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Industry embraces philanthropy, and City of Hope

BY Ken Clark

The hardware and home building industry gathered in Orlando on the eve of the International Builders' Show to support City of Hope.

"Our goal tonight is to celebrate and inform," said Kevin Courtney, associate VP of Corporate Philanthropy for the California-based disease research and treatment facility as he kicked off the 2017 Spirit of Life reception. 

Special recognition for the night fell on the family ownership of the Atlanta-based Quikrete Cos., including Custom Building Products and Pavestone, collectively the 2017 Spirit of Life honorees. In their acceptance speech, the Winchester brothers Jack, Dennis and Jim shared their vision of good corporate citizenship.

"We are truly humbled to be recognized as the Spirit of Life honorees," said Jim Winchester. "Giving back has been part of the Quikrete DNA since our founding 75 years ago."

Added Jack Winchester: "There's an unquestioned need to find treatments and cures for cancer diabetes and other diseases. We are happy to support City of Hope because it will save the lives of our friends and our loved ones."

Retired Home Depot executive Bruce Merino introduced the three Winchester brothers as one of the premier trios of the home improvement industry. 

"They are number one in the world at putting stuff in a bag and selling it," Merino quipped.

The phrases "accelerating therapies" and "precision medicine" were used to describe the kind of work being done at City of Hope, in fighting cancer as well as diabetes and other life-threatening diseases.

"City of Hope is not just a hospital in California," said Courtney. Rather, it's a world-leading institution fighting and treating diseases.

The Spirit of Life Reception, along with a golf outing earlier in the day,  raised just shy of $1 million for City of Hope. In the past 35 years, the industry has raised some $155 million.

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The NAHB unveils 2017 forecast

BY Ken Clark

Orlando, Fla. — The National Association of Homebuilders expects single-family housing starts will make a double-digit percentage jump in 2017.

During a presentation here at the International Builders' Show, NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz shared a forecast for 855,000 single-family starts for 2017, roughly a 10% increase over the previous year.

The forecast for 2018 is even better — up 12% to about 961,000 single-family starts.

Multi-family starts, however, are expected to remain flat, at about 384,000.

The NAHB remodeling forecast calls for growth of about 1% in 2017, and growth of about 2% in 2018.

Topping the list of limiting factors on residential construction statistics for 2017 is the labor market. Conditions are tight, said Deitz. In fact, as a percentage of total jobs, there is a 2.7% job opening rate in the building industry — that's higher than the 2.5% open rate that existed at the peak of the building boom.

"We've gotta recruit that next generation construction worker in this country," adding that the average age in the construction industry is 42.

On the positive side of the ledger, the NAHB forecast 2.4% growth in GDP, an improvement over the disappointing 1.6% growth in 2016. Meanwhile, "baseline demand" for starts is 1.3 million, accounting for population growth and the 300,000 to 400,000 houses lost.

Plus, the next generation of home owners is hovering around the home business. Deitz described the positive demographics this way:  The average age of millenials is 26, and the peak age of the U.S. Home buyer is 30.

"The recovery essentially continues and will continue," said Dietz.

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2017 Retail Predictions

BY HBSDEALER Staff

As the new year gets underway, it’s time to look forward to the changes and trends 2017 will bring. For retailers, that includes some new consumer behaviors in addition to the always-expected technological advances.

While change might seem overwhelming, it can also provide fresh opportunities for sales. And with a little planning, retailers can stay ahead of competition to meet the demands of their customers.

To help guide you into the new year, here are a few of our 2017 retail predictions.

Non-Traditional Revenue Sources
As we enter 2017, many retail organizations are beginning to explore non-traditional revenue sources to keep profits up. One of the easiest turnkey ways to build revenue? Credit protection and warranty solutions. These products not only offer a positive impact on the bottom line, but they’re also a great way to build customer loyalty — the sort of loyalty that keeps customers coming back and turns them into brand advocates.

Automated Online Returns
Throughout 2016, online shopping experienced enormous growth — and there’s no sign of a slowdown. As online shopping continues to become more common, you can anticipate a push for easy, automated return processes from online retailers. Convenience can help breed confidence, allowing customers to make a purchase online knowing they can easily return if they’re not satisfied.

Retailer Transparency
From manufacturing details to corporate values, the average consumer desires greater transparency from retailers recently. This is especially true of Millennial shoppers, many of whom would rather purchase from a socially conscious brand over a luxury retailer. Businesses that embrace the same values as consumers can anticipate a boost to brand loyalty, which is a great reason to let your customers know you’ll always be up front with them.

Renting vs. Buying
The year 2017 may also see a rise in rentals — especially when it comes to larger or generational electronics. Knowing that a product’s lifespan lasts only until the release of next generation model may give consumers pause before taking the full purchase plunge. For example, full two-year phone contracts are becoming more expensive. With consumers aware the next iteration comes out in just in six short months, there’s far less incentive to sign up long term and more mobile customers are leasing devices rather than buying them. Be on the lookout for this trend to hit other industries as well.

Independent Retailers
Over the last several years, there’s been a growing demand for niche, independent retailers. Why? It starts with personalization — having access to a retailer that simultaneously caters to individual needs and likely knows their customer inside and out. For both new and existing brands, this trend leads to improved, more personalized service as well as a smaller store footprint. Going forward, the desire for unique and customized service is only going to go up — so get on board.

Mobile, Mobile and More Mobile
The growth of mobile is no longer a secret, and incorporating a mobile strategy can only benefit your brand — regardless of your company’s size. Simply ensuring a website is mobile friendly, or enabling mobile purchase, creates a sophisticated mobile interaction that improves the customer experience.

Get ready, retailers. The new year is here!

Kevin Cundiff is VP of retail for Fortegra Financial Corporation, a Tiptree Financial Inc. company. Fortegra and its subsidiaries comprise a single-source insurance services provider that offers a range of consumer protection options including warranty solutions, credit insurance, and specialty underwriting programs.

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