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Handy Hardware shows strength

BY Lisa Girard

In San Antonio, a city known for its historic stands, Handy Hardware stood up for growth in the hardware business. Fall market attendance was up, and so were warehouse sales.

Houston-based Handy Hardware celebrated a 40 percent increase in warehouse sales at its fall market in San Antonio last month. The 1,200-store hardware co-op also saw attendance rise 8 percent over the spring market in February, giving a boost to the 750 or so vendors displaying at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center Aug. 14 to 16.

“We talked to distributors who have been having a bad year, and when they saw attendance was up 8 percent, they couldn’t believe it,” said Mickey Schulte, Handy Hardware’s vp-marketing and purchasing.

The market—Handy’s first-ever out side Houston—featured special sections of new products (1,100 have been added to the warehouse since the spring market) and green products, which now number more than 120. One of the busiest areas was paint and sundries, as Handy has done several conversions in the past three months, Schulte said. The company has carried PDG paint for 15 years and Valspar for the last three years.

As for the whopping 40 percent increase in sales over last year’s fall event? “Inflation is a small part of it, but our economy is still pretty good in this region,” Schulte said. “When property values were going through the roof, ours went up some but not a lot, so we’re not experiencing as much of a housing slump.”

It seems everything has been coming up roses for Handy Hardware. The co-op’s sales are up 7 percent through the first seven months of 2008, including an 18 percent jump in July. Schulte says it’s a simple matter of economics. “We have all the basic programs everyone else has, but with little or no fees,” he said. “Our claim to fame is the lowest delivered prices in the industry.”

Member services include circular programs, signage, credit card programs, planograms and more. Handy Hardware was formed with 19 members in 1961 and now has almost 1,200 stores in the fold—many of which are also associated with one of the major co-ops.

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Former Westlake execs open True Value store

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Former Westlake Ace Hardware executives Brian Richards and Scott Westlake have formed their own True Value hardware chain, called SCW. The first store opened Aug. 30 in Overland Park, Kan.

Called Nuts and Bolts, the store is 51,000 square feet, about three times the size of a traditional True Value outlet. A second, 28,000-square-foot Nuts and Bolts is set to open sometime in September in Independence, Mo.

Both stores are based on the Destination True Value format, which emphasizes small projects and offers a broad product selection in core hardware categories that can be adapted to the needs of the individual store.

In addition to the traditional hardware departments, Nuts and Bolts offers a 4,000-square-foot customer service center where customers can get glass and keys cut, window screens repaired and knifes and scissors sharpened. The store has about 40 employees.

Richards, the company president, spent more than 30 years with Westlake — a 90-store chain with stores in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico — before partnering with Scott Westlake, the grandson of Westlake Ace’s founder.

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Toll Brothers posts third-quarter loss

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Toll Brothers, one of the nation’s largest home builders with a specialty in luxury homes, saw third-quarter losses of $29.3 million, plummeting from earnings of $26.5 million in the same period last year.

The Horsham, Pa.-based builder recorded a hefty $139.4 million pre-tax charge, $33.4 million of which was attributed to failed joint venture agreements. For the first nine months of the fiscal year, the builder has generated losses totaling $219 million.

Home-building revenues totaled $1.24 billion in the third quarter, down 31 percent from $1.8 billion in the same period last year.

Robert Toll, chairman and CEO for Toll Brothers, pulled no punches in his assessment of the results: “We are now completing the third year of the worst housing market since we started in 1967,” he said.

“Weak consumer confidence has kept many potential buyers from taking advantage of the current buyers’ market,” he noted. “We believe that most big public builders have sold off most of their inventory, which eventually should help stabilize home prices. However, we currently have to contend with foreclosures as the new low-priced competition.”

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