For the exterior: bark
BarkClad is promoting a siding product designed to mimic the beauty of traditional poplar bark siding.
“We’ve been working for the past several years to perfect a sustainable alternative to natural bark siding, and SmartBark is the exciting result,” said Brian Summers, corporate operations officer of BarkClad. “We’re thrilled to be able to bring to the marketplace this ingenious new product that builds on our company’s long tradition of excellence.”
Manufactured of a polymer blend in an innovative patented process, SmartBark has the texture and look of natural siding, but is resistant to weather and rot, and does not require the maintenance for pests and moisture like natural bark.
SmartBark panels are 16 ins. by 18 ins. and can be used on exterior and interior surfaces, as full or partial house siding, on porches, decks and facades, or as accents inside the home. The siding is available in three natural colors — Weathered Brown, Medium Brown and Silverback Gray — or can be painted using any latex finish.
Existing-home sales up for the first time this year
The National Association of Realtors had slightly more positive news to report this month. Existing-home sales increased for the first time this year in April, bumping up 1.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.65 million.
Single-family sales were up 0.5% to a rate of 4.06 million, but are still 7.7% below last year’s pace.
“Some growth was inevitable after sub-par housing activity in the first quarter, but improved inventory is expanding choices and sales should generally trend upward from this point,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “Annual home sales, however, due to a sluggish first quarter, will likely be lower than last year.”
April’s estimate, for one, is still 6.8% below April 2013’s 4.99 million-unit pace.
However, total housing inventory ticked up 16.8% to a 5.9-month supply, a significant difference from March’s 5.1-month supply.
The median existing-home price was $201,700, a 5.2% improvement year-over-year. For single-family homes, that price was $201,100, up 4.7% since last year.
“We’ll continue to see a balancing act between housing inventory and price growth, which remains stronger than normal simply because there have not been enough sellers in many areas. More inventory and increased new-home construction will help to foster healthy market conditions,” Yun added.
NAR president Steve Brown pointed out that the average time on market also shrunk in April; with more inventory comes better (and faster) choices for buyers.
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Amid losses, Sears points to ‘transformation’
Hoffman Estates, Illinois-based Sears Holdings chairman and CEO Edward Lampert beat the drum of “transformation,” as the retailer posted another quarter of declines in consolidated sales and earnings.
The good news: Online and multichannel sales grew 26% over the same quarter last year. And Sears Domestic comp-store sales grew 0.2%.
However, the company’s overall net loss widened to $402 million, compared with $279 million in the first quarter last year. And total revenues (merchandise sales and services) for the retailer that includes Sears and Kmart stores declined 6.8% to $7.88 billion.
"Sears is undergoing a significant transformation, and we fundamentally are changing the way we do business," Lampert said. “We are moving away from a company that was heavily based on selling products solely through a store-based network to a member-centric business model focused on providing benefits to our members anytime and anyplace.”
The pace of store closings may also increase this year, Lampert said. The company may close more than the 80 stores now being closed, he suggested.
The slight sales growth at Sears Domestic primarily reflects an increase in the home appliances and home categories, the company said. The company saw declines in the lawn and garden, consumer electronics and sporting goods categories, as well as a decline in Sears Auto Centers.
Sears also experienced a revenue decline in Home Services.
At Kmart store, comparable-stores sales were down 2.2% as compared with a 4.6% decline last year.
Earlier this month, the retailer announced it intends to attempt to sell its stake in Sears Canada.
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