New products, new innovations
New products from the 2012 National Hardware Show in Las Vegas had a tremendous variety of end users in mind. Here’s a small sample.
Rolgear Ratch-it screwdrivers
Rolgear Manufacturing’s new generation of “Ratch-it” single-blade screwdrivers offers greater user ease and efficiency, including smooth and silent rotation with zero+ backlash. No longer is it necessary to release and re-grip the tool. These drivers allow for transfer of torque/rotation to the handle drive, eliminating slippage. The ergonomically sleek-shaped handle includes a molded soft grip for heightened comfort. It is also available in a “Ratch-it” Multibit model. (rolgear.com)
Premier Tech LTD Wilson ONESHOT
Premier Tech LTD’s Wilson ONESHOT is an eco-friendly weed sprayer with interchangeable, ready-to-use herbicide cartridges. ONESHOT protects flowers and plants from harmful herbicide overspray with its 7-in. protective shield that encloses the weed completely and keeps herbicide spray contained. ONESHOT’s 24-ounce herbicide cartridges are pre-mixed and ready to use. There are three solutions to choose: selective, non-selective or organic. ONESHOT also eliminates the bending, stooping and repetitive squeezing required by hand-pump sprayers. Its long handle allows users to stand comfortably during use, and a push on the handle releases a precise spray directly onto the weed. (premiertech.com)
Little Big Shot Super Nozzle
The earth-friendly Little Big Shot Super Nozzle, made from solid brass, manages water flow more efficiently, according to the company. It features “continuous” rather than “discrete” adjustments ranging from a powerful sweep to a pinpoint stream. At full open, it has the power to quickly sweep leaves and dirt from lawns and driveways without wasting water. As the knob rotates, the spray adjusts continuously to meet the watering needs of virtually any plant or shrub without overwatering. The built-in Perma-Washer will not corrode, come loose or leak. (kco-products.com)
General Tools E•Z Pro Deluxe Doweling Jig Kit
The new E•Z Pro Deluxe Doweling Jig Kit from General Tools & Instruments now includes a power drill. The kit offers a cost-effective way to produce professional Dowel joints right out of the box. Designed in-house by General’s engineering team, the Deluxe Doweling Jig Kit comes in a compact and portable storage box with pre-molded compartments for stowing all components. The kit allows users to produce three types of strong, precision dowel joints in three sizes: 1/4 in., 5/16 in. and 3/8 in. The heavy-duty aluminum jig simplifies the process and is anodized in a gold color to impede corrosion. The pointed notches on the working edges of the jig center the drill bit automatically for precise registration. All of the kit components come in a self-contained, pre-molded storage box. (generaltools.com)
COAST Products LED flashlights
COAST’s HP7 High Performance flashlight includes next-generation optics, and patented, proprietary LED innovations. Housed in a rugged 5.5-in. aluminum casing, the HP7 projects 251 lumens of light using four AAA alkaline batteries, which are included. It has a runtime of up to 10 hours and a beam distance of 643 ft. The HP7 and most new COAST LED flashlights include Pure Beam Focusing, COAST’s patent-pending optics that produces a pure, bright consistency across the entire beam; Fingertip Speed Focus Control, which keeps one hand free while the user focuses the flashlight with a thumb or finger by sliding the front bezel forward or back; and Beam Lock System, which locks the light into the precise beam size with a twist of the front bezel. (coastportland.com)
AquaOne Toilet Guardian
The environmentally friendly Toilet Guardian by AquaOne Technologies solves the problems of toilet leaks, stuck open flappers, leaky fill valves and more. If the toilet begins to run excessively, the Toilet Guardian’s integrated smart valve, designed around TI MSP430 technology, intercepts the flow of water to the toilet tank before the leak becomes a huge problem. Conversely, if the water level in the bowl gets too high, the Toilet Guardian shuts off the water supply so the user can’t flush a second time. Toilet Guardian’s audible alarm and control panel screen alert the owner of faults in the system. (thetoiletguardian.com)
FLEX-Drain downspout adaptors
The world’s first bendable drain pipe is now also blendable. Designed to offer more versatility than ever, these new FLEX-Drain color-coordinated 3-in. and 4-in. downspout adaptors are designed to match the color of a house or foundation, while the pipes match everything from mulch and grass to dirt and concrete. Part of the FLEX-Drain complete drainage solution system, these flexible, expandable new products feature the same groundbreaking technology and are made in the USA. The downspout adaptors are available in four natural colors. (flex-drain.com)
Hyde Tools Drywall Taping Knives
Hyde Tools has redesigned its line of taping knives, which includes three new, patented taping knife lines — Pro Stainless, Pro Hardwood and Pro Project tools — plus the existing line of Value Series taping knives. These tools range in size from 8 ins. to 14 ins. The Pro Stainless line of taping knives features eight new tools with a flexible, tapered stainless steel blade and soft-grip handle. The taping knife backings are non-rust aluminum, with options for a flexible and lightweight folded-aluminum style or a stiff extruded backing. The Pro Hardwood line features a patented new hardwood handle design that is smooth for comfort and easy cleanup. The 16 tools in this line have flexible, tapered blades, with a choice of blue steel or non-rust stainless. The Pro Project line offers eight tools with a flexible, tapered blue steel blade and a user-preferred, patented soft grip handle. (hydetools.com)
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HIRI event showcases insights
Attendees of the 2012 Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) Spring Conference in Arlington, Va., were promised insights and resources. And even before the last of seven speakers packed up his PowerPoint, the mission was accomplished.
For instance, Mike Fratantoni of the Mortgage Bankers Association shared that the U.S. economy seemed to be on the path to a self-sustaining recovery, an assessment he qualified with a “but” and an “and.”
“The ‘but’ is that the U.S. economy is more impacted by global events than we ever have been,” Fratantoni said. Greece and Spain cause concern. But what really keeps him up at night is the idea of “difficulties with Iran and the potential spike in oil prices.”
NPD Research’s Kevin Gilbert pointed to some of the big product category winners in 2011, based on its Consumer Tracking Service. Riding mowers increased 41%, electric saws increased 33%, and smoke/carbon monoxide detectors increased 25%.
Then there’s the insight from IHS Global Insight’s James Gillula, who predicted an annual increase in consumer market home improvement products of 5.4% in 2012, following an increase of 4.1% in 2010. The professional market is expected to grow too, with a 4.0% gain in 2012, compared with a 2.9% gain in 2011.
The all-day event held April 18 at the DoubleTree Hotel Crystal City in Arlington, Va., also included presentations from the U.S. Census Bureau on the American FactFinder tool, TNS and the 2012 Product Purchase Tracking Study, and a Stevenson Co. presentation on the paths consumers take before making a decision.
The short story from several of macroeconomic presenters was that the economy is growing. The slightly longer story: The economy is growing, but not very fast. Related to the macroeconomic growth is the all-important unemployment rate. Fratantoni said the Mortgage Bankers Association forecast calls for a slow improvement, from 8.6% at press time, to 8.0% by the end of the year, and further slow improvement to 7.5% by the end of 2013.
Consumer insights factored heavily, including the unpleasant trend of showrooming. NPD’s Gilbert defined the practice this way: “When shoppers come into a store to see a product in person, only to buy it from a rival online, frequently at a lower price,” he said.
NPD Research shows that showrooming is most prevalent in the power tool aisle, a category where 9.3% of consumers visited the store to research the product and turned around and made the purchase online. Hand tools (4.7% incidence) ranked second, followed by caulk/glue/adhesives (2.9%.) (See chart: “Browsing here, buying elsewhere”)
Across all home improvement categories, the average incidence of showrooming is 2.5%, according to NPD Research
Gilbert’s recommendation for retailers confronting this new challenge: Don’t fight the Web. To win in an environment where showrooming is prevalent, the idea is to combine touch and feel of brick-and-mortar retailing with the impulse and information of the online experience. Clearly, it’s not easy, but brick-and-mortar retailers should use their in-store advantage to help the consumer, cross-promote other categories and offer online opportunities where possible, he said.
In general, Gilbert had some optimistic statistics for home improvement sales, though he described his position as “optimistically cautious.” Among them, 83% of tracked home improvement categories showed increases in 2011.
And also encouraging is the 5.7 percentage-point decrease of consumers who say they intend to spend less than they did a year ago, according to NPD’s research. “[Fewer] consumers plan to spend less,” Gilbert said. “That’s a double negative, and that’s a good thing.”
HIRI’s Fall Conference is slated for Oct. 11 in Chicago.
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What does ENAP stand for? Either you know it or you don’t. The answer: “Everyone Needs A Profit.” And to Stephen Sallah, president of the New Windsor, N.Y.-based co-op, it’s anything but trivial. “As a co-op, you can’t lose money,” said Sallah, who joined ENAP as CFO in 2008 and rose to the CEO title in September. “Somehow at the end of the day, you have to be able to return something in the black back to the dealers.” ENAP has done that, he said. And it’s also opened a Louisiana office and added 11 members last year, bringing the count to 220 dealers.
Has the industry bottomed?
I agree with those who say the economy is getting better. The low point was 2009, but you do run into dealers where 2011 was their worst year. I think there is a lot of optimism and hope right now, and there wasn’t in 2010 or 2011. I’m encouraged by that. But it’s not huge. I’m better two months than down one month, but there are still pockets of concern out there.
What are the factors that determine success?
Competition is part of it. Some guys had three competitors in a market, and now they just have themselves. So their business is up quite a bit. Others have seen encroachment by the competition, yards in their backyard, and some of the big boxes have continued building in some areas.
What about this year so far?
January and February were great, [but it’s] hard to back out how much is from the weather. But on average there is much more optimism. At our show in March, everybody said the same thing. The vendors and members are much more positive.
What will be the biggest change for lumberyards in the next five years?
We’re focused on trying to read that ourselves right now. Fortunately I have 220 dealers out there with their eyes and ears helping me navigate into the future. You know that homes are going to be smaller. Kitchens are going to be modest. Many of us can remember the story of a $70,000 bathroom remodel. Those days are pretty much over. I think they need to think about how to turn the volume they were turning even when starts come back, because of the smaller footprints of these starts.
But right now dealers are most concerned with material shortages. These shortages aren’t happening right now, but dealers know that all it’s going to take is a slight increase in demand. And if it does, mills and manufacturers have restructured so much that dealers believe getting product might be even worse than 2004 and 2005.
What is it that they have to get right in 2012?
Emphasize the right products, because starts aren’t going to come back quickly.
If you were heavily dependent on products that were start-driven such as gypsum, then you’re going to be in trouble. But if you assume that people are going to stay in their homes longer and are going to spend to improve those homes, and if you can move to decks, kitchens and bathrooms and start to cater to that market, you can do it. I’ve had guys tell me if it wasn’t for the kitchen or the roofing business, they’d be in trouble.
How are businesses changing?
The systems are very good now. The point-of-sale systems will give you a lot of analysis where the turn is and where the margins are, but there are just no starts out there.
But some things haven’t changed. It seems that most important is the commitment from ownership and management. If you’re an active owner that gets to the yard early every day and gets involved with key customers, that’s a huge advantage. There’s a lot of bright people in this business. Guys that have good skills are at a huge advantage.
What is going to challenge the independent dealer in the months and years ahead?
The economy — it’s still just too unpredictable. How much inventory should they take on? The competition is always a threat from big boxes, the pro-oriented chains and the specialty houses. Guys that are just roofing or just gypsum, one-steppers, they’re always putting pressure on our guys. And long term, it’s skills. A lot of youth have left the industry. That’s going to affect the success of the dealer at all levels. It tends to be older than it should be.
With that said, I am more optimistic right now than in the past three years. We will deal with these issues.
You’re a believe in the independent lumberyard. Why?
A lot of the old businesses are gone — the local clothing store, the local bookstore, the local pet store. About the only guy still there is the local lumberyard. And he’s not just there, but he’s doing well. I asked 50 dealers, ‘How come you’re still there?’ And the answer is: ‘Because we know how to service the customer.’
Underline the right results,
Underline the right results, since starts aren’t going to come back rapidly. If you were a lot reliant on creations that were start-determined such as gypsum, then you’re going to be in snag. But if you suppose that people are obtain to stay in their homes longer and are going to expend to advance those homes. I am currently enrolled into my high school diploma program at Winford High School and regarding this topic hopefully my input will help you for sure.
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