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NAHB: New-home sales trend is positive

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Sales of newly built, single-family homes rose 6.6% in September to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 307,000 units, their best pace since June, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Commerce today.

“The fact that new-home sales are finally moving in the right direction — albeit slowly — is definitely good news following an exceptionally quiet summer at builders’ sales offices and model homes,” said Bob Jones, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Bloomfield Hills, Mich. “The road to recovery will be a long one, however, and a key hurdle that must be surpassed is the lack of available credit for new-home construction so that builders can meet improving demand for new homes moving forward.”     

“Beyond the higher sales figure, another positive piece of data provided by today’s report was the number of newly built, unsold homes on the market, which has been steadily declining since spring of 2007 and fell again to a modest 205,000 units in September,” said NAHB chief economist David Crowe. “This suggests that builders continue to prudently winnow down their inventories. That said, the concern is that builders’ ongoing difficulty in accessing production credit will keep the razor-thin supply of new homes from being replenished as consumer demand revives, thereby hindering the positive momentum.”

Sales of newly built homes rose in three out of four regions in September, with the Northeast posting a 3.4% gain, the South a 3.2% gain, and the Midwest a remarkable 60.6% gain following a big decline in August. The West posted a 9.9% decline in new-home sales for September.

Due to the improved sales pace, the month’s supply of new homes for sale declined from 8.6 in August to 8.0 in September.

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IHA Design event shows off innovation

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The International Housewares Association (IHA) recently hosted a Discover Design media event in New York City Oct. 21 aimed at showing off exciting new housewares products coming out soon with a focus on design.

Twenty-seven companies featured their latest and greatest in the Rhinelander Ballroom of the Hilton New York.

“At this time of year, I find that a lot of the companies that are here are focused on design,” said Lisa Casey Weiss, Lifestyles consultant for the IHA.

Weiss said that while many companies offer functional products that meet consumer needs, interesting and compelling designs can often give products a definitive edge.

“The product itself is functional. That’s the idea when you purchase a housewares product — it’s supposed to do something for you. Design is the added benefit. It differentiates products from others, it differentiates yourself from your competitors, and it catches the consumer’s eye on the sales floor,” she said.

Weiss also emphasized the importance of the housewares category in the hardware and hardlines retail environment, which can often create a one-stop shopping experience for consumers.

“There is a market for consumers when they go to a hardware store. They’re also looking for housewares items. It’s a natural mix between the two items. People are working inside and outside the home,” she said.

Norwood, Mass.-based Boston Warehouse, whose slogan is “putting the Fun in functional,” featured its new line of garden tools called Garden Goddess. The stainless steel and aluminum construction tool collection features a set of garden shears, fork, trowel and a watering can, each sporting a colorful floral design.

“They’re garden tools, but they’re really well designed. They have a little bit of a flare to them, they’re whimsical, they’re fun,” said Weiss.

Charleston, S.C.-based AM Conservation Group was also on hand to showcase its latest energy-saving plug and outlet covers. Focused on energy conservation, the Plug Guard Wall Plate Cover is designed to upgrade outlet covers to a new clean design that saves energy. The plate cover not only insulates and seals out drafts, it keeps unoccupied outlets covered for added child safety with spring-activated doors that shut automatically. The company’s Universal Wall Plate Thermometer also features built-in insulation and includes a built-in thermometer to help homeowners keep their homes within energy-saving temperature ranges. The thermometer fits both toggle- and decora-type switches and features a 360-degree swiveling thermometer to display Fahrenheit and Celsius temperatures.

Congers, N.Y-based Casabella showcased its latest designs in cleaning supplies. The company featured the Moon Mop, so named because of its crescent moon-shaped cleaning head, which combines a 360-degree swivel action to get into corners, around legs and behind toilets with ease. The mopping surface has a washable and reusable micro fiber sponge head with easy glide technology, allowing for a water-only, chemical-free cleaning solution.

Israel-based Epilady, known for personal grooming products, showcased a new flea removal device for pets called the Flea Zapper. Designed to replace chemical and toxic colors and gels, the Flea Zapper detects and destroys fleas on contact simply by combing it through dry hair. When the electronic comb touches fleas, they get zapped, die and are combed out of the hair.

Wisconsin-based La Crosse Technology featured its new line of The Weather Channel-branded weather gauges, like the Lollipop Garden Thermometer and Cascading Ice Cube Rain Gauge. The company also featured a line of wireless gauges, including a wireless digital rain gauge with a self-emptying rain bucket.

The preview show was just a warmup to the IHA’s upcoming 2011 Housewares Design Awards, which will take place Feb. 2.

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Cerberus ends takeover bid for BlueLinx

BY HBSDEALER Staff

An affiliate of Cerberus Capital Management dropped its tender offer for BlueLinx Holdings today after the private investment firm was unable to gather enough shares to make the deal work.

Cerberus ABP Investors (CAI), the affiliate, was already a majority shareholder in BlueLinx when it launched its takeover bid last July. At the time, Cerberus owned 55.4% of the outstanding common stock of BlueLinx; it offered $3.40, later upped to $4 per share for any outstanding stock, a deal valued at $58 million.

The tender offer was conditioned upon several things, including ownership of at least 90% of the outstanding BlueLinx common stock by the final deadline, which was Oct. 18. Cerberus chose not to raise its offer or extend the timeline for the bid.

Approximately 6.7 million shares have been tendered since the initial offer, according to Cerberus, but this was not enough to meet the 90% threshold. “CAI and Cerberus have instructed the depositary for the amended offer to promptly return all shares tendered,” the company said in a prepared statement.

Headquartered in Atlanta, BlueLinx is a leading distributor of building products throughout North America, offering more than 10,000 products from over 750 suppliers.

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