News

A mixed bag of merchandise

BY HBSDealer Staff

Innovation in the home improvement industry spans across categories — from lighting and kitchen appliances to tools and decking.

Compact Fluorescent Luminaire (LH-CFL1) Keyless
Allied Moulded Products, Inc., has introduced new energy-savings Compact Fluorescent Luminaire (LH-CFL1) keyless and (LH-CFL2) pull chain light fixtures that are sure to be a hit with homeowners. Designed for quick and easy installation for use in attics, basements, closets and garages, these fixtures use a GU24 base, 13-watt, squat compact fluorescent lamp with a 10,000 hour life. (alliedmoulded.com)

Klein Tools Stubby Multi-bit Screwdriver/Nut Driver
Klein Tools has extended its line of multi-bit screwdrivers with the addition of the Stubby Multi-bit Screwdriver/Nut Driver with Square Recess Bit and 1-1/4-in. shaft for access to confined places. The compact driver shaft holds four universal tips and converts to two nut driver sizes. With its cushion-grip handle, the stubby interchangeable screwdriver/nut driver product was designed with comfort and efficiency in mind. Its strong, durable tips are manufactured with square edges to fit screw openings securely. They resist slippage and provide positive turning action. The strong nut driver function improves bit-holding power. (kleintools.com)

FSI Home Products RailingWorks
FSI Home Products has introduced new offerings into its RailingWorks line of pre-built aluminum railing products. Additions include a frameless glass railing system, a privacy railing system and new picket styles. A silver powder coat color option is also now available for all RailingWorks standard railing profiles. The RailingWorks frameless glass railing system is a cost-effective glass railing product that provides a safe and secure panoramic view. The system’s powder-coated aluminum posts are maintenance-free and available in eight standard colors. The interlocking patent-pending all-aluminum RailingWorks privacy railing system makes it easy to secure a deck or other outdoor space. (fsihp.com)

Milwaukee M18 FUEL 1/4-in. Hex Impact Driver
Milwaukee Electric Tool has expanded its 18V platform with the M18 FUEL 1/4-in. Hex Impact Driver. It features Milwaukee’s combination of the PowerState Brushless Motor, RedLithium Battery Pack and RedLink Plus Electronic Intelligence to deliver up to three times longer motor life, up to 50% more runtime and 3-Mode Drive Control. The PowerState Brushless Motor converts energy into power and torque more efficiently, the PowerState Motor provides up to 1.600 in.-lbs. of torque and 0-2900 RPM, and the PowerState Motor reduces noise and cools more rapidly for years of maintenance-free performance. (milwaukeetool.com) 

Porter-Cable 18-Volt Oscillating Multi-Tool
Porter-Cable has launched its new 18-Volt Oscillating Multi-Tool as a kit and bare model, both of which are built with the company’s Tool Free System blade change technology that allows for quick accessory changes without bolts or wrenches. They also offer double the runtime per charge compared with Porter-Cable’s 12V MAX oscillating multi-tool. The tool is compatible with the company’s 18V Lithium Ion and NiCD battery platforms. (portercable.com)

Whirlpool Ice Collection
Whirlpool has unveiled its Ice Collection, which the company describes as “a transformation of the classic white style to a striking, more contemporary signature design.” Black Ice features a black finish with contemporary metallic details. Both finishes are accented with stainless steel, including new user-friendly handles. Other new design elements include subtle, intuitive graphics and larger oven windows. Some of the new product offerings include Energy Star-qualified refrigerators with hidden hinges, LED lighting, and a tall water and ice dispenser; wall ovens that feature the FIT system, which ensures the unit will fit most existing cutouts; and ranges that feature the AccuBake temperature management system. (whirlpool.com)

Grime Boss Heavy Duty Hand Cleaning Wipes
Grime Boss Heavy Duty Hand Cleaning Wipes’ active ingredient is a moisturizing formula called Pro-Klean. Grime Boss is designed with a tough scrubbing side that removes stuck-on residue and a smooth gentle side for cleaning hands and arms. The “2 in 1 Action Scrub” is tough enough for big messes and can easily remove tough latex paint, adhesives, grime, gunk, oil and grease. In addition, the wipes smell of citrus, and contains Vitamin E and aloe. The resealable package has 10 wipes. (grimeboss.com)

Starborn Industries Deckfast Metal
Starborn Industries has introduced Deckfast Metal, a line of fasteners that can be used to attach every type of decking — PVC, composite, capstock and hardwood — to steel and aluminum substructures. Deckfast Metal deck screws are approved for use with Trex Elevations steel deck framing and Wahoo Decks DryJoist and DryJoistEZ systems. The fasteners are available loose and collated for use with the Muro Auto Feed Screw Driving system. (starbornindustries.com)

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2012 Industry Scoreboard

BY Ken Clark

Against the backdrop of a slowly recovering economy, Home Channel News has once again published its Top 300 Industry Scoreboard — the 300 leading home improvement and building material retailers ranked by sales for the most recent fiscal year. For the second consecutive year, the sales of the Top 300 retailers showed a positive increase over the previous year.

Calendar year 2011 was the year of the lowest single-family housing starts ever recorded. But it was also the year of a slow-moving economic recovery. The nation’s housing stock got another year older. And as economists from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) like to point out, 20-year-olds got another year closer to finally moving out of their parents’ basement.

The macroeconomic and social factors that influenced sales at the nation’s largest and most successful home improvement and building material retailers are too numerous to identify and too complicated to measure. More important are the local market conditions — the job creation, the family formation and the spending habits of local communities.

A few highlights from the list this year:

Top-heavy growth

For the second year in a row, the companies listed in the Top 300 showed a combined increase in sales. Combined sales were $205.9 billion, up 3.3%.

Most of that growth took place at the top of the list. The sum of the increase in sales at Home Depot and Lowe’s in 2011 was $3.783 billion. If that sales growth were ranked as a company, it would rank eighth among all home improvement retailers.

Walmart is back

After a short-lived experiment in 2011 to remove the Bentonville, Ark., giant from the list, the editors have reversed course. The influence of Walmart Stores on home improvement is too large to ignore, especially as the company builds on its DIY basics.

Welcome to Amazon.com

Amazon continues to reshape the way consumers — and retail executives — think about shopping. Increasingly that thought process is affecting home improvement. The estimated $1.5 billion in home improvement sales equates to about 3% of the company’s total sales.

Gainers vs. decliners

After a difficult 2009 that was dominated by decliners, more companies are reporting sales increases — 57% on the current Scoreboard.  

More good news: Among those companies in the green in 2011, a full 42% showed double-digit sales growth. 

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Highlights of a Golden Panel

BY Ken Clark

It started out as an exercise in benchmarking of an economic recovery, turned to an examination of best practices for independent retailers and concluded with a celebration of family-retailing values.

It was the second-annual Golden Hammer Retailer Award Panel held during the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas last month. Officially titled, “The Recovery: Is it real, and what to do about it?” the discussion also flowed from specific business tips to general economic outlooks.

Delivering the goods were honorees of the 28th Golden Hammer Awards: Hall of Fame inductee Bob Taylor, CEO of Do it Best Corp.; M. Marcus Moran Jr., CEO of Aubuchon Hardware, Retailer of the Year; and Brad McDaniel, owner of McDaniel’s Do-It Center, Tools of the Trade honoree.

Here were some of the highlights extracted from the presentation:

On the economy

Bob Taylor: “We are moving in a more positive direction. That said, expecting anything more than the 700,000 to 750,000 housing starts range will be a stretch.

“But it is moving in a positive direction. The folks who have managed their business well during the downturn have positioned themselves well now for the road ahead.”

M. Marcus Moran Jr.: “There are deals out there in real estate for purchasing a hardware store. And in a difficult period, with an aging owner who probably has no succession plan and probably with college-educated children who are going to work elsewhere. Their exit plan is limited. And what we do is we provide a package that normally pleases them.”

Brad McDaniel: “For most of the 2000s, advertising was really easy. It seemed whatever circular we bought from Do it Best, we would mail it out and it brought people in. If we threw something at the newspaper, that would bring them in, too. It’s been tougher, though, in the last couple years. So one thing we’re working on in our market is getting together with other Do it Best members and trying to do some group advertising.”

Taylor: “On the fuel price side, any time fuel gets above $4 per gallon or in the range, it impacts distribution costs. And it also affects people psychologically every week at the pump, when they see the impact the price has. Another cautionary piece and even more troubling, is the uncertainty. A lot of it does fall on Washington, D.C., and either the activity or lack thereof, depending on your perspective. Just what’s coming next in terms of tax policy, regulation might have a muting effect on the recovery.”

On competing with big boxes

McDaniel: “When we found out the box stores were coming, one of the things that really helped us compete successfully was the brand names. One was Benjamin Moore, because people know that name, and the magazines show that name.” 

Marcus: “[Benjamin Moore] has been a great partner — about two full years of diligent work on their part and our part. Now not only do we have a strong paint department, but we are able to focus on color and color advice. We’re running seminars for our employees on color, and we’re going to accelerate it. It takes repetition, and it takes everyone in the store to get engaged with color.”

McDaniel: “The advantage that we independents have is that we learn people’s names. We know people’s families. Their dad shopped at the store, their grandfather shopped at the store. I have employees who have been with us a long time and know them — that also helps us in the fight.”

Marcus: “We had neighborhoods that have deteriorated. We have had big boxes that have put our lights out so to speak, or dimmed them, and it’s time to move on because that capital is no longer productive. Our source of funding acquisitions is just sometimes taking our mistakes or our misfortunes and picking up our marbles and finding somewhere else [to operate]. So, it’s a big chess game out there, and you have got to know where to put your investments.”

On the family business

Marcus: “Obviously, I think the business would not be as strong if we didn’t have good family members who have been in place a long time. The first generation and the second generation have passed on. In the third generation, each of us has a little more than 40 years experience. But more importantly, we have a strong, educated fourth generation.”

Taylor: “When you talk about family members coming into the business, that doesn’t happen unless they see growing up, an environment that worked for their parents. And one of the things that I’ve certainly enjoyed for 37 years is that this is a relationship industry. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it half as much as I did.”

Marcus: “We’re tagged as a family business because of the family ownership. But again, there are some very important people in our management, and they are rather young, and one is in charge of all retail operations at age 30. I could go on with other stories. We’re a family business, but as a corporate family, we have blood members and non-blood members who together are all called family. And they are all holding key positions. So even though we are family-held, we are broadly managed.”

On the joys of hardware retailing

Taylor: “I think that’s great when the excitement continues. And we continue to attract great young people — and it’s especially nice when they’re family members — into this business.”

McDaniel: “When the sun comes out and everybody is in a good mood and stuff is flying off the shelves, retail is a lot of fun. A couple weeks ago on a Saturday — our first beautiful sunny Saturday in Seattle in a few months — it was just unreal. Cars were backed up at the parking lot, lines at the register. So I texted the wife and said, ‘Bring as many of the boys as you can.’ Three of [my sons] showed up, they grabbed the vest … even my 9 year old, he’s stacking fertilizer and grabbing shopping carts. That’s what makes it fun and to see them excited about the business too. And that’s also what makes me very optimistic.”

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