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Google gets into the home space

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The biggest name on the Web is carving out a small sliver of the home improvement space.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Google agreed to pay $3.2 billion in cash for Nest Labs, which makes high-end thermostats and smoke alarms.

Since its launch in 2011, the Nest Learning Thermostat has received strong reviews in various outlets, and so has the company’s new Protect smoke and carbon monoxide alarm. The new alarm uses a recorded human voice to indicate low battery and other signals, as opposed to annoying beeps.

According to Nest, its mission is to “reinvent unloved but important devices in the home such as thermostats and smoke alarms.”

Larry Page, CEO of Google, said: “Nest’s founders, Tony Fadell and Matt Rogers, have built a tremendous team that we are excited to welcome into the Google family. They’re already delivering amazing products you can buy right now — thermostats that save energy and smoke/CO alarms that can help keep your family safe. We are excited to bring great experiences to more homes in more countries and fulfill their dreams.”

Nest will continue to operate under the leadership of Fadell and with its own distinct brand identity. Fadell is credited with helping Apple design both the iPod and the iPhone before founding Palo Alto, Calif.-based Nest in 2010.

The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including the receipt of regulatory approvals in the United States. It is expected to close in the next few months.

Fadell, CEO of Nest, said: “We’re thrilled to join Google. With their support, Nest will be even better placed to build simple, thoughtful devices that make life easier at home, and that have a positive impact on the world."

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Panel does something about the weather

BY HBSDEALER Staff

New York — You might not be able to predict the weather, but that doesn’t mean you can’t anticipate weather-driven adjustments to sales predictions.

That’s one of the ideas from a panel discussion held in New York and focused on weather’s role on business and consumer behavior. The panel, hosted by weather-focused analytics firm Planalytics was called “Weatherizing your business.” 

Panelist Paul Bosher, European director of business intelligence for Coca-Cola Enterprises, pointed out that weather forecasts are not always accurate, but “that doesn’t mean you can’t forecast the impact on your business. We know the weather last year, and based on normal paterns, we can estimate the impact of the weather this year.” 

He said Coke uses a metric called “weather neutral sales” to better measure the company’s execution.

Other panelists included Brad Eckhart, VP planning and allocation for Ralph Lauren Polo outlet stores; Anthony Green, senior VP business development, Brand Networks; and James Smith, chief revenue officer, Verve Mobile. 

Executives at Planalytics pointed out that rarely do weather events such as snowfall and rain repeat in the same calendar period from one year to the next. “The ability to identify and manage weather’s impact requires more than a simple weather forecast,” the company said.

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Market Recap: RISI Crow’s Construction Materials Cost Index

BY HBSDEALER Staff

A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for Jan. 10, 2014

*Western – regional species perimeter foundation; Southern – regional species slab construction.

Crow’s Market Recap — A condensed recap of the market conditions for the major North American softwood lumber and panel products as reported in Crow’s Weekly Market Report. 

Lumber: Traders continued to sell off their positions in the SPF lumber market at discounts to mill prices. Meanwhile, producers showed little urgency to sell at lower prices, able to maintain lead times of a week or two. Modest gains in futures early were trumped by a stronger move Thursday, which brought more buyers into the market. Frigid weather engulfing much of the eastern U.S. limited sales at Southern Pine lumber mills. Difficulties loading and shipping trucks and railcars slowed deliveries. Sawmills struggled to run, forcing several shutdowns early. As the “polar vortex” lifted, mills started back up at midweek. Buyers needing to replenish inventories or plug holes stepped up to buy solid volumes of Coastal species lumber. Traders quoted and sold significant volumes for jobs. Inland species lumber producers reported an increase in incoming phone calls from customers checking price and availability, but sales volumes were light in comparison to call volumes. Radiata Pine sales were light, as were offerings. Ponderosa Pine industrials buyers took a wait and see attitude towards making more purchases at this time. Good mill order files and limited mill inventories kept producers in the driver’s seat. Although the market for Ponderosa Pine boards was quieter than in weeks past, producers reported good sales activity for #3 Commons. Buyers were not in a panic to buy but most covered what they needed at mill asking prices. Eastern White Pine producers reported better business this week. Most sales were for small volumes. The primary concern in the Western Red Cedar market continues to be a perception of a lack of fiber to go around when spring approaches. 

Panels: Although snow was still on the ground, and freezing temperatures were still around in many regions, OSB buyers began to look at spring needs. Western markets were more active than their eastern counterparts. Producers reported sales in the North Central and Mid Atlantic regions at published levels or slightly higher. Southern Pine plywood mills managed to move their order files out into the week of Jan. 20, which helped keep prices near the prior week’s levels. Wholesalers looked to purchase, having depleted their positions, but did not see the deals needed to take on significant volumes. Western Fir plywood producers struggled to sell production, leaving order files thin and, subsequently, prices susceptible to discounts. Producers lowered quotes early, trying to move prompt wood into the system, and remained at those reduced levels. The Canadian plywood market remained subdued as heavy weather in many areas continued to keep buyers more focused on freezing pipes and jump-starting forklifts than buying plywood. When their attention did return to buying, they found mills with order files as far out as Feb. 3 and firm prices. Particleboard and MDF sales activity varied from mill to mill, indicating steady demand or modest improvements in volumes sold, depending on the producer. More customers returned to the market after extended holiday vacations.

For more on RISI, click here. 

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