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NRF: Holiday sales to rise 2.3%

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Holiday retail sales will climb 2.3%, as customers are lured by sales and retailer promotions, according to the National Retail Federation. The rise is slightly lower than the 10-year average holiday sales increase of 2.5%, the group noted, but is a marked improvement from last year’s 0.4% uptick and the dismal 3.9% holiday sales decline retailers experienced in 2008.

The increase in retail sales to $447.1 billion in November and December will be the biggest since a 3.1% gain in 2006, the group said.

As they have in previous years, retailers are expected to focus on supply chain efficiencies and inventory control this holiday season to limit their exposure to excess merchandise and unplanned markdowns, the NRF said. Companies are also expected to leverage new channels — like mobile — to drive sales and provide added service to customers who want to shop anytime, anywhere.

“While consumers have shown they are once again willing to spend on what’s important to them, they will still be very conscientious about price,” said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz, Ph.D. “Retailers are expected to compensate for this fundamental shift in shopper mentality by offering significant promotions throughout the holiday season and emphasizing value throughout their marketing efforts.”

The NRF uses the Commerce Department’s retail sales figures excluding auto, gasoline and restaurant sales.

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KB Home names new board member

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Los Angeles-based KB Home has announced that Barbara Alexander was elected to its board of directors, bringing the total number to 10. She was also appointed to the board’s audit and compliance committee.

“We look forward to gaining the benefit of Barbara’s tremendous industry and financial expertise and perspective, as we continue to build on our improved operational performance and position KB Home to navigate through the current housing market,” said Jeffrey Mezger, president and CEO.

Alexander has been an independent consultant since January 2004. Prior to that, she was a senior adviser to UBS Warburg and predecessor firms from October 1999 to January 2004, and managing director of the North American Construction and Furnishings Group in the Corporate Finance Department of UBS from 1992 to October 1999.

She serves as a director of Allied World Assurance Company Holdings and Qualcomm Inc. Alexander previously served as a director of Burlington Resources, Centex Corp., Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. (Freddie Mac) and Harrah’s Entertainment.

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84 Lumber to receive $5 million loan

BY HBSDEALER Staff

84 Lumber will receive a $5 million low-interest loan from Washington County, Pa., as part of a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program aimed at maintaining and creating jobs, according to an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The loan will be backed by $10 million of real estate owned by 84 Lumber, including the company’s headquarters and office buildings in Eighty Four, Pa., as well as all of the chain’s retail stores in Washington County. The loan was approved by the county’s commissioners.

“They’ve been a stalwart of the business community for over 50 years,” commissioner Bracken Burns said. “For us to walk away from them in their moment of need would have been unworthy.”

The federal loan will become part of the pro dealer’s $55 million refinancing plan, which also includes a $15 million HUD loan approved last August by the Fayette County commissioners. As with the Washington County loan, 84 used real estate holdings as collateral.

Both loans have better terms than private sector financing. The Fayette County loan, for example, is a 17-year loan that would allow the company to pay interest only on the first two years for the $15 million.

The company is in the middle of refinancing $45 million it borrowed in 2008. The two HUD loans, together with $20 million in financing from Wells Fargo and $5 million from company owner Maggie Hardy Magerko, should be enough to pay off the loan, company spokesman Jeff Nobers told Home Channel News in August. The current balance is $55 million, but the company expects to reduce that balance to $45 million with cash from real estate sales over the next few weeks.

“We hope to have all the [refinancing] completed by November,” Nobers said.

84 Lumber reported $1.4 billion in overall sales for 2009.

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