Now in play: New rules for Southern Pine
Effective June 1, 2012, the Southern Pine Inspection Bureau (SPIB) has issued some new design values for Southern Pine Lumber. The changes will affect only visually graded Southern Pine and Mixed Southern Pine sized 2” to 4” wide and 2” to 4” thick (2x2s through 4x4s) in No.2 and lower grades (No.2, No.3, stud, construction, standard and utility). This also includes new design values for No.2 dense and No.2 nondense Southern Pine. Design values for all other grades and sizes of visually graded Southern Pine remain the same, pending results of testing scheduled for completion later this year.
The last major change for visually graded dimension lumber occurred in 1991 when design values for Southern Pine and other North American species were published based on In-Grade testing of full-size samples of commercially produced lumber. Since 1994, SPIB has conducted an annual resource-monitoring program developed in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory (FPL). SPIB is the first rules-writing agency to publish new design values. Rules-writing agencies responsible for other species are in different stages for evaluating design values.
SPIB and Timber Products conducted destructive tests in bending and tension, plus gathered stiffness and property data, all in accordance with ASTM International standards. Throughout the process, technical review was performed by FPL. The ALSC Board of Review approved the new design values early in 2012, with a recommended effective date of June 1, 2012.
In the limelight: Orchard Supply
In his company’s first earnings call since its spinoff from Sears, Orchard Supply Hardware CEO Mark Baker introduced his company to analysts as a unique player, operating, at about 44,000 sq. ft., between the big boxes and the small independents. He described his newly public company’s focus on three high-margin categories: repair and maintenance, backyard, and paint. He also explained Orchard Supply was in transition mode — an 80-year-old company turning around several years of negative comps, with upgraded merchandising and stores.
The fourth quarter saw comp-store sales rise 2.3%.
Walmart flexes DIY muscle
The world’s largest retailer is taking steps to display its home improvement prowess through a digital marketing campaign centered on a “Projects Made Simple” area on Walmart.com.
The area is organized by home improvement project. For instance: how to stain a deck, install a water filter system, caulk a window or install a towel bar. In the deck video, an unidentified handyman narrator explains, “All the tools are available at Walmart to get you going.”
The website also lets users download a project sheet with tips and instructions.
Walmart has long dealt in home improvement products, but the latest effort e-blasted to customers with the invitation to “Explore Walmart’s complete solution to make home do-it-yourself projects simple” marks an aggressive push to DIY. The e-blast listed the three key features of the online tool: checklists, instructions and how-to videos.
According to preliminary data from the Home Improvement Research Institute, 40.6% of homeowners bought one or more home improvement product at a discount store (including Walmart, Big Lots and Target) during the calendar year 2011. That figure is up slightly from 40.5% in 2009, but down from 42.3% in 2007.
Home improvement specialists of all sizes have long felt insulated from competition from the mass retail channel due to specialized training and product knowledge of employees on the sales floor — a sophistication that they feel stores such as Walmart cannot match. But even if a more focused campaign from Walmart moves the perception needle even slightly, the results could be dramatic, given Walmart’s sheer size.
In 2011, Walmart’s sales in the United States were $264.2 billion. The company operates 3,804 Walmart stores in the United States.