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Making less of a splash

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Shower heads have been through some major changes in the past few decades, with a steady evolution of massage settings, mounting options and panel systems—to pamper homeowners with a spa-like experience.

But the latest consumer data from Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD Group points to a new trend emerging over the last 12 months in shower head styles. In a word, it’s “simple.”

“This year, the purchases can be described as practical, as opposed to feature-laden,” said Mark Delaney, NPD Group’s director of home improvement.

Among the details, basic wall-mounted shower heads jumped past handheld shower heads with massage as the number one shower head by unit share. (See chart 3.) Wall-mounted units without handheld attachments jumped from 26.6 percent last year, to 32.8 percent in the 2008 period.

“Wall-mounted shower heads without handhelds, which are typically less expensive, were the most popular type of shower head sold in the past 12 months. Could this be a result of the current economic climate?” said Delaney.

As in most categories, the warehouse home centers dominate, with more than half of all purchases taking place in big boxes. And as the consumer’s income rose, so did the likelihood of shopping warehouse home centers and specialty stores. (See chart 1.)

“Not surprisingly, the specialty stores such as plumbing supply and kitchen and bath stores tend to sell significantly higher priced shower heads,” said Delaney.

The price index for purchases in the kitchen and bath channel was a whopping 188.8 (100.0 being average price). Mass merchants turned in the lowest index, at 68.5.

Also gaining support was the practice of shopping close to home. Price and brand selection were the top two reasons for shopping a certain retailer. (See chart 4.) But “close to home” showed the greatest gain, jumping from 10.7 percent last year, to 20.3 percent in 2008.

“The idea that price and selection have declined in favor of convenience is more evidence to the argument that people are looking for more practical shower heads as a replacement rather than as part of a major bathroom remodel.”

OTHER FINDINGS:

Specialty stores were increasingly popular with 55-and-older consumers over the past 12 months, up 4.3 percentage points to 15.4 percent.

Almost 60 percent of males reported making their purchases at a warehouse home center, compared to 46.6 percent of females. The gender gap was even more pronounced in the mass merchant channel, where 19.0 percent of males purchased shower heads, compared to 33.4 of females.

The average shower head consumer is 44.7 years old, with income of $69,100. The average home improvement customer is slightly younger (46.1) and wealthier ($72,000).

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PRO Group makes key promotions

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Denver-based PRO Group has promoted Brendan Sullivan to director of merchandising, a new position, according to the company.

Sullivan is a 21-year industry veteran who has served in various merchandising and business development positions for Servistar/Coast To Coast and True Value prior to joining PRO Group in 2005.

“Brendan Sullivan’s experience and work style makes him ideally suited to a merchandising director role,” said Steve Synnott, president and CEO of PRO Group, in a statement. “Brendan has worked as a buyer and merchandise manager, and since he joined our company three years ago he has taken a leading role in providing progressive ideas and programs on the merchandising side.”

In addition, PRO Group managing director for the PRO Hardware and GardenMaster divisions, Shari Kalbach, has been named managing director for the company’s Farm Mart division, which supplies independent farm supply retailers.  

Kalbach joined PRO Group in 1997 and is responsible for all of the Group’s distributor relationships.  

“Shari Kalbach has a proven track record as a highly effective executive working with PRO Group distributor members,” Synnott said. “Adding Farm Mart to Shari Kalbach’s scope of work is a natural progression of her role. She excels working closely with our distributor members.”

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Design Within Reach narrows losses

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Design Within Reach, the San Francisco-based specialty home decor retailer with around 70 locations nationwide, saw net losses of $159 million, narrower than the $575 million in losses recorded in the same period last year.

Net sales for the second quarter decreased 3.7 percent to $47.3 million, compared with $49.1 million recorded in the year-ago period.

Still, the retailer saw an improvement in gross margin, a measurement of earnings that takes production and service costs into consideration — gross margin improved to 46.4 percent in the second quarter, compared with 44.3 percent in the same period last year.

In-store sales were $32.6 million, up 2.2 percent from last year. Sales from phone and the dwr.com Web site decreased 17.5 percent to $10.4 million.

DWR also said it predicted that “in light of the challenging economic environment, the company believes revenue will be flat year over year.”

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