Lessons from the rental counter
Who are today’s tool renters? They’re usually a pro, or a heavy-duty DIYer, said Gary Lewis, who as a 27-year Home Depot veteran and the tool rental merchant has a pretty good vantage point on the forces acting on the rental market.
One of the trends: a jack-of-all-trades effect across the pro community.
“Today, the pro customers who typically were focused on one trade are broadening their fields,” he said, the result of the need to expand their services in a contracting market. “That’s forcing them to come in and rent certain tools, rather than own them.”
Plumbers might find themselves painting, and that’s helping the rental of sprayers. At Home Depot, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year as tool rental supplier, the pro has always been a key rental demographic.
That familiarity led to another market observation: “The DIYer will rent anything that the pro will rent,” he said. “But the pro will not rent anything the DIYer will rent.”
And of course, price-conscious consumers are increasingly considering renting as an option to buying.
These forces call for a careful analysis of the product mix, the brand mix and the technology mix in the Home Depot rental centers, which Lewis—who has been with the rental division from its humble beginnings 15 years ago—describes as “the most exciting part of the business.”
Sewer snakes, floor sanders and demolition hammers are the top three rental categories, he said, and are likely to continue their strong position. The division’s importance within the larger retail box isn’t likely to change either. There are rental centers in more than 1,200 locations. What is likely to change, he said—without offering details—is the message. “You’re going to see a much stronger play in the marketing side of it,” he said.
Kleer Lumber gains distribution through iLevel
iLevel by Weyerhaeuser is now distributing Kleer Cellular PVC Trimboard, sheet goods and other Kleer cellular PVC building products from its Baltimore, Md., and Easton, Pa., distribution centers.
iLevel is a new partner for Kleer as the company serves the key building markets of New Jersey, metropolitan New York and other Mid-Atlantic regions including Eastern Pennsylvania, Northern Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.
“iLevel is an ideal partner for Kleer Lumber because of its strong brand name, the products it represents in the marketplace and its commitment to outstanding service,” said Walt Valentine, president of Westfield, Mass.-based Kleer Lumber. “iLevel’s renewed commitment to focus on specialty product groups aligns perfectly with the core product development strategy at Kleer Lumber.”
Construction industry loses more jobs
The construction unemployment rate rose to 18.8% in November as the sector lost another 5,000 jobs since October, according to the Associated General Contractors of America, which just released an analysis of new federal employment data. The analysis indicates that the construction sector has been the hardest hit of any industry during the economic downturn, association officials said.
The industry’s 18.8% unemployment rate, not seasonally adjusted, was the highest of any industry and roughly double the overall unemployment rate. The construction industry has lost 2.1 million jobs since employment in the sector peaked in August 2006, according to the association. Since November 2009, the industry has lost 117,000 jobs, while the private sector added 1,088,000 jobs.
“The unemployment report shows construction still has not broken free of the recession that has gripped the industry since 2006,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Other than the stimulus and other temporary federal programs, it has been a pretty bleak four yours for the industry.”
The only construction segment to add jobs in the past years has been heavy and civil engineering construction, which has benefited from federal stimulus, military base realignment and Gulf Coast hurricane-prevention projects, Simonson observed. Meanwhile, residential construction has lost 79,000 jobs over the past 12 months, while nonresidential specialty trade contractors and nonresidential building — the other two segments in the nonresidential category — have lost 62,000 jobs.
Association officials cautioned that the stimulus and other temporary federal programs would begin winding down in 2011, most likely before private, state or local demand for construction picks up. They urged Congress and the Obama Administration to act on a series of long-delayed legislative bills for water, transportation and other infrastructure programs.