New matchmaker service focuses on outdoor jobs
A new online marketplace for contractors and consumers will launch in time for homeowners who loathe the job of hanging their holiday lights. ServiceVines.com, based in Oklahoma City, will focus on jobs that involve the exterior of the home: landscaping, lawn care, lawn maintenance, tree removal and fencing. Putting up the Christmas lights and inflatable snowman is also on the list.
Consumers and property managers can post their jobs and wait for free bids from service contractors. There are more than 300 service providers in the ServiceVines network, according to the press release. Providers get a satellite view of the house but no address until the homeowner selects them as a provider. There’s also a mobile app for using ServiceVines.
Despite snowthrower challenge, Toro grows in 2012
Bloomington, Minn.-based The Toro Co. reported net earnings of $129.5 million for the full year ended Oct. 31, up from earnings of $117.7 million in 2011.
Net sales increased 4% to $1.96 billion for its fiscal year.
For the fourth quarter, Toro reported net earnings of $0.3 million, down from $5 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. Net sales decreased 7.8% to $339.3 million in the quarter.
“The Toro Co. completed another record year with new highs for revenues and earnings per share,” said Michael Hoffman, Toro’s chairman and CEO. “While pleased with our performance, it could have been even better if not for limited snowfall around the world that reduced snowthrower sales by almost 50%."
The difficult fourth quarter was largely attributed to a weak demand for snowthrowers. "Other major product categories showed sales growth in the quarter, with positive momentum heading into the new fiscal year," Hoffman said.
In Toro’s Residential segment, net sales for fiscal 2012 were $607.4 million, down from $623.9 million in fiscal 2011. Shipments of walk power mowers and riding products were up for the year due in part to the successful launch of the TimeMaster 30-in. walk power mower. For the fourth quarter, residential segment net sales were $102 million, down 28.9% from the comparable fiscal 2011 period due to reduced demand for snowthrowers.
Residential segment earnings for fiscal 2012 totaled $57.9 million, up 6.4% from fiscal 2011, when a pre-tax charge of $4.7 million to account for one-time costs associated with a rework issue affecting walk power mowers resulted in a decline in earnings. For the fourth quarter, residential segment earnings were $6.7 million, down from $11.9 million in the comparable fiscal 2011 period.
The company expects revenue growth for fiscal 2013 to be about 4% to 5%.
“We are early in our fiscal 2013, and mindful of the challenging world-wide economic environment and, as always, acutely aware of the volatility of Mother Nature. Nonetheless, the outlook for our end markets appears promising. Golf rounds and revenues were up last year, housing and construction are showing signs of improvement, and the agriculture market continues to adopt more efficient methods of irrigation," Hoffman said.
Strike ends, merchandise freed at Southern California ports
The strike that shut down the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach for eight days ended this afternoon, and retailers in Southern California heaved a great sign of relief. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, the strike began when a clerical unit of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 walked off the job, over the issue of improved job security. These workers handle all the paperwork associated with the cargo imported and exported by the two ports.
Many of the 70,000-plus dock workers honored the picket line, essentially shutting down the ports. According to the Wall Street Journal, an estimated 270 shipping containers, many of them holding consumer goods from China, were stuck offshore. The two ports account for roughly 40% of the value of imported goods brought into the United States.
Logistics providers who promised spring seasonal merchandise to retailers found themselves scrambling for alternatives. Pacific Mountain Logistics told the Wall Street Journal that it had a “drop dead” delivery date of Dec. 17 for a big customer expecting a shipment of patio furniture, gardening supplies and big planters.
Both sides of the dispute agreed to bring in a federal mediator Tuesday night. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.