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Maine lumber dealers merge

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Two pro dealers along the Eastern Coast of Maine are planning to combine operations and form a 10-unit LBM chain.

Viking Lumber, a five-location dealer based in Belfast, Maine, will combine with Rhoades Building Products, which also operates five locations in East-Central Maine, effective Jan. 1. The Rhoades units will be rebranded as Viking Lumber, but the company will be jointly owned by the Flanagan family, who own Viking Lumber, and Chris Rhoades, CEO of Rhoades Lumber.

The merger allows the new company, which will employ 200 workers, to expand its building materials products to customers in Hancock, Knox, Lincoln, Penobscot, Waldo and Washington counties.

Founded in 1944, Viking Lumber has five lumberyards in Belfast, Hancock, Lincolnville, Vinalhaven and Warren, as well as a stone division called Viking Hardscapes. Rhoades Building Products has expanded through acquisitions in 2004 and 2007, in addition to opening a window and door showroom in 2006. It now has locations in Blue Hill, Ellsworth, Holden, Machias and Milbridge.

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October’s existing-home sales decline

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Following two consecutive months of increases, existing-home sales declined in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.43 million.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the 2.2% decline compared with September reflects an uneven recovery.

“A temporary foreclosure stoppage in some states is likely to have held back a number of completed sales,” according to Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Still, sales activity is clearly off the bottom and is attempting to settle into normal sustainable levels.”

Yun predicted the seasonally adjusted annual rate to pass 5 million by spring of next year.

Total housing inventory at the end of October fell 3.4% to 3.86 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 10.5-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 10.6-month supply in September, according to the NAR.

More evidence that the expiration of tax buyer incentives affected sales can be found in first-time buyer statistics. First-time buyers purchased 32% of homes in October, unchanged from September, but down from 50% a year ago during the initial surge for the first-time buyer tax credit.

Other statistics from this morning’s NAR existing-home sales report:

• Year to date there were 4.149 million existing-home sales, down 2.9% from last year at this time; • The national median price for an existing home was $170,500, down 0.9% from last year; and • Single-family home sales declined 2.0% to a rate of 3.89 million. October 2009 saw the rate at 5.23 million.

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Home Depot points to next frontier of data

BY HBSDEALER Staff

San Diego — Home Depot’s director of enterprise data warehouse pointed to big improvements in data integrity at the world’s largest home improvement retailer during the Teradata user conference in San Diego.

A12-year veteran of the company, Cynthia Czabala talked about some of the retailer’s failed attempts at standardizing item data before it ultimately succeeded. “We now have 99% of stock product attributes” for both HomeDepot.com and also the retailer’s physical stores, Czabala said. “We can now audit these attributes and hold [the vendors] accountable to the true facts of that data,” she said.

Home Depot is now attempting to perform the same kind of data cleansing for its customer database. One major accomplishment so far: integrating customer accounts into its data warehouse from all the different ways of collecting customer data: point of sale transactions, rentals, special orders, credit card applications and so on.

“For the first time, I can tell you how valuable you are to me based on how much business we’ve done,” Czabala said. Capturing — and understanding — customer sales transaction data is “the next frontier,” she said.

By analyzing these interactions, Home Depot can better target its marketing outreach and learn more about the needs of customer segments like pros, HD Direct and installed services. Just as the IT team must learn to work closely with merchandising and logistics, so it goes with marketing, which is moving away from mass advertising and its imprecise ROI.

“We want to increase marketing to smaller groups,” Czabala said.

The Teradata Partners user group conference took place in late October.

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