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BMHC will combine SelectBuild and BMC West

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Building Materials Holding Corp. (BMHC) announced a net loss of $33.9 million for the three months ended March 31, compared to a $5 million loss for the same quarter last year. The company also announced it will be unifying its two major business units, BMC West and SelectBuild companies, in order to streamline operations. The company estimates the move will reduce expenses by $20 million to $25 million.

Net sales for the quarter were $355 million, down 37 percent from $599 million from last year.

“Challenging industry conditions continued across U.S. home-building markets during the first quarter,” said Robert Mellor, chairman and CEO.

Mellor also said that the company is working to realign its business to meet the current market conditions, which included reducing its work force by 20 percent during the quarter.

“We are conducting a comprehensive analysis of our business and developing an initial plan for improved profitability and cash flow to right-size the organization to reflect today’s home-building market,” Mellor said.

According to BMHC, the realignment will flatten the company’s organizational structure by reducing its existing 13 regions to seven: Intermountain (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah), Midwest (Illinois), Northwest (Oregon, Washington), Pacific (California, Northern Nevada), Southeast (Florida), Southwest (Arizona, Southern Nevada) and Texas.

Company president and COO Stanley Wilson said the company intends to maintain the two unique brand identities, while taking advantage of the new synergies created by the realignment.

Along with the realignment, SelectBuild’s accounting, accounts payable, purchasing, payroll and information technology elements will be absorbed into the existing corporate structure.

BMHC also said that, upon the completion of the evaluation, it expects to shut down a number of underperforming business units, as well as consolidate some business units into other operations.

“With the centralization of administrative functions, the regional realignment and the closure or consolidation of certain business units we expect to be better positioned to focus our unified vision on maximizing operating efficiencies and growth opportunities for our core businesses,” said Mellor.

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ICSC: Chain stores saw gains in April

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Bargain-hunting shoppers ruled the market in April, according to sales figures released this week. The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) said U.S. chain store sales rose by 3.6 percent on a year-over-year, same-store basis, and discount retailers beat earlier estimates.

“Although the economic headwinds remain brisk, April year-over-year retail chain store sales got a lift of 200 to 250 basis points due to the shifting Easter date, which resulted in an extra Sunday of sales in April 2008 versus April 2007,” said Michael P. Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist and director of research.

“In addition, there was some modest pent-up demand with more seasonable weather early in the month, along with some increased promotional activity, which helped to explain the strongest monthly performance in more than a year.”

Wal-Mart reported that same-store sales rose 3.2 percent, beating an earlier forecast. Same-store sales rose 3.1 percent at Target and a healthy 8 percent at warehouse club retailer Costco.

“We are of course benefiting from some inflation on the food side,” Costco said in a statement, “as a result of the recent run-up in the cost of commodities and the continued run-up in the price of oil and gasoline.”

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NHS Wrap-up: eight trends for 2008

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Las Vegas Green was the dominant theme at the 2008 National Hardware Show, threading its way through virtually every product category in the Las Vegas Convention Center. But other trends also emerged in electrical, tools, lawn and garden and housewares this year, and Home Channel News editors picked out eight of them:

LED lighting. These bright, long-lasting bulbs have moved beyond flashlights and desk lamps to clip-on barbeque lights, dog collars and the rims of baseball caps. Jasco, in partnership with GE, showed an extensive line of LED nightlights, lanterns, votives and other decorative lights.

Jr. DIYers. You no longer have to take your kid to a Home Depot workshop on Saturday morning to build a wooden birdhouse or toolbox. Now there’s ready-to-assemble kits gauged to different skill levels and an assortment of kid-sized tools — including a drill — that really work. There’s even a snowman-making kit that guarantees “the perfect snow creature every time.”

Fashion-forward safety wear. Forget those dowdy orange and yellow florescent vests. Safety equipment manufacturers are showing “high visibility” T-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, coveralls and gloves that fulfill ANSI requirements and change with the seasons.

Say no to solvents. Vendors in both the cleaning products and the paint categories came up with numerous “eco-friendly” alternatives to traditional paint removers, drain clearers, toilet, tub and tile cleaners and other harsh chemicals.

Solar power rules. The sun will be firing up all kinds of devices this year, from tiki torches and lanterns to citronella diffusers and Christmas lights.

Be kind to animals. Glue traps and rat poisons are being replaced with more humane “catch and release” pest control devices. One trap used a plastic soda bottle — recycled, of course. Another wand-like instrument caught spiders so they could be “relocated” outdoors.

Gardening made easy. Time-pressed consumers found plenty of shortcuts to a beautiful backyard, including light meters, battery-powered sprayers, release-on-demand fertilizers and water-holding soils. Two companies offered ready-made vegetable gardens, and one vendor sold a “grow your own tree” kit (elm, apple, gingko, pine) that came in a biodegradable coconut coir pot.

No more worries. Homeowners are willing to pay for peace of mind when it comes to any number of issues. Several vendors exhibited home generators for stand-by power, as well as devices that shut off the main water supply when you leave home or alert you by phone when there’s a water leak anywhere in the house. General Tools is marketing an auto safety tool that can break car windows and cut through seat belts for a quick escape.

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