Home improvement retailers help Hurricane Ike victims
As residents of Texas’s Gulf Coast try to recover from the fury of Hurricane Ike, the home improvement community is rallying to bring much-needed supplies to the millions who are still without power and who face a huge cleanup job ahead.
The 600-mile-wide Category 2 hurricane hit the greater Houston area early on Sept. 13, killing at least five people, destroying countless homes and knocking out power to millions of area residents. More than 2 million people remained without power on Sept. 15, and fallen trees and debris littered the streets of Houston, America’s fourth largest city.
Particularly hard-hit was Galveston, a barrier island about 50 miles south of Houston, where many homes and businesses were still under water, and there was no electricity, running water, sewage or telephone service.
HCN spoke to Jerry Lightfoot, owner of four hardware stores in the Galveston area (in Vidor, Lumberton, Vienna and Kirbyville). On the morning of Sept. 15, people were lined up outside his Vidor store — which was missing some roof panels and had sustained warehouse damage — and he was still letting them in just a few at a time.
“This is pure devastation. I’ve got a coastal home, and I don’t know whether or not it’s there anymore,” said Lightfoot, who buys from both Orgill and Handy Harware. “Handy just made a delivery, and by the end of today, we will have sold more than 400 generators and distributed four semi-loads of supplies from Orgill’s distribution center in Kilgore.”
At press time, Home Depot had reopened 47 of 53 stores that had temporarily shut down in Houston, Galveston and Beaumont and had more than 300 truckloads of product moving into those communities “to help meet customer needs,” spokesman Craig Fishel told Home Channel News.
The Atlanta-based home improvement retailer also announced it is donating $1 million to recovery and rebuilding efforts in response to Hurricane Ike through the Home Depot Foundation. The money will be used as follows: $200,000 to the American Red Cross for immediate recovery aid for Houston and the communities along the Gulf Coast; $100,000 in cleanup materials for locally organized community volunteer efforts, including the activation of Team Depot, the company’s associate volunteer program; and $700,000 to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) for rebuilding efforts in communities affected by Hurricane Ike.
According to a report issued by Reuters prior to the hurricane, Walmart had planned to temporarily close 114 stores in Texas and nine in Louisiana in anticipation of the storm, while Lowe’s was set to shut down 17 stores in Ike’s path. By the morning of Sept. 14, many of these stores had reopened and had long lines of customers waiting outside to buy generators, batteries and various cleanup supplies.
True Value said that in the days leading up to the arrival of Hurricane Ike, the Chicago-based co-op’s regional distribution center in Corsicana, Texas, delivered 10 emergency retail orders to member stores within the projected impact area. On Sept. 14 and 15, the DC fulfilled additional orders for nearly 24 consecutive hours, sending out approximately 14 truckloads of emergency supplies such as sand bags, wet/dry vacs, mops, extension cords, flashlights and sump pumps, the company said.
Walmart has announced it will donate $2.5 million to assist with relief efforts related to Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.
The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer’s commitment — a combination of cash and merchandise donations — will support such organizations as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Feeding America, the Texas Disaster Relief Fund and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.
The Walmart Foundation has also allocated more than $2 million in grants to help store associates who have sustained damage to their homes. And the company committed three tractor-trailers and drivers to assist in delivering relief supplies to affected areas.
In addition, many individual Walmart stores were contributing to the cause by donating ice and water to citizens; bug spray and flashlights to police officers, firefighters and National Guardsmen; blankets and bedding to area shelters; and towels to rescue workers pulling people out of flood waters, Walmart spokesman Dan Fogleman told Home Channel News.
Beacon Lumber to close yard
Beacon Lumber, a family-owned lumber and hardware dealer in New Bedford, Mass., plans to close and auction off its lumber division, according to a report in the local newspaper South Coast Today.
The lumber company plans to keep its paint and hardware store opened, while shutting down its lumberyard and auctioning off materials and equipment on Sept. 20, according to the report.
The closure was due to increased competition, a poor economy and failure of pro customers to pay some debts, the owners said. The yard saw most of its business from contractors.
Because of the struggling housing market, the owners told the newspaper they’ve decided to shift the business’s focus to consumer hardware.
The company was purchased in 1982, by Armand and Steve Brodeur. At its height, Beacon lumber employed about 100 people, down to around five today.
Survey gives insight into what new-home buyers expect
The housing market may be slower, but there still are some buyers out there, and a recent J.D. Power and Associates Survey shows how their desires are changing.
The survey, which ranked home builders based on a number of design and consumer preference elements, included insight into what new-home buyers expect in their new purchases, notably on the “green” side of the market.
The study found that 28 percent of new home buyers perceive that their home is environmentally friendly, but a vast majority of these home buyers — 75 percent — say that their home builder did not identify the home as “green.”
The top green features that home buyers believe a new home should include are: energy-efficient heating and air conditioning units, energy-saving appliances, energy-saving lighting and temperature-controlling windows.
Overall satisfaction with new-home design has increased to 782 on a 1,000-point scale in 2008, up 36 points from 2007. Compared with 2007, the importance of the floor plan has increased in 2008. In addition, the flexibility and ability of builders to make non-standard design changes — such as relocation of an interior wall — is a particularly important new component in satisfaction with new-home design.
The study also found that 92 percent of home buyers reported receiving sales incentives. Among home buyers who report receiving incentives when purchasing their home, the average sales incentive totaled more than $16,500.
Also, the percentage of home buyers who report that construction on their new home was finished when they signed the sales contract has increased to 39 percent in 2008 from 32 percent in 2007.
Home quality has remained stable since 2007. The rate of customer-reported problems decreased in 2008 to 1,151 problems per 100 homes from 1,345 per 100 homes in 2007.
J.D. Power reported that the proportion of homes delivered both completely finished and on time has increased to 70 percent in 2008 from 58 percent in 2007.