NHS Wrap-up: eight trends for 2008
Las Vegas Green was the dominant theme at the 2008 National Hardware Show, threading its way through virtually every product category in the Las Vegas Convention Center. But other trends also emerged in electrical, tools, lawn and garden and housewares this year, and Home Channel News editors picked out eight of them:
LED lighting. These bright, long-lasting bulbs have moved beyond flashlights and desk lamps to clip-on barbeque lights, dog collars and the rims of baseball caps. Jasco, in partnership with GE, showed an extensive line of LED nightlights, lanterns, votives and other decorative lights.
Jr. DIYers. You no longer have to take your kid to a Home Depot workshop on Saturday morning to build a wooden birdhouse or toolbox. Now there’s ready-to-assemble kits gauged to different skill levels and an assortment of kid-sized tools — including a drill — that really work. There’s even a snowman-making kit that guarantees “the perfect snow creature every time.”
Fashion-forward safety wear. Forget those dowdy orange and yellow florescent vests. Safety equipment manufacturers are showing “high visibility” T-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, coveralls and gloves that fulfill ANSI requirements and change with the seasons.
Say no to solvents. Vendors in both the cleaning products and the paint categories came up with numerous “eco-friendly” alternatives to traditional paint removers, drain clearers, toilet, tub and tile cleaners and other harsh chemicals.
Solar power rules. The sun will be firing up all kinds of devices this year, from tiki torches and lanterns to citronella diffusers and Christmas lights.
Be kind to animals. Glue traps and rat poisons are being replaced with more humane “catch and release” pest control devices. One trap used a plastic soda bottle — recycled, of course. Another wand-like instrument caught spiders so they could be “relocated” outdoors.
Gardening made easy. Time-pressed consumers found plenty of shortcuts to a beautiful backyard, including light meters, battery-powered sprayers, release-on-demand fertilizers and water-holding soils. Two companies offered ready-made vegetable gardens, and one vendor sold a “grow your own tree” kit (elm, apple, gingko, pine) that came in a biodegradable coconut coir pot.
No more worries. Homeowners are willing to pay for peace of mind when it comes to any number of issues. Several vendors exhibited home generators for stand-by power, as well as devices that shut off the main water supply when you leave home or alert you by phone when there’s a water leak anywhere in the house. General Tools is marketing an auto safety tool that can break car windows and cut through seat belts for a quick escape.
Remodeling activity was steady in the first quarter
Remodeling activity remained steady during the first quarter of 2008, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ Remodeling Market Index (RMI).
The group’s market conditions indicator rose slightly, to 41.8 from 40.9 in the previous quarter. An index measuring future expectations remained unchanged at 37.9.
The Remodeling Market Index measures remodelers’ perceptions of market demand for current and future residential projects. Any number over 50 indicates that the majority of remodelers view the market conditions as improving. The NAHB noted that the index has been running below 50 since the final quarter of 2005.
“The remodeling market continues to show weakness, following the downturn in the overall housing market,” said NAHB chief economist David Seiders. “We expect there to be some further erosion in 2008, with a gradual recovery in 2009.”
Nationally, the RMI components for major additions and alterations during the first quarter increased to 44.15 from 42.28. Minor additions and alterations decreased to 41.57 from 41.76. Maintenance and repair remodeling work increased to 39.68 in the first quarter, from 38.11. The amount of work committed for the next three months decreased to 29.63 from 33.15 in the fourth quarter, “demonstrating a decline in the backlog of remodeling jobs,” the group said.
“Many remodelers are seeing smaller jobs and have a shorter backlog, but we expect activity to increase because necessary home repairs cannot be postponed for a long time,” said NAHB Remodelers chairman Lonny Rutherford.
Regionally, current market expectations dropped in the first quarter in the Northeast to 36.4 from 38.6, and in the South to 42.2 from 45.0. The Midwest, however, increased to 44.1 from 41.1, and the West was up slightly to 42.9 from 42.2.
The RMI is based on a quarterly survey of professional remodelers, whose answers to a series of questions were assigned numerical values to calculate the two separate indexes. Additionally, a variety of “special questions” are also asked at the end of the survey to help pinpoint market trends.
Earnings rise at Trex
Earnings at composite decking manufacturer Trex more than tripled in the first quarter to $8.9 million from $2.73 million in the same period last year. Net sales were up 3.1 percent, to $119.5 million from $115.9 million last year.
The company credited expanding distribution for the earnings increase, as well as brand strength, which “enabled us to increase sales revenue despite the weakening economy and continued softness in the building materials industry,” said CEO Ronald Kaplan.
“In addition, our improved gross margin reflects our successful focus on productivity and cost containment initiatives,” he said. “The measures we took in the first quarter — including rightsizing the company, recruiting new management, controlling costs and enhancing operating and financial controls — have established a solid foundation for delivering improved financial results.”
Still, recent poor weather has delayed many outdoor building projects, according to the company. Additionally, building material dealers are “choosing to operate with depressed inventory levels,” and the economic outlook in the United States is still uncertain, Kaplan said. For those reasons, the company is projecting lower revenue in the second quarter, expected to be down 23 percent to 33 percent compared with last year’s second quarter.
Based in Winchester, Va., Trex is a manufacturer of composite decking, railing and fencing products.