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Hand in hand with tools

BY HBSDEALER Staff

By their very nature, hand tools appeal to the young consumer. From hammers to handsaws, these products are universally practical—but particularly so for entry-level homeowners. Plus, they’re affordable.

The data collected here tracks consumers’ purchases of hammers, hand saws, pliers, screw drivers, wrenches, measuring tools and manual staple guns. It’s no surprise that the 18-34 age group accounts for the lion’s share of the hand tool market—40.3 percent (See chart 3).

Nor is it a surprise that brands are major considerations—a trusted brand is cited as a reason for a fourth of hand tool sales (See chart 6).

One trend hidden in the numbers is that the big boxes are getting bigger into the holidays. Warehouse home centers’ fourth-quarter share grew in 2007 (See chart 2).

For years, the mall-based department store has had an edge in holiday merchandising, said Mark Delaney, NPD Group’s director of home improvement. “But if you have looked at warehouse home centers lately, they’ve started to improve their product displays, too. They are showing customers that a hand tool is a great gift for Uncle Joe.”

Or Aunt Jane. Females over-index in the mass channel, where 44 cents on the dollar is spent by women. The LBM supply channel is the least female-focused, with only 13 cents on the dollar coming from women.

Women also appear more price conscious than men (See chart 5), and the data shows they are doing more research in stores than men. “That points to the benefits of continuing the trend toward a customer service strategy that caters to females, which historically has not been a real strength for home improvement retailers,” said Delaney.

While warehouse home centers lead the pack (See chart 1), hand tools are available through many channels, including the often-overlooked “other,” a category that encompasses grocery stores, eBay or dollar stores.

And of course, hand tools are gateway tools, the use of which tends to lead to the use of other, more serious tools in the future.

“There is still a lot of variation within hand tools as to where consumers are shopping—particularly younger consumers,” said Delaney. “If you can win them to your brand, getting them in the door younger is always a good thing.”

OTHER FINDINGS:

Warehouse home centers enjoy 49.2 percent market share in hammers, up 7.8 percentage points from 2006. Pliers market share grew 8.6 points to 42.7 percent.

Wrenches over-index among wealthy consumers. Wrenches are the only hand tool category in which the $100k-and-above income bracket leads in market share (23.4 percent).

Warehouse clubs showed the biggest growth in the average price index, from 87.9 to 110.5, a 22.7 point swing year over year.

Methodolgy

NPD research is based on monthly tracking of nearly 70 categories, to 30,000 opt-in customers. The data above reflects the period July 2006 to June 2007.

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Bed Bath & Beyond declines in fourth quarter

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Specialty retailer Bed Bath & Beyond posted weaker fourth-quarter earnings, due in part to an extra week in last year’s fourth quarter. The company saw earnings of $172.9 million, down 16 percent from $205.8 million in the same period last year.

Net sales for the fourth quarter were $1.93 billion, down 3 percent from last year’s fourth quarter. Comparable-store sales for the fiscal fourth quarter of 2007 decreased by 0.4 percent.

For the fiscal year, which again was one week shorter than the previous fiscal year, the company saw earnings decline 5.3 percent to $562.8 million from $594.2 million a year ago.

Net sales for the year were $7.049 billion, an increase of 6.5 percent from last year. Year-over-year, comparable-store sales increased by 1 percent. The company opened 22 new stores in the fourth quarter, including its first location in Canada.

The retailer said it expects comparable-store sales to be relatively flat or negative in 2008. Bed Bath & Beyond also warned investors it expects a per-share percentage decline in 2008 earnings from the low double-digits to mid-teens.

Bed Bath & Beyond operates a total of 971 stores nationwide.

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Canfor reduces production

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Vancouver, B.C.-based Canfor is reducing its production volume to reflect market realities. The company pointed to “falling demand and poor pricing for softwood lumber with no indications of a market recovery in the near future.”

Canfor will be reducing workweeks at a number of its operations. In addition, Canfor’s Prince George Sawmill will move from three shifts to two and its Clear Lake finger joint operation from two shifts to one. This move will reduce Canfor’s annualized lumber production by approximately 600 million board feet.

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