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AHMA counsel: safety laws coming

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Mundelein, Ill. At the American Hardware Manufacturers Association’s annual meeting here, Washington Counsel John Satagaj pointed to the likelihood of federal consumer product legislation.

“The only thing I see left in this Congress are consumer product safety legislation and a little bit of tax relief,” said Satagaj, during a presentation to members.

Describing himself as philosophically opposed to federal regulation, Satagaj said federal consumer product rules could in this case actually simplify business for manufacturers who otherwise would face a tangle of state and local laws. “We need federal legislation to preempt the states,” he said. “Connecticut passed a lead law. Illinois has one. Minnesota has one. The state of Washington passed a toy law. Everybody is in the game.”

The front of line of the legislation is children’s products, but some parts of legislation apply to all consumer products, he said.

The current Congress may also act on some tax relief — but not on estate tax relief, Satagaj predicted.

Athird area of legislative activity involves the housing market, and various bail-out plans. “There are three parts to the housing story,” he said. “Do you bail out the consumer? Do you bail out the builder? Or do you bail out the financial institution? It looks to me that we’ll probably do a little of all three.”

Also at the AHMA meeting, the association approved a slate of officers and directors for 2009:

• Chairman of the board: Donald Dray, Dasco Pro

• Vice chairman: William P. Farrell, AHMA

• First vice chairman: William Hudson, H.D. Hudson Manufacturing

• Second vice chairman: Dale Schmidt, Elkay Sales

• Third vice chairman: Jeanette Kellogg, Genova Products

• Treasurer: Mark Studley, Blue Ribbon Products;

• President and CEO: Timothy Farrell, AHMA

• Director: Stuart Bush, Roebic Laboratories

• Director: David Eglinton, L.R. Nelson.

• Director: Cecil Given, Reaves & Co.

• Director: Thomas Hearn, Petersen Brands

• Director: Charles Hermes, Dutton-Lainson

• Director: Douglas Laird, Cooper Hand Tools

• Director: James Maskas, 3M

• Director: Jon Rose, The Wooster Brush Co.

• Director: Rhonda Sullivan, Lavelle Industries

• Director: D. Frank Tooke, Red Devil

• Honorary director: Robert Hudson Jr., H.D. Hudson Manufacturing

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Dale Pond named to media company board

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Dale Pond, the former Lowe’s executive, will join the board of Scripps Networks Interactive. The new board is being formed as E.W. Scripps, which encompasses cable networks, newspapers, broadcast television stations, electronic commerce and interactive media services, splits into two publicly traded companies on July 1.

Scripps Network Interactive will include cable TV channels such as HGTV and The Food Network as well as online businesses (shopping portals like Shopzilla).

Aformer executive at Payless Cashways and other home improvement retailers, Pond worked at Lowe’s for 12 years before retiring in 2005 as the executive vp-merchandising and marketing.

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Store closings knock Home Depot earnings down

BY HBSDEALER Staff

First-quarter net earnings at the nation’s largest home channel retailer fell 66 percent to $356 million from $1.05 billion in the same period last year.

The significant drop in net earnings was due to a one-time charge of $543 million, stemming from the retailer’s plan to close 15 stores and take 50 previously planned new stores off the docket.

Additionally, Home Depot saw a same store sales drop of 7.3 percent.

Net sales fell 3.4 percent to $17.9 billion from $18.56 billion in the same period last year.

“The housing and home improvement markets remained difficult in the first quarter; in fact, conditions worsened in many areas of the country,” said Frank Blake, Home Depot chairman and CEO, in a statement. “We will continue to invest wisely in our core retail business to earn our customers’ confidence and ensure the long-term health of our business.”  During the company’s earnings call with investors, Blake said the plan to slow store growth is expected to free up $1 billion over the next three years.

Blake also characterized the plan to close stores and curtail store growth as a disciplined approach to capital allocation, adding, “This discipline and reinvestment in our existing stores will benefit our shareholders, associates and customers.”

Craig Menear, executive vp merchandising, said Home Depot experienced negative sales growth across all departments, except lawn and garden. Most regions were down, but some strength was recorded in the Ohio Valley region, as well as in the company’s Canada, Mexico and China operations, all of which experienced comp store sales growth.

The retailer is planning to concentrate on grabbing market share in several key product categories, namely ceramic tile, faucets and bath fixtures, Menear said.

Chief financial officer Carol Tome said the company at the moment was more comfortable with numbers on the lower-end of the retailer’s full-year guidance for profit from continuing operations. The company currently expects that profit to drop by between 19 and 24 percent year-over-year. Tome also noted that the company took a broad look at its store base in determining which 15 stores in the country to close ??three of those stores were less than three years old, she said.

Check back at homechannelnews.com for coverage of the Home Depot annual meeting of stockholders, slated for May 20.

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