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HIRI cements lineup for spring conference

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) will tackle the thorny topic of the credit market and its impact on home improvement at its upcoming conference.

The non-profit research organization’s 2008 Spring Conference kicks off April 3 in Washington, D.C., with a full lineup of sessions dedicated to home improvement industry research. One of the late additions to the lineup are Citigroup analysts Steven Wieting, managing director Citi Economic and Market Analysis, and Deborah Weinswig, managing director, retailing/broadlines food & drug and home improvement.

Wieting and Weinswig’s presentation will examine the relationship between the credit, housing and home improvement markets, with a forward-looking perspective.

Also on the agenda are a session called “The Structure of Remodeling Contractors and Coping with Business Cycles,” presented by Kermit Baker of the Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University; and “Beyond Satisfaction: The Return of Loyalty,” by Ed Hass of International Communcations Research.

The full-day conference runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. HIRI members receive a discount on conference registration fees. For information, go to www.hiri.org.

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U.S. Home Systems, Home Depot decking agreement to end

BY HBSDEALER Staff

U.S. Home Systems, a manufacturer of custom home improvement products for Home Depot, has said it is no longer supplying decking products to the retailer in markets including the Midwest, Boston, Connecticut, Virginia Beach and Atlanta. The company noted that revenues from those markets were approximately $6 million in 2007.

U.S. Home Systems will continue to sell and install decking to Home Depot on a “non-exclusive basis” until Aug. 31 in northeastern and mid-Atlantic markets, including northern Virginia, Maryland, Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York.

“U.S. Home Systems will also begin offering its deck products in these markets under its Designer Deck brand concurrently with the phasing out of (Home Depot) markets,” the manufacturer said in a statement. “The company will continue to manufacture wood deck component parts and related accessories at its Woodbridge, Va., facility to serve these markets.”

U.S. Home Systems said it will continue to offer kitchen and bath cabinet refacing products with Home Depot in several markets, the company noted.

“We will continue to build our presence in (Home Depot) markets and will strive to be a world class provider,” said Murray Gross, chairman and CEO of U.S. Home Systems, in a statement.

U.S. Home Systems is based in Lewisville, Texas.

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Shedding light on the lighting category

BY HBSDEALER Staff

No surprise here: the warehouse home center channel dominates the interior and exterior lighting category, as well as ceiling fans, a category where big boxes enjoy a whopping 73.5 percent dollar share. But based on consumer data from NPD Research, the story in these bright categories seems to be a move to the middle price points from the discount/mass merchants on one extreme and the specialty lighting and electrical supply stores on the other.

According to research, the average price paid for a lighting purchase was $44.82 in 2007, up from $40.22 in 2006. Broken down by channel, consumer spending at mass merchants jumped $6.20 to $28.88, while consumer spending at lighting and electrical supply stores declined from $88.29 to $74.50.

“Specialty retailers seem to be coming down, while warehouse clubs and mass merchants are going a little upscale,” said Mark Delaney, NPD Group’s director of home improvement. “These shifts may be driven by competition, or just a result of the overall economy.”

Energy efficiency has played an increasingly large role in the sale of lighting across the country in recent years, but NPD’s research shows an opportunity for Energy Star or other energy-focused marketing programs. Consumers who purchased 42.4 percent of lighting units did not know if their purchases were Energy Star compliant.

“To me this says that there is an opportunity for Energy Star or the individual retailer or manufacturer to provide education on their products, or be more aggressive in promoting the energy efficiency story,” said Delaney.

In the ceiling fan category, there was a slightly higher connection to Energy Star, but still consumers purchasing 39.9 percent of items did not know if their lighting carried the Energy Star label.

Environmental friendliness also is playing out in the exterior lighting category in the form of solar lighting. This category jumped from 17.5 percent of dollar share in 2006, to 22.0 percent in 2007. In addition to the energy savings of solar, the technology has improved in recent years. Still, the leading segment of exterior lighting remains the exterior wall mount segment.

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