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Home channel employees praised on Capitol Hill

BY Brae Canlen

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky,), speaking on the floor of the U.S. Senate on tornado relief efforts last month, singled out several lumberyards and home-improvement retailers for their assistance in the aftermath of last month’s tornados. 

McConnell’s March 29 remarks, released by the Federal News Service, praised a number of individuals, groups and businesses who rendered aid in his home state. A series of severe tornados and funnel clouds took the lives of 24 Kentuckians. More than 300 people were injured, and many homes, churches, schools, and places of business were destroyed.

Restaurants, churches, television stations and even a soccer team stepped up with food, shelter, supplies, and volunteer hours. Among them, according to McConnell, were Knox Hardware and Pope’s Lumber, which donated work and cleaning supplies.

Several Home Depot stores in Kentucky and Indiana were also singled out.  District manager Becky Young and store manager Jim Householder coordinated donations of approximately $2,600. Householder’s employees were out immediately after the storm handing out paper towels, trash bags, and gloves to relief volunteers. Another district manager, Tim Choate, along with district human resource manager Lee Ann Bruce donated thousands of dollars’ worth of products such as chainsaws, gloves, respirators, tarps, water, and trash bags to organizations such as the Henryville Fire Department and local United Way chapters. Store employees volunteered to assist those organizations in the recovery.

Lowe’s stores in Kentucky pitched in with donations of gloves, tarps, shovels, bleach, and other supplies to communities across Kentucky. The North Carolina retailer donated more than $300,000 to relief efforts after the storms, McConnell said. Lowe’s district manager for Kentucky, Stephen West, dispatched a group of trained employees called “Lowe’s Heroes” who volunteer their time and construction expertise. 

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Big-ticket purchases: How consumers shop

BY Brae Canlen

Nearly seven out of 10 home improvement shoppers say they are not brand loyal when it comes to buying big-ticket items, according to a study conducted by The Integer Group, along with research partner Decision Analyst.

The category of products examined — major appliances, flooring, and windows and doors — can often span between three and 10 years between consumer purchases. Integer and Decision Analyst launched the study in early December and will be conducting it annually to better understand shopper motivations when it comes to purchases between $100 and $1,000.

Among the findings from the inaugural study were:

• Window/door and flooring shoppers both spend the greatest amount of time researching — often by retail site and not brand — before in-store shopping.

• The Internet is a critical channel for major appliance shoppers and can affect purchasing decisions at point of sale. It may even drive shoppers online to buy.

• Flooring shoppers researched products online an average of 6.72 times versus going to a store to shop; most shoppers averaged 3.89 in-store visits.

• Appliance shoppers are more likely to respond to a deal — but the new normal has them closely studying the real price/value equation of their purchase.

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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 March 30, 2012

*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: SPF lumber buyers sensed a decidedly weaker market, but mills did not necessarily all react in the same manner. In the East, mills looked for orders and lowered prices. In the West, mills were more adamant about sticking to quotes used in previous weeks, despite the market’s sluggish pace. Southern Pine lumber buyers purchased sparingly, presuming a continued weakness in dimension lumber prices. Dimension lumber discounts of $10 were most evident in the West zone. Month and quarter-end sent buyers looking for deals. A lack of aggressiveness among buyers prompted Coastal species lumber producers to lower prices or negotiate deals. More market liquidity was generated at discounts. Producers made outgoing calls, and subsequent success often consisted of conservative volumes. Light mill inventories and order files helped maintain a little strength in the Inland species lumber market, as it closed its third week of slow sales activity. Buyers stayed away or only looked for specific tallies to fill inventory holes. Radiata Pine Shop was scarce, as producers went to other markets with better returns. A few sales of Mldg&Btr for early summer arrival were reported. Ponderosa Pine Mldg&Btr sales were moderate, and prices were firm but unchanged. Millwork producers reported steady repeat business. Sales activity for Ponderosa Pine boards remained quiet throughout the week. Light inventories at mills and limited potential for increased production in the near future kept producers quoting close to previous levels. Producers shipped Eastern White Pine boards in record volumes. Sales activity in all widths and grades was robust. Steady sales of ESLP boards continued, although prices for narrow #2&Btr came off slightly. Tight Western Red Cedar log supplies in Canada are forcing unscheduled downtime at mills. Some will continue to run alternative species. As of this week, log shortages had little influence on pricing.

Panels: For yet another week, order files were the strength that OSB producers used to hold prices. In eastern markets, producers discounted to help build order files but moved prices back up as soon as that was accomplished. Demand for Southern Pine plywood remained lackluster, eroding order files and ushering a few discounts into the market. A groundswell of inquiries came late in the week from customers, which boosted producers’ confidence. Thinning order files produced light discounts in sheathing early in the Western Fir plywood market. Discounts were confined to sheathing. Both Canadian plywood producers and distributors agreed: This week’s plywood market was sideways. A few cash sales were reported, but overall activity was quiet. Mill order files were out to the week of April 16. According to particleboard and MDF producers, customers should prepare themselves for more price increases in April or early May. Resin suppliers have informed producers that the price of urea is on the rise.

For more on RISI, click here

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