizens of good will should support it.

“The mortgage interest deduction encourages us to consume more house than we need. I am guilty with a large home and larger mortgage debt. I deduct the interest from my income tax. The deduction favors the top 20% to 30% only — because everybody else doesn’t itemize deductions.

“We should lower marginal tax rates as the commission recommended while doing away with most deductions and credits. (I would be happy with getting rid of 100% of them.) This would encourage folks to earn more because they could keep more — without having the government tell them to spend money on housing or electric cars or whatever. This would help get our depressed economy going again. Yes, those with mortgages who deducted interest would pay more, but this would be somewhat offset by the lower marginal rates. A simpler tax system would be a boon to all (except accountants). A credible plan for reducing the deficit would increase confidence in our country and its economy.”
— John Mensinger
President
American Lumber Co.
Modesto, Calif.

“I agree with your article 100%. If the MID was taken away or modified, the housing industry (sales and manufacturing) would wipe out any positive growth in the current economy. This part of the economy is already on life support. I see it face to face every day in my job meetings with business owners of lumberyards and other wood-related businesses. Keep up the good fight.”
— Jim Turner

PA Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Co.

“Loss of the mortgage interest deduction would affect every income level. No interest relief would mean little or no chance for young families to ever afford a home. Middle-income homeowners will have little or no discretionary money to save or spend — this is simply a bad idea all around.  … I would like to say what I really feel — and if this happens I won’t be the only one openly expressing anger. ”

— Gary Higgins

“I realize in your position it’s tough to take an opposing view to the ‘typical’ person in our industry. I wanted to let you know that in the retail building materials and construction business there are people with differing views. Every politician and industry has its ‘sacred cows.’ Our industry stands at the altar of the almighty mortgage interest deduction.

“The deduction is the reason people buy houses? The deduction is the reason people can afford houses? Hmmm. It seems like we just had a meltdown recently over issues like these.

“The reality is, people need a place to live. They will buy what they can afford (that’s a novel concept). If they’re not able to buy a house, they rent. (How dare I suggest that every person is not entitled to a home at every station of life?)

“The MID will more than likely be the last of these ‘sacred cows’ to go. It will take our country to be in the shape of Ireland, Portugal and Spain to finally eliminate all our ‘sacred cows.’

“I’m probably the .01% of people in the industry that thinks this way. However, I have a bigger view of life and the economy than flexing our muscle to politicians. I want all our boats to rise.”

— Daniel Jordan

Fleming Lumber

Cleveland, Miss.

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