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The NPD Group reveals lesser-known home improvement stats

BY Ken Clark

According to The NPD Group’s Consumer Tracking Service, the top selling home improvement item purchased as a gift in the 12 months ending October 2011 is the screwdriver.

That’s just one of the finding on the list of the Port Washington, N.Y.-based research firms recently published list of "What you didn’t know about home improvement."

Other findings from the home improvement industry:

• Online dollar sales increased 16% compared with last year;
• Thirty-one percent of home improvement dollars were spent by consumers ages 55 and older, compared with 25% just two years ago;
• Nearly 30% more garage-door openers were sold than last year;
• Most home improvement purchases are paid for with cash or check; and
• Forty-two percent of snow throwers/blowers were purchased in the Midwest.

Home improvement, as defined by the NPD Group, includes categories in hand tools, power tools, outdoor power equipment, storage and organization, faucets and shower heads, lighting and electrical, fans, and caulk/glue/adhesives.

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Remodeling shows improvement in architectural study

BY Ken Clark

Although new-home construction continues to lag, residential in-fill development and home remodeling projects are keeping architects busy, according to a quarterly report from the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

AIA chief economist Kermit Baker, formerly of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, noted that there are signs of recovery in the multi-family and rental side of the market. But “residential architects are reporting continued weak conditions among first-time buyers, thereby limiting any improvement in the trade-up market,” Baker said. Infill projects are getting a boost from steep foreclosure rates, low levels of suburban developments and the popularity of urban living, he added.

“Home improvement activity remains very healthy.” Baker continued. “Some of this strength comes from owners who have decided not to trade up, and have instead chosen to remodel their current homes. Additionally, improvements to distressed properties to prepare them for sale, or to fix them up after a sale, are creating opportunities in many markets across the country.”

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Members of shoplifting ring get probation

BY HBSDealer Staff

A convicted felon who participated in a theft ring that targeted Lowe’s pleaded guilty in an Indiana court on Dec. 6 to a single charge of corrupt business influence, according to an article in The Journal Gazette

Russell Craeger, 41, faces two years of probation when he is sentenced next week. Authorities said he was part of a shoplifting ring that made 381 fraudulent returns to Lowe’s stores in 11 states. The individuals would make returns without receipts by switching bar codes on previously purchased items. Members of the group also made their own, lower-priced bar codes for similar, more expensive items.

The suspects would then obtain gift cards in amounts greater than what they had paid for the items. They used altered identification cards to get around Lowe’s policy limiting the number of returns during a specific time, according to court documents.

Other members of the shoplifting ring include Vanessa Jamison, 33, who pled guilty to a single charge of theft. She was given a three-year suspended prison and three years of probation. Jamison has been ordered to pay $10,000 in restitution.

Katoya Lipscomb, 30, received a four-year suspended prison sentence and was ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution and serve four years on probation, She also pleaded guilty to corrupt business influence, according to court records.

James Bennett, 41, was sentenced to six years in prison, with three years suspended, and ordered to pay $75,000 in restitution after entering a guilty plea to corrupt business influence. He will spend three years on probation, according to court records.

David Height, whom authorities describe as the ringleader, was given a four-year prison sentence, which was suspended, and ordered to be served on probation. The 57-year-old had pleaded guilty to charges of corrupt business influence and theft. He was also ordered to pay $75,000 in restitution to Lowe’s.

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