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Newell Rubbermaid unveils Hilmor tool brand

BY HBSDealer Staff

Newell Rubbermaid has launched its new Hilmor tool brand for heating, ventilation and air conditioning/refrigeration (HVAC/R) technicians. Hilmor is the third anchor brand within the company’s Tools segment.           

"Hilmor completely changes the game in the underserved HVAC/R tool category," said Rich Mathews , SVP marketing for the Hilmor brand. "We invested years of intense end-user insight and product development work to understand and address the unique challenges technicians face on a daily basis. These technicians are among the most highly trained and skilled in the professional trades, and they deserve tools that help them overcome the complex challenges they face on job sites. Our new Hilmor brand fills this gap with the biggest wave of innovation the HVAC/R category has seen in a long time." 

The Hilmor brand launched at the International Air-Conditioning Heating and Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo) in Dallas. The company also began an integrated marketing campaign across digital, social and print, inviting users to "ReTool + Conquer."   

The Hilmor line includes 150 HVAC/R tools. Six premier products from the new line are:

Dual Readout Thermometer with Thermocouple Clamps: This thermometer provides two digital readings to help simplify the calculation of superheat and subcool. 

Electronic Gauge with Vacuum Sensor: This hybrid gauge offers analog and digital displays. Built-in features include pressure/temperature data for 39 refrigerants and color-coding.

Aluminum Manifold (4-Valve and 2-Valve): It comes in two-and four-valve combinations and features a forged aluminum body and high-impact gauge boots.

Compact Bender: It allows for tube-bending up to 90 degrees. Additional features include a universal crossbar with color-coded mandrels, a quick-release button to free tubes without damage and a spring-loaded ratcheting lever.

Compact Swage Tool: Pistol-shaped, it can handle tight spaces. The handle is spring-loaded to control pressure on swages from 5/16 ins. to 1-5/8 ins. 

Quick-Engage Flare and Swage: It can flare and swage, and features a clothespin-like clamp to secure tubing.

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Plum Creek posts improved results

BY Ken Clark

With lumber, plywood and OSB suppliers anticipating continued demand growth in 2013, Seattle-based Plum Creek Timber Co. said that now is a pretty good time to be in the timber business. 

Plum Creek ended 2012 on a high note with fourth-quarter earnings of $79 million, up 29.5% from the same quarter last year. 

Sales for the fourth quarter were $354 million, up 12.4% from the fourth quarter of 2011. 

"We exceeded our initial expectations for the fourth quarter, benefitting from continued strong demand for well-managed timberlands," said Rick Holley, president and CEO. "In 2012 we grew adjusted EBITDA to $530 million, or an increase of 19%, exceeding our goal for the year." 

The full year also showed gains. Earnings were $203 million, compared with $193 million in the prior year. Revenues of $1.34 billion were up from $1.17 billion. 

"During the year, we continued to position ourselves to benefit from the emerging recovery in residential construction," said Holley. "We’ve worked closely with logging contractors over the past several years to ensure we are in preferred positions to serve the growing demand from our traditional customers, as well as emerging bioenergy customers." 

The company expects demand to increase in 2013, along with pricing.

"We’re excited about the prospects for continued recovery and growth in 2013 and expect that the opportunities beyond are even more compelling," Holley said. "Over the past year, housing has moved from being a drag on the economy to being a bright spot. We are seeing improving demand for lumber and wood panels that is expected to translate into higher demand and pricing for logs in 2013.”

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NRF: Retail sales to grow 3.4% in 2013

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Retail industry sales (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) will increase 3.4%, down slightly from 4.2% in 2012 and 5.8% in 2011, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2013 economic forecast.

The lukewarm forecast, released Monday, comes on the heels of a holiday season that went head-to-head with Washington’s political wrangling over fiscal concerns, shifting consumers’ spending plans downward. In the end, holiday sales in 2012 grew 3.0%.

In its Monday press briefing, NRF attributed the lukewarm forecast to political wrangling in Washington over fiscal concerns, and NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said that while it’s too early to precisely predict how recent tax hikes will impact spending, “We can safely predict that consumers will be shopping for price more often [in 2013] and there will be more ‘trading down’ occurring.” 

Shop.org, NRF’s digital division, expects online sales in 2013 to grow between 9.0% and 12.0%. Online sales in 2012 during the months of November and December last year grew 11.1%. 

“What we witnessed during the holiday season is an indication of what we are likely to see in 2013,” said Shay. “Pushing fiscal policy decisions down the road will lead to even greater uncertainty, and will continue to impact consumers’ desire and ability to spend on discretionary items. The administration and congress need to pursue and enact policies that lead to growth and economic expansion, or it could be another challenging year for retailers and consumers alike.”

A number of factors contributed to NRF’s 2013 economic forecast, including:

Employment: The labor market continues its modest recovery but 2013 is not expected to result in meaningful acceleration in growth. As of December 2012, the unemployment rate has held steady for the last two months at 7.9%. Retailers on average employed 150,000 more workers in 2012, and the industry remains one of the biggest employers in the world.

Income growth: Consumers are constrained by modest growth in income, and recent legislation passed in January increased payroll taxes for millions of workers, further limiting Americans’ spending decisions.

Housing: NRF expects the housing sector to continue to improve and the fundamentals for growth to see continued gains in 2013.

Inflation: Price pressures continue to be contained. NRF expects the Consumer Price Index to increase 1.9% in 2013, below the 2.1% increase in 2012.

Consumer confidence: Current consumer attitudes are likely weighed down because of the handling of the fiscal cliff and the increase in payroll taxes. NRF said it expects confidence to improve as the pace of the recovery accelerates in the second half of 2013. 

“While it’s too early to know the full effect of higher payroll taxes, there’s no question that many consumers will feel some kind of impact from the change in their paychecks,” said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. “But consumers have been a key driver of the economy and I expect their spending to grow modestly in 2013.”

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