Plum Creek completes Montana sale
Seattle-based Plum Creek Timber company announced it has completed the final phase of its sale of western Montana forestlands to The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Land.
The company said it received $89 million in cash for approximately 70,000 acres of land.
The sale was completed in three phases for a total of 312,000 acres at a total of $489 million. The previous two phases were completed in 2008 and 2009.
The agreement is part of an effort to keep the forests in productive timber management and protect the area’s clean water and abundant fish and wildlife habitat, while promoting continued public access to these lands for fishing, hiking, hunting and other recreational pursuits.
A condition of the agreement provides for continued timber harvesting on some of these lands to help supply Plum Creek mills with wood fiber for up to 15 years. This harvesting is third-party certified as sustainable forestry.
Plum Creek is the nation’s largest and most geographically diverse private landowner with more than 7 million acres of timberlands in major timber producing regions of the United States and 10 wood products manufacturing facilities in the Northwest.
And the (outdoor) living is easy
As winter approaches, manufacturers are on the move bringing lawn, garden and outdoor living products to their distributors in time for spring. The outdoor category continues to be one that performs, even in inclement economies. In a recession, customers still want new and innovative or functional products to enhance their outdoor experience. Here’s a list of products—with their corresponding sales pitches and MSRPs—that look to do just that.
The Product: Toland Solar Art Glass Bell
The Pitch: During the day, it’s a stylish landscape accessory, according to Port Townsend, Wash.-based Toland. At night the solar-charged LED softly illuminates lawns, flowerbeds, potted plants, gardens and walkways. The unit features a sturdy, tri-pronged stake, stylish art glass and a weather-resistant brown finish.
The Price: $22
The Product: Outdoor Interiors 7-piece Eucalyptus Hardwood Fold & Store Table Set
The Pitch: Rolling Meadows, Ill.- based Outdoor Interiors’ Fold & Store table set ships fully assembled in one carton and includes wheels for quick storage along with seat cushions and table cover. This set is billed as the ultimate in convertibility and storage solutions. The optional granite inlay version provides the ultimate luxury for the set that does and has everything.
The Price: $799
The Product: GutterStuff
The Pitch: GutterStuff fits completely inside any 5-in. K style gutter, the most common style and size on the market, according to its makers. The Milwaukee-based company’s product comes in 4-ft. sections made from polyether outdoor durable foam. This lightweight insert won’t crumble, dent, bend or cave in. As an added benefit, it also prevents mosquitoes from breeding in the gutter. The foam’s main structure includes UV stabilizer, a germicide and a fire retardant.
The Price: $11.99
The Product: Char-Broil Patio Bistro Electric Infrared Grill
The Pitch: While other grills heat the air, which dries the food as it cooks, Char-Broil infrared grills heat the food directly, locking in natural juices and flavors. That’s the pitch from Columbus, Ga.-based Char-Broil, which introduced the Electric Patio Bistro, CSA-Listed for multi-unit dwellings. The small, lightweight, outdoor cooking unit meets International Fire Codes and plugs into any standard 120-volt electric outlet. This grill packs big grill features into a sleek, apartment-friendly design. The exclusive and patented Infrared Cooking system sears in flavor, according to the company.
The Price: $179
The Product: Centurion Folding Spade
The Pitch: Atlanta-based Centurion’s folding spade is part of the company’s space-saving and hard-working shovels that are strong and stain-resistant. This little powerhouse folds down to just over 9 inches by 6 inches. It might not be the biggest spade in the shed, but when extended this workhorse can dig like a pro, the company said. It is strong enough to get through rocky soil, and the serrated blade helps cut through roots and speed up the task at hand.
The Price: $19.99
The Product: Bayou Classic Cypress Grill
The Pitch: Borrowing techniques from the ancient masters of grilling, the Bayou Classic Cypress Grill is the latest innovation from Brandon, Miss.-based Bayou Classic. The Cypress uses the ancient art of Kamado grilling—domed, earthenware style. Not only has Bayou Classic made the Cypress Grill affordable and accessible for most budgets, it has a low-heat exterior surface and a spring-loaded lid lift. Several Cypress Grill accessories are also available. The Bayou Classic Cypress Grill is weather-resistant and built to last.
The Price: $699
The Product: BirdBrain Delmar Firepots
The Pitch: BirdBrain’s Fire Pot Gel Burners are a unique twist to traditional Vietnamese lacquer-ware. The Ypsilanti, Mich.-based company’s Delmar collection features eggshell and mother of pearl. The functional and attractive firepots can be used both indoors and out. Bird Brain’s proprietary heat-release technology prevents damage to the finish, while the open flame adds a beautiful design to any tabletop or landscape.
The Price: $85.00
The Product: Weber Fireplace
The Pitch: Palatine, Ill.-based Weber’s new outdoor fireplace features a porcelain-enameled lid and bowl, a heavy-gauge steel construction and a no-rust aluminum heat shield. The product features two wooden handles and four steel support legs. The fireplace has a 29.5-in. diameter base, and is 32 inches high, 31 inches wide and 28 inches deep.
The Price: $149
The Product: North Cape International’s Malibu Collection
The Pitch: Bedford Park, Ill.-based NCI’s Malibu collection is highlighted by a modular sectional that can be configured to fit any area. The outdoor furniture features UV protected durable Java Flat Weave resin on an aluminum frame. The Malibu collection has many dining and conversational pieces to offer an array of solutions to add tranquil ambiance to an indoor/outdoor room.
The Price: $300-$2,500
The Product: Grill Pad’s Gas Grill Splatter Mat
The Pitch: Duluth, Ga.-based Grill Pad’s Gas Grill Splatter Mat is a 30-in. by 48-in. flexible pad, composed of two non-woven fiber materials separated by a patented barrier media that protects surfaces from grease and sauce drippings. Grunge associated with everyday grilling can be cleaned from The Gas Grill Splatter Mat. What’s more, if necessary, it can be turned over to extend its life span.
The Price: $17.99
The Product: Teton Grill Co. Master Grilling Apron
The Pitch: Teton Grill Co. of Shakopee, Minn., wants your customers to BBQ in style. Load up this high-end Grilling Apron with all the accessories needed to cook up a char-grilled dinner. Seasoning and grill utensils can be kept in two oversized front pockets. A genuine leather Teton Grill Co. patch doubles as a towel loop to dab your brow or clean up a saucy mess. Extra-heavy-duty 16-ounce duck canvas is built to withstand heat and keep chefs as close to the grill as possible without becoming an entree. The rest: fully adjustable neck and side straps, solid brass fittings with reinforced clasps and pockets, and extra width and length for the man with meat on his bones.
The Price: $29.99
The ‘next frontier’ of retailing
For the past couple of years, Home Depot’s top executives have been talking about the forecasting, assortment management and other IT “tools” being given to its merchants and store managers so they can make better decisions about what goes on the shelf. But while the Atlanta retailer has been vague about some of its new technology initiatives, it’s made no secret of the fact that it fell behind in the IT sector while expanding on the retail front.
“Given The Home Depot’s tremendous growth, and the overall operational credit over the last 30 years, we were able to expand without the heavy use of technology,” explained chief operational officer Matt Carey at the Home Depot Investor & Analyst Conference in June 2009. The former eBay chief technology officer pegged his new employer’s IT know-how somewhere in the “1991 time frame.” Relying on an appropriate metaphor, Carey added: “Right now, every room in our house has room for improvement.”
Carey went on to say that his team, using in-house expertise or outsourcing alternatives like grid technology or cloud computing, planned to catch up—in a hurry.
“It is our plan to compress the time frame by delivering the capabilities of an advanced retailer over the next five to six years,” he said.
Approximately $200 million later, Home Depot is starting to peel back the covers on some of its initiatives. Home Depot has committed at least $350 million in IT spending on more than 100 inventory-based projects, according to executive VP and CFO Carol Tomé. “So it’s not a big hit. It’s a lot of incremental hits that are driving the business,” she told investors at the Citi Retail Conference last March. One example she gave was bay sequencing, which allows store managers to look up a SKU by bay location.
“We have never had bay sequencing before in our company. Imagine that. We carry between 30,000 and 40,000 products in our stores, and we didn’t know where they were inside the store, and now we will be able to know where it is digitally.”
Home Depot also rolled out a forecasting tool for centrally replenished items. Using a “pull-through” strategy based on previous consumer demand, this Teradata solution predicts the daily and weekly inventory needs for each item by store location based on historical sales data. These forecasts, which can respond to changing seasons and trends, are combined with inventory and replenishment strategies to pull inventory through the supply chain based on expected sales at each store location.
Perhaps the biggest launch this year is a wireless, hand-held piece of equipment that can track stock, order out-of-stock items or look for them at other stores. Officially dubbed Store Walk Mobility (SWM), the device has been rolled out to 1,800 orange boxes. By the end of the year, Home Depot expects to have SWMs in all of its U.S. stores. The devices and their IT platform represent a $60 million investment for Home Depot.
Claybourne Barrineau, who is overseeing the rollout at Home Depot, described the SWM in his PowerPoint presentation at the 2010 Teradata Partners user group conference on Oct. 26, but he didn’t show and tell. “Legal reasons,” he explained, clicking past the image on the screen. Barrineau’s audience at the San Diego Convention Center didn’t care; they were more interested in hearing about the possibility of CPU overloads.
Barrineau explained how store managers could use the SWM units to scan a bar code on a particular item and receive back-sales history, inventory turns, stock on hand, arrival dates for the next shipment and lots of other data—a total of 30 metrics. Home Depot refers to this as “tactical reporting”—information that store managers and merchants can use to make better decisions about promotions, markdowns, replenishment and overall assortment planning.
The initiative was rolled out in stages, with each store receiving 15 to 20 devices. Barrineau’s worst nightmare was that everyone would decide to use them at the same time, bombarding Home Depot’s servers with queries while the system was busy doing other things. “It’s a CPU intensive process. We had to protect the rest of the system from this workload,” he said.
SWM Armageddon never arrived, and by the end of October, the system was running 500,000 queries a day from 12,000 Home Depot associates. Now that the system is up and humming, “I want to do more tactical reporting at The Home Depot,” Barrineau said.
Barrineau’s team would have been unable to implement the mobile store walk devices without a larger overhaul of Home Depot’s data warehousing. The Atlanta retailer decided to retire its legacy enterprise data warehouse and switch to a Teradata solution in less than six months; a very ambitious timeline, given the number of end users—30,000 store associates, logistics personnel and corporate staff.
The migration started in June 2009 and finished by Black Friday. Now the company is rolling out various business intelligence applications. Inventory planning and replenishment, along with tools for better management of everything from purchase orders to shipping notices and employee scheduling, is already in play. New releases include transportation, distribution and supply chain visibility, enhanced financial and cost information, merchandising business intelligence and better analysis tools for expense and payroll.
A bird’s eye view of Home Depot’s IT evolution was provided by Cynthia Czabala, director of enterprise data warehouse for The Home Depot, who also spoke at the Teradata conference in San Diego. A 12-year veteran of the company, Czabala talked about some of the retailer’s failed attempts at standardizing item data before it ultimately succeeded. “
Home Depot is now attempting to do the same—cleanse the data—for its customer database. One major accomplishment so far: integrating customer accounts into its data warehouse from all the different ways of collecting customer data—point of sale transactions, rentals, special orders, credit card applications and so on.
“For the first time, I can tell you how valuable you are to me based on how much business we’ve done,” Czabala said. Capturing, and understanding, customer sales transaction data is “the next frontier,” she said. By analyzing these interactions, Home Depot can better target its marketing outreach and learn more about the needs of customer segments like pros, HD Direct and installed services.
“We want to increase marketing to smaller groups,” Czabala said.