Former President Bush visits Texas hardware store
George W. Bush made a surprise visit to Dallas-based Elliott’s Hardware Feb. 21, after Elliott’s president and CEO Kyle Walters invited the former president to be a greeter at the store.
According to Elliott’s spokeswoman Andrea Bond, Bush entered the Dallas store at about 11 a.m. and said, “I’m looking for a job.” The comment was in response to a Feb. 5 open letter from Walters to Bush published in The Dallas Morning News inviting him to consider a position as a part-time greeter at the store.
Elliott’s Hardware has been employing greeters for more than 50 years “as a way of ensuring that every customer walking though the front door sees a smiling face and someone who can assist with their questions,” a company release said. Many of these greeters are people who have retired from executive positions.
In the letter to Bush, Walters listed the positives of the job as: a flexible part-time schedule (to allow travel to Crawford); an opportunity to keep up on his people skills; a seven-mile commute between the store and his new home; ample parking (including space for his security detail); and an employee discount (for any projects Mrs. Bush may have on the “Honey-Do” list).
Although Bush has not accepted the position, he and his entourage spent about an hour browsing the aisles — ultimately purchasing batteries, flashlights and WD-40, the company said.
The story of former President Bush’s visit to Elliott’s has been recognized by media sources across the United States — and the world. According to Bond, the store has been contacted by CNN, MSNBC and NBC affiliates in New York and Miami, as well as U.K.-based BBC radio and a Russian celebrity magazine.
Elliott’s Hardware is a family-owned, independent hardware store that was established in 1947. It is a member of the Do it Best co-op.
Orgill hangs tough in Orlando
Orlando, Fla. — The first day of Orgill’s spring market produced some positive signs at the Orange County Convention Center.
“There’s a buzz out there,” said Brett Hammers, Orgill marketing director. The Memphis, Tenn.-based distributor has more than, buzz — it’s riding some positive business metrics. Orgill completed more than 100 conversions in 2008, a year that saw the company grow 4 percent in sales despite some pretty challenging market conditions. The distributor’s 2008 sales hit $1.18 billion. With some 190 conversion prospects attending last month’s market, president and CEO Ron Beal said it was a time to continue offering assortments that are fresh, tight and with the best possible pricing.
“Historically, when the economy tightens up, people do things themselves and stay closer to home, and that dynamic has always been good for hardware stores,” Beal said. “We’re in a zero-sum game, and we’re encouraging our retailers to make sure they have the right assortments at the right pricing to keep people coming in their stores.”
According to Lynn Phillips, an Orgill sales rep with 17 customers in the Central Mississippi/Western Alabama territory, some stores seem immune to the recession while others are suffering. “You can go 50 miles one way and people are doing well, and then you go 50 miles in another direction and they’re not doing so well,” he said. “Orgill knows things are tough, so they’re trying to help by providing products at a better cost so stores can make more margin.”
The green program had a larger presence at this market than the previous two spring events, as the company has added about 70 new vendors and thousands of new product skus over the past year. The demand for green products is regional in nature, with areas like California, the Northeast and Colorado doing more with the category than most of the southern territories.
Shellie Knapp, a buyer for White’s Lumber in Watertown, N.Y., said New York has become a very green-conscious state and that one of her main goals at the market was to find items that are eco-friendly and code compliant. “People are coming in and requesting these products, and there are so many state guidelines now, having these products is becoming a necessity,” she said.
Jerry Pearson, who has worked for about 25 years at Bentley Flooring and Building in Double Springs, Ala., said the store had benefited from new home building in nearby Smith Lake for about 10 years before the bottom fell out of the construction market. “Right now, we’re just trying to hang on,” he said. “The economy has always had its ups and downs, and if you make it through this rough patch, I think it will be OK.”
Lowe’s Q4 sales and earnings decline
Lowe’s posted fourth-quarter earnings of $162 million, down 60.3 percent compared to earnings of $408 million in the same quarter last year.
Comp-store sales for the quarter ended Jan. 30 declined 9.9 percent, as total sales declined 3.8 percent to $9.98 billion.
“The economic pressures on consumers intensified in the fourth quarter, resulting in a further decline in consumer confidence and dramatic reductions in consumer spending,” said Robert A. Niblock, Lowe’s chairman and CEO, in a prepared statement. “As a result, our comparable-store sales for the quarter remained weak and fell at the low end of our expectations. However, in this challenging sales environment and throughout this prolonged industry downturn, we are continuing to capture market share, which is evidence of our compelling product offering and commitment to customer service.”
For the year, earnings were $2.20 billion, down 21.9 percent from $2.81 billion in 2007. Comps for the year declined 7.2 percent. Total sales for the year held flat at $48.2 billion.
As of Jan. 30, Lowe’s operated 1,649 stores and showed year-over-year square footage growth of 7.2 percent. The company expects to open about 21 new stores in the first quarter of 2009.