Back in play: Innocent Sellers Act
Representative Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) earned the praise of lumber dealers by reintroducing the "Innocent Sellers Fairness Act."
Here’s how National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) officials called it:
"NLBMDA applauds Representative Farenthold for his effort to bring balance to our legal system by recognizing that business owners that only sell products, and are not involved in the manufacturing process, should not be held liable for defects that they did not create."
— Chuck Bankston, NLBMDA chairman and president of Bankston Lumber in Barnesville, Ga.
"No amount of care can free a seller from disproportionate product liability, and plaintiffs’ lawyers know this. They routinely sue anyone in the chain of distribution of a product, often forcing settlements out of otherwise innocent merchants. These abusive product liability cases are part of a growing litigation burden on our nation’s small businesses and our economy. … We urge Congress to act swiftly on H.R. 2746."
— Michael O’Brien, NLBMDA president and CEO
Remembering Frank Denny
Credited for nurturing the warehouse home center business during its emergence in the 1980s, Frank Denny died last month. He was 79.
Denny was president of W.R. Grace and Co.’s home center division. When Kmart bought Home Centers of America in 1984, Denny was tapped to oversee its expansion under the brand name Builders Square.
The pages of National Home Center News (the forerunner of HCN) from the 1980s provide ample evidence of Denny’s influence on the industry. In a Dec. 7, 1981, NHCN editorial, Denny was described as an influential executive who worked at a torrid pace. "What Denny has developed for Grace is a modern, clean, fairly priced, basically self-service merchandising concept for the novice and not-so-novice DIYer," wrote NHCN.
A 1987 article about Denny’s leadership at Builders Square included an illustration portraying the veteran executive as a circus performer attempting to tame the industry’s fastest-growing home center chain. The article’s headline: "Taming the Beast."
Denny graduated from Rutgers University in New Jersey, and in 1958 moved to California, where he bought close-out lots of lumber for a discount outlet called Angels. Three years later, he became a partner of the company.
He later helped convert an El Paso lumberyard into what became the Cashway Home Improvement chain.
A message from Denny’s family said he died July 2, "after the usual tough fight he was known for throughout his career."
A crisis in confidence? Not really
On July 16, the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index posted its strongest reading since January 2006.
On the following day came the Commerce Department’s residential construction numbers — a disappointing 9.9% decline in the pace of housing starts nationwide.
Is this a serving of humble pie for the overconfident? Maybe. But it’s more likely a case of normal ups and downs of a recovering housing market, according to the NAHB.
Commenting on the drop in total starts, the NAHB’s chief economist David Crowe explained: “The large dip in multi-family production in June follows a boost of activity in May, and is consistent with the volatility that has come to characterize that sector as well as the uneven pace of the housing recovery.”
When you look at single-family starts, the story was far less disappointing. Crowe points to gains in both single-family starts and single-family building permits in three out of four regions in June (see chart). That, he said, “is a positive sign that’s in keeping with our forecast as well as recent surveys.”