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D.C. Hotline: Another coat for lead paint rule

BY HBSDealer Staff

Opposition to the EPA’s Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) Rule — a rule that requires renovation work in pre-1978 homes to follow rigorous and costly work practices supervised by an EPA-certified renovator — has gelled to bipartisan status.

One of the groups engaged in promoting a less rigorous version of the rule is the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA), which last month applauded the introduction of the Lead Exposure Reduction Amendments Act of 2012. The act would reduce the burdens of the rule on the home remodeling and retrofit market, while maintaining protections for pregnant women and small children from lead hazards, according to the NLBMDA.

“The NLBMDA and our members have worked tirelessly to reform the misguided EPA lead rule, and the introduction of legislation in the House of Representatives shows that our industry concerns are being heard on Capitol Hill,” said NLBMDA chair Cally Fromme, executive VP of Zarsky Lumber Co. in Victoria, Texas.

The bill, H.R. 5911, would reinstate an opt-out clause to allow work to carry on unabated in houses where no children or pregnant women live. It would also suspend the LRRP if the EPA cannot approve a commercially available test kit.

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Pro shopping habits, take two

BY HBSDealer Staff

Conventional wisdom holds that pros are bound by loyalty to their lumberyard and building supply dealers, a concept bolstered by a recent article “Inside the mind of contractors” (HCN, May 2012).

A recent survey from The Stevenson Co.’s TraQline Pro report shed additional light on the question of where pros shop, and it presents a more nuanced picture of big-box achievement in the battle for pro dollars.

“The question is: What is a pro? That is the key,” said Eric Voyer, VP of The Stevenson Co., which is measuring the purchases of home improvement products among groups, including general contractors, painters, plumbers and landscapers. “What we’re collecting is insight into all pros, anybody who buys a product to be used at a home other than their own.”

That group includes some companies with 1,000 or more employees, but the TraQline survey reaches “small- to medium-sized folks,” he said.

Among this group, The Home Depot leads retail outlets with 36% share, followed by Lowe’s at 25%. Lumberyards combine to reach 6% share among the pool.

But, the bigger or more specialized the pro customer, the less likely they’ll shop the big box. For instance, 44% of electricians make their purchases at specialty supply houses. And among new-housing construction contractors, big-box purchases dip to 12% for Home Depot and 12% for Lowe’s, he said.

Other data from Stevenson’s TraQline Pro survey include:

• Leading store for pro painters: Sherwin-Williams (26%)

• Leading store for pro plumbers: Ferguson (23%)

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Buffett denies Bermuda cruise caused CEO firing

BY Brae Canlen

Warren Buffett, the head of investment firm Berkshire Hathaway, has denied press reports that he replaced the CEO of subsidiary Benjamin Moore because of a company-paid yacht trip to Bermuda. Berkshire Hathaway spokeswoman Diana Dozier contacted Home Channel News more than a week after we reported the New York Post story of Denis Abrams’s firing, which was blamed on a dinner cruise Abrams took with his top executives to celebrate the company’s first quarterly sales increase since 2007. Abrams served as CEO of the paint supplier for seven years. 

“Mr. Abrams was let go due to the difference in strategy,” Dozier said. She also made reference to a letter Buffett wrote to Abrams saying he needed to leave because of “a differing view about distribution channels and brand strategy.” 

Abrams was quickly replaced by Robert (Bob) Merritt, who was named CEO and president. Merritt comes to Benjamin Moore with more than three decades of management experience in the restaurant and food preparation and distribution industries. As senior VP and CFO of Outback Steakhouse Inc., he oversaw the initial public offering in 1991 of that franchise and its subsequent listing on the New York Stock Exchange. Under his stewardship, the company grew from five restaurants in Florida to more than 1,250 locations in 22 countries. The original Outback brand also expanded during Merritt’s tenure to seven additional restaurant concepts, including Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, Roy’s, and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar. While working for Price Waterhouse, Merritt had clients in various industries, including a large railroad, a plumbing supply manufacturer and distributor and a manufacturer of medical imaging equipment.     

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