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Armstrong Garden Centers buys Pike Nurseries locations

BY HBSDEALER Staff

An Atlanta bankruptcy court has ruled that Armstrong Garden Centers, the 34-unit chain of California nurseries, can purchase 15 locations of Pike Family Nurseries for $5.2 million. The March 2 decision, handed down in the Northern District of Georgia court, came after an auction where several bidders walked away with pieces of the 50-year-old company.

Headquartered in Atlanta, Pike Nurseries was the largest family owned garden center chain in the country. At one time, the company had 25 locations and annual revenues of $100 million. In 2004, second-generation owner Randy Pike sold a majority stake in the company to Roark Capital Group, a private equity firm, but stayed on as president and CEO.

Pike Nurseries, which also ran a wholesale growing operation, filed for bankruptcy last November, citing drought conditions as a contributing factor.

Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., Armstrong Garden Centers is the largest chain of independent nurseries, with two locations in Northern California and the remainder in the southern portion of the state. Company CEO Mike Kunce was in Atlanta and unavailable for comment, according to an Armstrong spokesperson.

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B&Q to charge for plastic bags

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Following in the footsteps of IKEA, Britain’s B&Q chain of DIY stores plans to reduce reliance on free plastic bags in an effort to be more eco-friendly.

The retailer has been conducting a trial period of charging for plastic bags in Scotland and northeast England. In those locations, customers were charged an additional 5 pence (about 10 cents) for plastic bags at checkout. Now B&Q plans to roll out the trial to all of its more than 300 stores, according to the retailer’s parent, Kingfisher.

While charging for plastic bags in an effort to phase them out of use has been popular in Europe, IKEA is one of only a handful of retailers to charge for plastic bags in the United States.

Several countries have banned the use of plastic bags outright, while others have voted to limit their use, including Italy, Ireland, South Africa and Australia.

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HIRI cements lineup for spring conference

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) will tackle the thorny topic of the credit market and its impact on home improvement at its upcoming conference.

The non-profit research organization’s 2008 Spring Conference kicks off April 3 in Washington, D.C., with a full lineup of sessions dedicated to home improvement industry research. One of the late additions to the lineup are Citigroup analysts Steven Wieting, managing director Citi Economic and Market Analysis, and Deborah Weinswig, managing director, retailing/broadlines food & drug and home improvement.

Wieting and Weinswig’s presentation will examine the relationship between the credit, housing and home improvement markets, with a forward-looking perspective.

Also on the agenda are a session called “The Structure of Remodeling Contractors and Coping with Business Cycles,” presented by Kermit Baker of the Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University; and “Beyond Satisfaction: The Return of Loyalty,” by Ed Hass of International Communcations Research.

The full-day conference runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. HIRI members receive a discount on conference registration fees. For information, go to www.hiri.org.

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