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Existing-home sales, and prices, on the rise

BY Ken Clark

The National Association of Realtors estimated sales of existing homes increased 0.8% in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.98 million, compared with an upwardly revised figure of 4.94 million in January.

Compared with a year ago, the February rate is up 10.2%. 

"Job growth in the improving economy and pent-up demand are causing both home sales and rental leasing to rise,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Though home prices are rising much faster than rents, historically low mortgage rates are still making home purchases affordable.”

He added: "The only headwinds are limited housing inventory, which varies greatly around the country, and credit conditions that remain too restrictive."

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $173,600 in February, up 11.6% from February 2012. The last time there were 12 consecutive months of year-over-year price increases was from June 2005 to May 2006. The February gain is the strongest since November 2005 when it was 12.9% above a year earlier.

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Scotts announces Grassroots Grants recipients

BY Ken Clark

Marysville, Ohio-based Scotts Miracle-Gro Company (SMG) has announced the recipients of the 2013 GRO1000 Grassroots Grants. More than 130 grants were awarded to help neighborhood organizations across the nation plant a community garden or green space. The Grassroots Grants are part of the larger GRO1000 Gardens and Green Space Program, which is Scotts Miracle-Gro’s commitment to create more than 1,000 community gardens and green spaces worldwide by 2018.

"It’s been rewarding to see how GRO1000 has impacted the lives of people and their communities since the program began three years ago," said Jim King, Scotts Miracle-Gro’s chief communications officer. "We’re honored to partner with so many groups that want to make a difference by bringing community gardens and greenscapes to their cities."

A full list of this year’s recipients can be found at GroGood.com/GiveBacktoGro/GRO1000/Grassroots.

In addition to the Grassroot Grants, ScottsMiracle-Gro and its national partners, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Plant A Row for the Hungry, the Garden Writers Association, the National Gardening Association and Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, will build public community gardens and green spaces in Sacramento; Fort Worth; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Bridgeport, Conn.; and Cincinnati in 2013.

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Study: Floor care industry is cleaning up online

BY Ken Clark

A report from Port Washington, N.Y.-based The NPD Group shows online sales of floor care products are way up.

The NPD Group estimates that online purchases for U.S. floor care products increased 31% in dollar sales in 2012, versus 2011. Online sales accounted for 16% of total floor care dollars in 2012.


Floor care products that command significantly higher-than-average price points are more likely to be sold online.  That’s why it’s no surprise the average price of floor care products purchased online in 2012 was 50% higher than average in-store prices. Interestingly, more than half (53%) of robotic vacuum dollar sales came from online purchases due mainly to its more limited brick-and-mortar distribution and overall premium pricing. This percentage far exceeds the floor care industry average of 17% of purchases made online.

“The e-commerce channel is helping to build the higher-priced floor care category. This is rooted in consumers’ interest in researching these higher-end products and their limited distribution in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. The Web is the ideal venue to educate the consumer by offering more innovative products,” said Debra Mednick, executive director and home industry analyst for The NPD Group. 

In addition to healthy online sales, a mix of higher-priced floor care products helped trigger 2012 floor care growth in many brick-and-mortar stores. Products priced between $150 and $249.99, $250 and $349.99, and $500 and above all posted unit growth, outpacing the overall floor care market.

Brick-and-mortar stores that generated the biggest dollar share increases in total floor care in 2012 included specialty stores, warehouse clubs and hardware/home centers. All of these channels gained market share at the expense of mass and national chains. 

“Brand, technology and innovation matter, but price is still always top of mind. With the increased and simplified access to product information and reviews, more and more consumers are doing their research. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of purchasing a higher-priced product. Clearly consumers who have the financial means are sending the signal of seeking products that they believe will deliver results and make their lives easier,” said Mednick. 

“Moving into 2013, retailers and manufacturers that offer a varied assortment with a premium option and assist consumers with the necessary comparative shopping environment are best posed to ‘win’ in floor care,” ended Mednick.

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