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Home Depot buyers accused of kickbacks

BY HBSDEALER Staff

A kickback scandal involving four Home Depot buyers was reported last night by CBS News. According to the report, the purchasing managers accepted “enormous sums,” totaling millions of dollars, to ensure that certain flooring products were sold in Home Depot stores.

One source told CBS News that Frank Blake, the company’s president and CEO, immediately terminated the four employees when he learned of the arrangement. The firings took place at a meeting in an Atlanta hotel, the story said.

The FBI is reportedly investigating the allegations. Phone calls to the Atlanta FBI field office were not immediately returned.

In a prepared statement released to HCN, Home Depot confirmed the firings but said the company could not provide further details at this time.

“The Home Depot has terminated four merchandising associates for infractions of our ethical standards,” the statement said. “We’re cooperating with authorities and because this matter is under investigation, we can’t comment further on the specifics. It is important to note that this matter does not have a material effect on our consolidated financial conditions or results of operations. Maintaining our ethical standards is of utmost importance to The Home Depot and is something we enforce strongly.”

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Toro recalls leaf blowers

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Toro will voluntarily recall about 900,000 electric leaf blowers sold through Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target and Kmart from January 2000 through December 2002.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the leaf blowers can experience problems with a faulty rotating component that can break, causing shards of plastic to fly out of the blower. No serious injuries have been reported, but the company has received 154 reports of the component breaking and 21 reports of minor cuts and bruises.

The recall involves electric blower model 51586, with serial numbers ranging between 000055100 and 220255609. The products were sold for about $32.

The black impeller fan, which causes the problem, can be seen through the air inlet screen on the bottom of the unit. The blowers feature two decals; one reads “TORO Power Sweep” and another features the model and serial numbers.

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Hickory Hardware realigns sales force

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Hickory Hardware, designer, manufacturer and marketer of decorative hardware, has announced a “strategic realignment” of the company’s sales force, with the aim of better serving customers and providing simpler product purchasing, shipment and payment.

The company has restructured its sales organization into a network of sales representatives with responsibility for specific accounts and regions.

“In the past, Hickory Hardware customers might have had to go through several sales representatives to get everything they needed from the product line,” explained John Pelka, vp-marketing for Hickory Hardware. “Now they can place a single order with Hickory Hardware, get what they need in one shipment and communicate through a single point of contact.”

Jon Valsvik, Hickory Hardware vp-retail sales, now will head a team of sales executives who will service the largest Hickory Hardware chain store, co-op and independent retail accounts, as well as the company’s four North American sales regions. Reporting to this executive sales team is a group of regional managers who will oversee relationships with the company’s manufacturer’s rep organizations.

As part of the new structure, Dale Enos, Hickory Hardware special projects representative, will manage chain store home channel accounts. Sales director Clair Tripp will serve the western and Midwestern United States accounts, as well as the company’s co-op accounts. Hickory Hardware sales director David Siebert will represent the eastern and southeastern United States and Canadian accounts.

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