Builder confidence in 55+ housing market grows in Q1
In the first quarter of 2013, the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) 55+ single-family Housing Market Index (HMI) increased 19 points on a year-over-year basis to 46. This is the highest first-quarter number recorded since the inception of the index in 2008 and sixth consecutive quarter of year-over-year improvements.
“Builders and developers for the 55+ housing sector continue to report increased optimism in the market,” said Robert Karen, chairman of NAHB’s 50+ Housing Council and managing member of the Symphony Development Group. “We are seeing an increase in consumer demand for homes and communities that are designed to address the specific needs of the mature homebuyer.”
There are separate 55+ HMIs for two segments of the 55+ housing market: single-family homes and multi-family condominiums. Each 55+ HMI measures builder sentiment based on a survey that asks if current sales, prospective buyer traffic and anticipated six-month sales for that market are good, fair or poor. An index number below 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as poor than good.
All of the components of the 55+ single-family HMI showed growth from a year ago: present sales climbed 19 points to 46, expected sales for the next six months increased 21 points to 53, and traffic of prospective buyers rose 15 points to 41.
“The strong year-over-year increase in confidence reported by builders for the 55+ market is consistent with year over year increases in other segments of the home building industry,” said NAHB chief economist David Crowe. “While demand for new 55+ housing has improved due to a reduced inventory of homes on the market and low interest rates, builders’ ability to respond to the demand is being limited by a shortage of labor with basic construction skills and rising prices for some building materials.”
Communication today: Not so easy
Las Vegas — Jim Crawford led the attendees of the Presidents Council Advisory Board Meeting in a demonstration of the type of whiz-bang communications technology that could — conceivably — help retailers engage with customers.
There is no doubt, however, that the issue of managing customer communication is more difficult than ever for retailers.
Crawford, executive director of the Global Retail Executive Council as well as the principal of consulting firm Taberna Retail, spelled out the challenge. "The shopper today is more demanding and has higher expectations than any other point in history," he said.
Taberna’s research spelled out what consumers want in terms of shopping environment. Sixty-six percent of shoppers say they want improved customer service, and 61% say they want "accessible information before making a purchase." Those numbers, he said, clearly show where retailers should focus their energies, as opposed to "tailored experience" — sought by 23% of shoppers.
Managing modern communication — including all social media — includes creating a link between physical stores and online stores; and creating a link between product and more.
Success in this field is a struggle, he said. He offered this caution: "If what you’re doing is easy, you’re doing it wrong."
The goal for navigating new media and new technology include capturing lost demand inside the store and creating demand for your products outside the store, he said. It’s also important to leverage new sources of information about the shopper by engaging them in places such as Twitter and Facebook. “And don’t be afraid of negative feedback by online reviewers,” he said.
IKEA completes 38th U.S. solar project
IKEA has officially plugged-in the solar energy system installed at its store in Stoughton, Mass. The 118,000-sq.-ft. array consists of a 590.8-kW (DC) system, built with 4,220 laminated panels. It will produce approximately 695,000 kWh of clean electricity annually, the equivalent of reducing 479 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), eliminating the emissions of 94 cars or powering 60 homes yearly (calculating clean energy equivalents).
The installation represents the 38th completed solar project for IKEA in the United States, with one more location under way, giving the chain an eventual solar presence in nearly 90% of its U.S. locations, with a total generation of 38 MW. Ikea contracted REC Solar for the development, design and installation of the Stoughton store’s customized solar power system.
The retailer owns and operates each of its solar PV energy systems atop its buildings — as opposed to a solar lease or PPA (power purchase agreement) — and globally has allocated $1.8 billion to invest in renewable energy through 2015.
IKEA’s solar project reinforces its long-term commitment to sustainability and confidence in photovoltaic (PV) technology. Consistent with the company’s goal of being energy independent by 2020, the company has installed more than 250,000 solar panels on buildings across the world and owns/operates approximately 110 wind turbines in Europe.