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Market Recap: RISI Crow’s Construction Materials Cost Index

BY HBSDEALER Staff

A price index of lumber and panels used in actual construction for March 17, 2017.

Western – regional species perimeter foundation; Southern – regional species slab construction.

Crow's Market Recap — A condensed recap of the market conditions for the major North American softwood lumber and panel products as reported in Crow's Weekly Market Report.

Lumber: SPF lumber producers began to field more inquiries Tuesday. By Wednesday, sales reached a peak in response to short covering and a need for yards to purchase replenishment volumes. Traders pointed to futures as a catalyst. Early discounting faded, prices firmed and then moved higher. Mill sales continued to lag Southern Pine lumber production, again forcing those prices lower. Buyers held out when possible, expecting prices to decline further, and purchased only minimal volumes to cover near-term needs. Coastal species remained in the weak part of the cycle, with mills forced to lower prices on some items. Other prices managed to hold up well. A good US housing construction report Thursday morning drew attention. Inland lumber producers, like much of the national economy, were beleaguered by an abortive storm forecast in major northeastern cities. Much of the overall price decline occurred in Hem-Fir #2&Btr. A number of stud prices ended lower, but many were on firmer footing by week’s end. This was especially evident in SPF stud pricing. SPF mills grew order files extending into the first week of April. Radiata Pine from Chile shows change, brought about by production issues caused by recent fires in Chilean forests. Demand for Radiata is good, but the fires created production lags, which mills are working hard to correct. Ponderosa Pine industrial grades have shown a tendency to increase in the last few months. Additional supplies will enter the market soon, which could alleviate pressure on Mldg&Btr, Clears and #1 Shop. The season for increased activity in Ponderosa Pine boards is here. Unfortunately, the issues of supply and demand are not in synch. This is an annual imbalance, brought on by weather-related timber harvesting issues and unpredictable increases in market demand. The higher Western Red Cedar producers raise prices the greater concern they show for longer-term repercussions. Despite the potential for lost market share in reaction to escalating prices, it is not stopping them from raising prices more.

Panels: OSB markets varied from region to region this week, from lethargic to active and mostly dependent on weather conditions. Sources broadly agree, however, that wood will be needed soon as spring approaches. Seeing order files thin, Southern Pine plywood producers lowered rated sheathing prices and negotiated deals in an effort to sell carload volumes and extend lead times. Willing buyers took advantage of some deep price cuts, which allowed those producers to edge order files into the first days of April. Sales activity in Western Fir plywood began the week slow. Producers approached the market with significant CDX price cuts. Activity increased Wednesday and then again more sharply Thursday. Prices firmed and mills began to raise quotes. Canadian plywood markets woke up late. Following a slow, cautious start, discounts were offered midweek and buyers jumped in. By the week’s end, prices firmed and order files moved out. Particleboard and MDF producers reported little change in their sales activity from the prior week. A significant increase in first quarter sales, which producers still expect, has not taken place.

For more on RISI, click here.

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Smart homes, smart housewares?

BY HBSDealer Staff

For all the talk of smart home and its revolutionary effect on appliances, not much column space has been devoted to the connected home revolution in housewares.

At a panel discussion called “How the Smart Home is Disrupting Housewares (and What to Do About It)” at the 2017 International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago, industry leaders discussed the growing need to create products that solve problems.

The panel was moderated by Mike Wolf, creator of the Smart Kitchen Summit, host of the Smart Kitchen Show podcast and founder of NextMarket Insights, a research and advisory firm focused on the connected home. He was joined by Chris Young, CEO and co-founder of ChefSteps; Carley Knobloch, host of HGTV’s Smart Home; and Nathan Smith, founder and chief technology officer of Wink.

As Wolf put it, “connected products so far have experienced varying degrees of success," but the category as a whole is moving into a new stage of maturity that's more focused on sustainability, eliminating fragmentation around technology and addressing real consumer pain points (rather than using technology for technology's sake).

“I don’t think anyone wakes up in the morning and says ‘Oh, I want to get a smart home.’  The terminology itself is somewhat scary,” Smith said. “[If you’re a connected product manufacturer], just saying something is smart doesn’t cut it. But saying ‘Hey, did you know you could do this with this product?…Did you know you never have to come home to a dark house again?….Now that’s something.”

“I’m looking for a compelling solution to a problem,” Knobloch said. “I’m looking for a company that has empathy for me. I don’t want connectivity for connectivity’s sake.”

One way to communicate the value of such a product? Tell a good story about it.

Another key to the maturation of the category will be decreasing the amount of fragmentation.

“Apps today in many ways are like VCR and TV remotes of the 1980s,” Young said. “They had lots of features but we didn’t always know what they did. Lots of clutter and lots of heft can be very intimidating.”

The way forward, the panel agreed, will involve technology-enabled improvements (“We get feedback in the form of data all the time as to how people are using the product — what’s working and what isn’t," said Young), as well as voice recognition (“The design has an intangible pull to it, and we’ve been liberated from our phones. It feels like a little less of a burden," Knobloch said).

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Steady growth forecast for home products

BY HBSDealer Staff

A new home products industry forecast from global information company The NPD Group reveals that the small home appliances and housewares markets will continue on the growth path they returned to in 2015.

Covering more than 100 small kitchen electrics, personal care appliance, home environment appliance, and housewares categories, NPD is forecasting a nearly 3% combined dollar sales increase for these industry segments in 2017 versus 2016.

Home environment appliances, which include floor care, will have the strongest growth this year, increasing dollar sales nearly 4%, followed by personal care appliances with three percent growth compared to 2016 results. Small kitchen electrics and housewares (non-electrics) are each forecast to grow two percent in 2017.

“The home products industry has entered a 5- to 10-year window in which it has the potential to see consistent annual growth in the U.S., based on the changes occurring in the demographics of the population,” said Joe Derochowski, executive director and home industry analyst at NPD. “While the environment is supportive of growth for the home industry, manufacturers and retailers will need to deliver innovative new approaches addressing consumer needs and wants, not just bells and whistles, in order to compete and capture consumer dollars.

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