Outdoor projects gain popularity
More than half of Americans are planning to start one or more home improvement projects in the next three months, according to new research from the Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI), a member-owned research group that focuses on how homeowners maintain and improve their homes.
According to the research — presented exclusively in a webinar (click here) aired June 4 on homechannelnews.com — 51.1 percent of Americans surveyed in the February/March time period were planning to embark on projects this spring, compared to 62.7 percent during the same period last year.
“It is probably not a surprise to most people that the chart is trending down,” said Fred Miller, managing director of HIRI, whose membership includes dozens of major manufacturers, home centers, hardware co-ops and other media and investment companies. “It goes along with most measures in the industry.”
HIRI is conducting ongoing research in this area of consumer trends with the help of NPD Group, the Port Washington, N.Y.-based provider of consumer and retail market research information. NPD Group surveys about 14,000 American homeowners each month about whether they plan to start home projects and which area/areas of the home they’re planning to focus on. In total, almost 42,000 people responded during the first quarter of 2008.
The research found that outdoor projects — including lawn, landscaping/fencing and deck/patio/porch — are the most popular, followed by kitchen, living room, bedroom and master bath remodels. The emphasis on work outside the home did not surprise Miller, who said, “We’re talking about the January through March time period, when the warmer weather is starting to come and people are planning to go outside and do things.”
Also significant was the fact that women are more likely to plan projects than men (52 percent to 49 percent) and that people ages 45 to 54 (59 percent) and ages 55 to 64 (58 percent) were more likely to embark on projects than people under age 25 (32 percent) and ages 25 to 34 (42 percent).
Regionally, the Pacific was the weakest market surveyed, with just 46 percent planning to start projects, while the East North Central (53 percent), West North Central (54 percent) and East South Central (55 percent) were the strongest.
Another part of the research measured “reasons” for improving the home. The results showed energy savings is the most important consideration, followed by “making the home more attractive” and “getting a good return on the investment.” Far fewer respondents agreed that it was a good time to sell their home or that they’d prefer to live in a smaller home. On a related note, a small percentage of respondents reported that “it’s easy to find a contractor.”
Miller also shared some of HIRI’s conclusions on the implications of the research. They included: be prepared for more tough months ahead before the market turns upward and focus on the prime spenders — middle to upper income people ages 35 to 64.
Western Forest Products to lay off 2,000 workers
Western Forest Products, the Vancouver-based forest products company, has announced plans to lay off nearly 2,000 employees, including 1,850 loggers and 100 sawmill workers.
The company cited falling demand for cedar products for the layoffs, as well as soft demand for forest products in the U.S. and Japanese markets, the two primary markets served by the company.
The company will curtail selected timber harvesting operations on Vancouver Island, the Queen Charlotte Islands and the Sunshine Coast during July and August. “This reduction represents slightly more than half the normal timber harvesting undertaken during this period,” according to the company.
Western also will shut down its Duke Point, B.C., sawmill location during the same two-month period. “This is in addition to the previously announced indefinite shutdown of the Ladysmith, (B.C.) sawmill, and various shorter term curtailments that take place at other mills,” the company said.
Areport in the Vancouver Sun estimated that there currently are more than 12,000 laid-off forest workers in British Columbia.
Universal Forest Products expands in Oregon
A subsidiary of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Universal Forest Products has purchased certain assets of D-Stake Mill, in McMinnville, Ore., and Manufacturing Country, in Independence, Ore.
D-Stake and Manufacturing Country manufacture kiln stickers, lath, stakes, decking and pallets and pallet components for a variety of industries including manufacturing, retail and agriculture. In 2007, sales to their customer base, which is concentrated in California, Washington and Oregon, totaled approximately $18.5 million, according to the company. Universal Forest Products Western Division finalized the purchase on June 9.
“We continue to look for opportunities to grow our industrial business, and we’re pleased to add successful operations like D-Stake and Manufacturing Country,” said Universal Forest Products president and CEO Michael B. Glenn. “They know lumber, they know their business and how to serve their customers well, and they know how to run and maintain a profitable operation.”
Sales manager Dan Harris will remain with Universal as general manager of operations. Bob Harris will stay on as a consultant through the transition.