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CNRG embraces the farm format in Natchez

BY Ken Clark

Natchez, Miss.-based Central Network Retail Group opened a new Town & Country Farm & Hardware in Natchez yesterday. 

The 12,000-sq.-ft. store format has an emphasis on farm.

“This new format  is something I’ve thought about for a long time,” said Jimmy R. Smith, chairman of CNRG. “It is a different store from our traditional hardware stores with depth in the farm and feeds, hardware, and automotive assortments.” 

The store has a 12,000-sq.-ft. sales floor with a large assortment of hardware, feeds, pet and animal health, farm implements, automotive, fencing, electrical, plumbing, tools, lawn and garden, and home organization items.

The store is three miles south of CNRG’s Home Hardware Center in Natchez.

“We are excited about this new concept for our company, ” said Boyden Moore, president of CNRG.  “This new store gives us the opportunity to reach a customer that we haven ’t been able to serve through our other formats. ” 

CNRG currently operates 42 home center and hardware stores in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, North Carolina, and Georgia under the Home Hardware Center, Morrison Terrebonne Lumber Center, NFL Home Center, Elliott’s Hardware, Town & Country Hardware, Habersham Hardware & Homecenter, WT Harvey Lumber, and Town & Country Farm & Hardware brands.

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Paint stores lead SHW in Q1

BY Ken Clark

Cleveland-based Sherwin-Williams Co. posted a sales increase of 1.4% in the first quarter ended March 31, which saw higher volume in the Paint Stores Group.

Net income increased 16% to $116.2 million.

The company’s consolidated net sales increased 1.4% to $2.17 billion. The Paint Stores Group saw sales increase 4.0% to $1.17 billion in the quarter. The company pointed to higher architectural paint sales volume across all end-market segments. Comp-store sales for paint stores increased 3.2%.

Paint Stores Group segment profit increased $17.0 million to $129.7 million in the quarter from $112.7 million last year. 

"We continued to invest in our business by opening nine net new locations in the Paint Stores Group," said Christopher Connor, chairman and CEO.

The company expects to open 70 to 80 new paint stores in 2013.

Sherwin-Williams operates more than 4,100 company-owned stores and manufactures paint brands such as Sherwin-Williams, Dutch Boy, Krylon, Minwax and Thompson’s Water Seal.

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HIRI takes a deep data dive in Orlando

BY Ken Clark

Orlando, Fla. — More than 70 home improvement research and marketing professionals gathered here for the HIRI Spring Conference.

HIRI, the Home Improvement Research Institute, organized seven presentations, with titles such as "Using Qualitative Research to Deepen and Expand Quantitative Insights" and "Engaging the Connected Consumer for Deeper Insight." 

The April 17 event was a day of continuing education for those who participated and was designed to present new insights into the tactics and strategies of home improvement research.

For instance, Ken Habarta, VP consulting for The Futures Company, described qualitative research as "an exploration into real insight." The qualitative category of research includes the "usual suspects" of focus groups, in-depth interviews and shop-alongs, but also includes new forms such as the study of consumer scrapbooks or diaries and numerous online social networking tools.

He said the purpose of research and data is to tell a story, and a great way to tell a story is to combine quantitative research with qualitative research. 

"Data alone is not an insight," Habarta said. "Data is a fact. It is not, however, an insight of its own. An insight rests on a deeper understanding of that information." 

The event also included a presentation on the outlook for home improvement spending. James Gillula, managing director of IHS Global Insight, based in Washington, D.C., pointed to a number of positive signs for the economy, but also obstacles to faster growth. 

"We see the housing market continuing to improve over the course of 2013," he said. "But the pace of growth is a little below the percentage growth already achieved in 2012."

After a soft first quarter of 2013, the IHS forecast sees between 4% and 6% increases in year-over-year home improvement product sales for the next several quarters. 

The Home Improvement Research Institute is a membership-based, independent, not-for-profit organization of about 80 manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers and allied organizations in the home improvement industry.

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