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Craftsman collection reflects tool trends

BY HBSDEALER Staff

New York Sears is launching a new line of compact lithium-powered tools, but consumers will have to wait until the 2008 holiday season to try them out.

The Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based company unveiled the Craftsman 12V Lithium series during a special “Holidays in June” event held for both Sears and Kmart June 25 in New York. The tools — which Sears says bring professional grade qualities to the consumer — include a two-speed drill with 175 inch pounds of torque and an auto hammer with a magnetic tip that holds a nail in place. The tools will be in Sears stores in mid-October.

“There are two trends in tools right now — lithium and compact size,” said Erik Rosenstrauch, Craftsman brand director. “They started in the pro channel, and we threw up our hands and said, ‘Why not the consumer?’ These are easy to work with and easy to store.”

Eric Stromer, host of HGTV’s “Over Your Head” and a spokesman for Craftsman Tools, was also on hand to demonstrate the tools. “They fit easier in the hand, and fatigue is going to be less,” he said. “It’s about ease of use; it’s not intimidating to the DIY user.”

Other Craftsman tools introduced at the event included a digital miter gauge with LCD screen, a four-in-one ratcheting wrench set, four different sized digital levels, an AccuTrac laser measuring tool, a 10-inch deluxe table saw with Laser Trac and a five-inch VibraFree sander with Sears’ patented Vibration Reduction System.

Price was also part of the story at the product unveiling.

“Just a few years ago you couldn’t buy a laser for less than $350; we’ve brought this down to the consumer at $119,” Rosenstrauch said, referring to the AccuTrac laser measuring tool, which uses point-to-point laser technology that is described as accurate to 3/16 of an inch at 150 feet.

Also unveiled at the event was the latest line of Kenmore appliances, which include the Kenmore Elite Shaved Ice side-by-side refrigerator and Sears’ first-ever die cast pump espresso machine.

Other lines that were previewed included the following: the Elvis Holiday Collection of Christmas ornaments, the Martha Steward Everyday Holiday collection and the Ty Pennington Style Dot bedding and dinnerware collections.

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Riding out the downturn at PCBC

BY HBSDEALER Staff

San Francisco The chief executives from two of the nation’s largest home builders, Pulte and Shea Homes, ended a joint session here by delivering the following message: the housing industry is cyclical. Hang in there, if you can, and the business will come back.

Of course, most of the attendees at PCBC 2008, the West Coast’s annual conference and trade show for the building industry, already knew all that. But many of them were happily reassured on June 25 by Richard Dugas, president and CEO of Pulte Homes, and Bert Selva, president and CEO of Shea Homes. As two of the largest production builders in the country, Dugas and Selva were also able to address the changes they see coming during “What’s Next: A Housing Market Overview.”

Although “market dynamics” seem to be better in the Rockies, and job growth is still strong in Texas and Colorado, neither builder saw definite signs of a recovery. Looking into 2009, the CEOs saw a healthier market, but a changed one.

“There will be less players when the dust settles,” said Selva, addressing the issue of builders merging or going out of business.

Dugas agreed. “The headlines don’t show it, but you’re going to have more consolidation.”

On the issue of reducing the cost of materials — a subject of several seminars on this year’s educational program — Dugas said he hopes to use value engineered home plans across different parts of the country. Selva is taking a second look at “a lot of things we put in a house [where] I wonder if we’re really getting paid for it.”

Pulte and Shea have reduced their staffing by 60 percent and 45 percent, respectively, as have other home builders, architectural firms and trade contractors. The industry wide layoffs had a noticeable effect on this year’s show, both in terms of foot traffic and number of booths.

Anumber of exhibitors drilled down into the green category with solar water heaters, LED lighting systems and energy-efficient ventilation fans. Manufacturers also addressed the growing number of state and municipal fire code regulations aimed at preventing another season of raging wildfires in states like California and Colorado.

Organized by the California Building Industry Association, the three-day conference, held June 25 to 27 at the Moscone Center, continues today with a keynote address by Malcolm Gladwell, author of “The Tipping Point” and “Blink.”

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ProBuild names new head for gypsum operations

BY HBSDEALER Staff

ProBuild Holdings has named Robert Rugg as president, gypsum, overseeing all strategic operations for the company’s gypsum business. Rugg will report to Bill Myrick, ProBuild’s chief operating officer.

Rugg joins ProBuild from his position as executive director of the Drake Group, a Mission Viejo, Calif.-based association of independent building material distributors that serve the residential and commercial markets with drywall and other interior products. He also served as president, James Hardie Gypsum and executive vp-James Hardie Industries. Prior to James Hardie, Rugg worked for USG Corp. for 19 years in various marketing, strategic planning and general management roles including director of product and market development; director of business development, gypsum wood fiber; and general manager of industrial gypsum.  

Rugg replaces Rich Young, who will now direct the business development functions for gypsum, including M&A activities and the integration of newly acquired companies into ProBuild. Young, as vp-business development, gypsum, will report directly to Rugg.

In a prepared statement, Myrick said that ProBuild plans to “leverage the expertise we’ve developed in selected geographies and expand the [gypsum] business in markets across the country to better service our customers. I am confident that under [Robb’s] direction we will both broaden the portfolio of gypsum related products and services in existing market, as well as spread our expertise throughout the ProBuild network.”

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