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PRO Group Conference set for Atlanta

BY Ken Clark

Manufacturers will meet with PRO Group-affiliated distributors during the Group Merchandising Conference June 17-19, 2013, at the Embassy Suites Atlanta at Centennial Olympic Park.



 

Vendors have the opportunity to demonstrate and showcase products in private suites during the conference.



 According to Brendan Sullivan, director of merchandising for PRO Group, the conference offers a venue for all manufacturers — including seasonal vendors and those not currently doing business with PRO Group-affiliated distributors and retailers.

PRO Group’s operating units include PRO Hardware, GardenMaster, Farm Mart and Golden-Link.





Sullivan and PRO Group Merchandise Managers, Bob Reiling and Joy Smith, also meet with manufacturers and distributors during the event.





"The one-on-one meetings are a great opportunity for manufacturers to meet with buyers from PRO-affiliated distributors to discuss current and future specials, products and programs," Sullivan said. "The business casual atmosphere and social networking opportunities are a great way to
 establish relationships and to explore ways to grow the business within the hardware channel.” 




Registration is still available for home improvement industry manufacturers interested in meeting with distributors at the annual Group Merchandising Conference organized by PRO Group, Inc.





Manufacturers interested in attending the Group Merchandising Conference should contact Brendan Sullivan at PRO Group, Inc. by phone at (303) 792-3000 or email [email protected] to be directed to the appropriate merchandise manager.




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Builders confidence dips

BY Ken Clark

Facing increasing costs for building materials and rising concerns about the supply of developed lots and labor, builders registered less confidence in the market for newly built, single-family homes in April, with a two-point drop to 42 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), released Monday.

“Many builders are expressing frustration over being unable to respond to the rising demand for new homes due to difficulties in obtaining construction credit, overly restrictive mortgage lending rules and construction costs that are increasing at a faster pace than appraised values,” said Rick Judson, National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) chairman and a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. “While sales conditions are generally improving, these challenges are holding back new building and job creation.”

“Supply chains for building materials, developed lots and skilled workers will take some time to re-establish themselves following the recession, and in the meantime builders are feeling squeezed by higher costs and limited availability issues,” explained NAHB chief economist David Crowe. “That said, builders’ outlook for the next six months has improved due to the low inventory of for-sale homes, rock-bottom mortgage rates and rising consumer confidence.”

Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 25 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as “good,” “fair” or “poor.” The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as “high to very high,” “average” or “low to very low.” Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index, where any number above 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

While the HMI component gauging current sales conditions declined two points to 45 and the component gauging buyer traffic declined four points to 30 in April, the component gauging sales expectations in the next six months posted a three-point gain to 53 — its highest level since February 2007.

Looking at three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, the Northeast was unchanged at 38 in April, while the Midwest registered a two-point decline to 45, the South registered a four-point decline to 42, and the West posted a three-point decline to 55.

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Orchard Supply retains restructuring lawyers

BY Ken Clark

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that San Jose, Calif.-based Orchard Supply Hardware hired restructuring lawyers as it strives to improve its balance sheet. 

The California hardware and lawn and garden retailer has about 90 stores that average in size at about 44,000 sq. ft., plus 8,000 sq. ft. of exterior nursery and garden space. The company was founded as a purchasing cooperative in San Jose in 1931. 

In the company’s most recent quarterly report, it posted a net loss in the third quarter of fiscal 2012 of $53.6 million compared with a net loss of $10.1 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2011.

At the time, Orchard Supply CEO Mark Baker said: "At the beginning of fiscal 2012, we outlined five strategic priorities, which included our plans to transform Orchard’s store portfolio to our productive new neighborhood format. Thus far in 2012, we opened two new stores and remodeled four existing locations, three of which were completed during the third quarter, and we’re seeing increased customer traffic and engagement at those locations. While comparable-store sales were flat in the third quarter, the combination of stronger sales of seasonal merchandise and contributions from the newly remodeled stores drove an improvement in comp store trends throughout the period. However, our margins were pressured as we increased our promotional activity to help drive traffic and sales."

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