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Looking ahead to the ProDealer Industry Summit

BY Jim Reynolds

This year is turning out to be just a little better for the housing industry than the past few years. As this column is being written, Home Channel News is reporting new-home sales coming in at the highest level in more than two years. Inventory of existing homes is down 20% from last year also. Granted, these past few years have been historically low years, forcing our readers, advertisers and all of their customers (builders and us, the general public) to baseline, streamline and work for real sunshine in our markets.

Yet opportunity surrounds us — that is the nature and blessing of open markets: the chance to move your business INTO the sunlight. That is what Home Channel News and our partner the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) will be doing this Oct. 24 to 26 in Savannah, Ga., at the annual ProDealer Industry Summit.

The ProDealer Industry Summit offers three days of opportunity with leading executives from hundreds of dealers, wholesalers, distributors and manufacturers of building products, all in one place. It is a one-of-a-kind meeting that offers networking settings to share ideas and compare best practices, confide in peers, and decide with partners what steps your company can take to make 2013 and beyond better for your company.

Those positive numbers mentioned above? They are the starting gun for a new contest, a challenge that when met will mean growth and profitability for your organization. There are already parts of the United States market where existing homes are being sold within a week of listing, and signs that our temporary “rental nation” is ready to return to one of the bedrocks of our economy: the ownership and upkeep of a home.

In 2008, Ivy Zelman of Zelman Associates was a speaker at the ProDealer Industry Summit and reviewed with our attendees how we got into this mess, and how long it would take to get us out. (Her forecasts have been leading-edge for years). It’s only fitting that she returns this year to the summit to review her predictions for 2013-14 and offer you the opportunity to talk to her about them.

Dr. George Lucas, author of “The One Minute Negotiator,” will also be at the Savannah Westin for the ProDealer Industry Summit and will be a part of our team put in place to help our industry create its own revival.

But you have to be there too. The opportunity to meet with the best, to network with the most competitive, to share ideas with the most aggressive and the most inclined to succeed in our industry awaits you.

We look forward to being with you in October!

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Shape shifter: All American staff opens new store

BY Brae Canlen

All American Home Center was known throughout the industry for its size (175,000 sq. ft.), its longevity (more than 50 years) and, most of all, its locale — across the parking lot from a Home Depot in Southern California. So when the owners decided to shut down the home improvement warehouse late last year, it came as a shock to All American’s executive team, whose tenure ranged from 25 to 35 years. The store, they claimed, was still turning a profit.

And Downey, Calif., still needed an independent hardware dealer.

Six months later, Hometown Hardware & Garden opened its doors in a former Von’s supermarket in Downey. The three top executives are Greg Fuller, CEO; Rob Morck, chief operating officer; and Ray Brown, CFO. The three men held the same positions at All American, where they worked 35 years, 25 years and 30 years, respectively. What’s more, their first 14 hires were former All American employees.

Fuller, who accepted the 2009 “Tools of the Trade” award from Home Channel News, said that Hometown Hardware is not exactly a reincarnation of All American. Although there will be some carryovers — free coffee for customers all day, a 10% discount for seniors on Wednesdays — the inventory will change. There will be no building materials or flooring, but the store will go deep into the categories popular with homeowners and apartment managers: hardware, plumbing, electrical, lawn and garden, and seasonal items such as patio and holiday decor.

With 18-ft.-high ceilings, Hometown Hardware was able to fit 7-ft. gondolas to hold all that merchandise. But the new owners wanted an easy-to-navigate store, so they worked with a Do it Best store designer to create a wide center aisle (14 ft.) they’re calling “Main Street.”

“You can shop the whole store from our main aisle,” Fuller said.

The company will also offer bath products and fixtures, with installation available.

Hometown Hardware blanketed its market with more than 80,000 direct-mail pieces over a two-week period as part of its grand opening on June 30.

It also wanted to broadcast the company’s tagline: “Great products…great people…great price.” But word of mouth had already spread the news, judging from the large turnout when the company unlocked its doors for a soft opening on June 23.

“Neighborhood people just started rolling in,” Fuller recalled. “So many people stopped to ask [about the project] while we were rehabbing the building.”

Although it is less than 20 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, Downey is a small community of its own, and many of its residents are working-class folks who can fix things around the house. Services like glass, screen and pipe cutting are needed, and Hometown Hardware can even make custom screens in house.

Fuller and his partners didn’t want to lose those customers after All American closed on Dec. 29. So they lined up financing from a local bank, obtained SBA funding and invested their own money. The assistance Hometown Hardware received from the City of Downey was “tremendous,” according to Fuller.

“They were helpful in securing a site and took us through the process quickly,” Fuller said.

Fuller made the rounds at the National Hardware Show, telling key vendors “We’re back in business.” And his partnership with Do it Best looks like it may extend beyond Downey.

“Our goal is to open several stores in this market and fly the Do it Best flag,” Fuller said. He’s already working on store number two, with a target date of early next year. 

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D.C. Hotline: Another coat for lead paint rule

BY HBSDealer Staff

Opposition to the EPA’s Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) Rule — a rule that requires renovation work in pre-1978 homes to follow rigorous and costly work practices supervised by an EPA-certified renovator — has gelled to bipartisan status.

One of the groups engaged in promoting a less rigorous version of the rule is the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA), which last month applauded the introduction of the Lead Exposure Reduction Amendments Act of 2012. The act would reduce the burdens of the rule on the home remodeling and retrofit market, while maintaining protections for pregnant women and small children from lead hazards, according to the NLBMDA.

“The NLBMDA and our members have worked tirelessly to reform the misguided EPA lead rule, and the introduction of legislation in the House of Representatives shows that our industry concerns are being heard on Capitol Hill,” said NLBMDA chair Cally Fromme, executive VP of Zarsky Lumber Co. in Victoria, Texas.

The bill, H.R. 5911, would reinstate an opt-out clause to allow work to carry on unabated in houses where no children or pregnant women live. It would also suspend the LRRP if the EPA cannot approve a commercially available test kit.

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