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Meritage Homes reports $45 million loss

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Meritage Homes, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based home builder, reported a net loss of $45 million for the first quarter of 2008, compared with net earnings of $15 million in the same period last year. At the same time, net sales declined to $371.66 million from $576.12 million for the first quarter of 2007.

Home closing revenue fell 35 percent year over year, with the central region experiencing the greatest declines. In Arizona, for example, closings and closing revenue were lower than the prior year’s first quarter by 58 percent and 66 percent, respectively.

The company purchased just 889 lots under option contracts during the quarter — 60 less than a year ago — with 65 percent of those lot purchases in Texas.

“Based on the first quarter results we’ve seen reported so far, we believe that our strong Texas franchise is becoming a clear differentiating factor for Meritage, relative to other home builders,” said Steven Hilton, chairman and CEO of Meritage Homes. “Texas has continued to outperform other areas of the country.”

Hilton also said that while total inventories of homes remain high relative to the recent pace of sales, he believes the market is beginning to see less significant declines in new home prices. “Stabilizing prices should help improve buyer confidence over the next several quarters, and lead to improving demand in 2009 and beyond,” he said.

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Wal-Mart Canada pays out record bonuses

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Wal-Mart Canada store associates are marking a successful fiscal 2007 by sharing a record $45.4 million in bonus payments, based on company and store goals, according to the retailer.

“This represents the company’s greatest bonus payout in its 14-year history,” the retailer said in a statement.

Wal-Mart Canada began a bonus program in 1994 when the retailer took over the country’s Woolco stores. This year, 242 of 299 stores nationwide paid bonuses to eligible part- and full-time associates under the program — “an average reward was nearly $1,000,” according to the company.

“In keeping with a policy of open communication, Wal-Mart store management shares detailed sales and profitability progress figures with store associates daily,” the statement said. “This year’s record bonus payment reflects Wal-Mart Canada’s success in a year in which it responded to significant industry challenges”

Successful initiatives included responding quickly to the higher Canadian dollar with lower prices and keeping stores opened “around the clock” in the lead-up to Christmas.

“Pricing and operational strategies, the continued growth of our supercentre program, marketing campaigns promoting our price leadership and many other factors brought customers to our stores last year,” said Jim Thompson, Wal-Mart Canada’s senior vp-operations. “However, it was our store associates that delivered a phenomenal performance in a tough year for retail.”

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Menards plans new southern Ohio location

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Menards plans to build a new 144,107-square-foot store in Hamilton, Ohio, according to a report in the Oxford (Ohio) Press.

The Menards store is in the initial stages of zoning approval in Fairfield Township, Ohio. Current plans call for the Menards to anchor a 52.8-acre shopping center.

According to the report, the retailer was eyeing a smaller site, but halted that plan because of annexation issues between two local municipalities. The new store is “35 percent larger” than in that previous plan.

Ohio has been a growth spot for the big-box retailer — other new stores in the state are located in Mansfield, Lancaster and Marion.

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