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Quarterly sales slip 3.2% at Huttig

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Huttig Building Products, the St. Louis-based distributor, reported net sales of $127.2 million for its last fiscal quarter, which ended Sept. 30, a 3.2% decline from sales of $131.4 million in the same period of 2009.

Sales declined in building products but increased in all other product categories in 2010 from 2009, the company reported in an SEC filing. Millwork sales increased approximately 6% in 2010 to $58.4 million. Building product sales decreased approximately 15% in 2010 to $54.9 million. Wood products sales increased approximately 15% to $13.9 million in 2010.

The company posted a net loss of $4.5 million for the three-month period, compared with $1.1 million for the same period a year ago.

On Sept. 30, Huttig amended and restated its existing credit agreement with a four-year, $120 million, asset-based senior secured revolving credit facility, according to the filing.

Huttig is a two-step distributor of lumber, panels, decking, windows, doors, fasteners and other building materials. The company serves 41 states through 27 distribution centers. 

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The Home Depot draws crowds at tech event

BY HBSDEALER Staff

San Diego — The Teradata Partners User Group Conference drew its largest attendance this year, with more than 3,000 people gathering at the San Diego Convention Center to share best practices on business intelligence and data warehousing. Although not a conference centered on the home-improvement channel, the five-day gathering drew IT personnel from Home Depot, Lowe’s and Ace Hardware. Representatives from Home Depot gave three presentations, each time to full audiences. Retailers from other industries wanted to hear about the hot new thing — “tactical reporting” — which Home Depot has implemented in most of its stores over the last 15 months.

Claybourne Barrineau, Teradata architect for The Home Depot, could only show a photo of the handheld device now being used in 1,800 orange boxes. “It’s for legal reasons,” he explained. But the concept behind Store Walk Mobility (SWM) is easy to understand: Store managers and associates can scan a bar code on a particular item and receive back sales history, inventory turns and other data, a total of 30 metrics.  

What wasn’t so simple to pull off was the back-end support for so many requests for data. “It’s a CPU-intensive process,” Barrineau said. “We had to protect the rest of the system from this workload.”

Barrineau and his team eventually figured it out, and SWM now has 12,000 distinct users scattered throughout the company’s stores. By the end of November, Home Depot expects the devices to be in all its U.S. locations.

While Barrineau was talking about “parsing engines” and “partition nodes,” a panel in another room discussed how Customer Relationship Management has recently evolved. Craig Gard of Meredith Publishing, Debbie Doram of Electronics Arts, and Mary Smith of Ace Hardware all deal with very different customer bases, and the first two panelists have moved away from direct mail. But Smith, customer insights and analysts manager for Ace, said: “We don’t think direct mail is ever going to go away.” However, the Oak Brook, Ill., buying group is trying to “default [members] to e-mail campaigns,” which many retailers prefer anyway, Smith said.

Abird’s eye view of Home Depot’s IT evolution was provided by Cynthia Czabala, director of enterprise data warehouse for The Home Depot. 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. “We now have 99% of stock product attributes” for both homedepot.com and also the retailer’s physical stores, Czabala said.

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. “For the first time, I can tell you how valuable you are to me based on how much business we’ve done,” Czabala said.

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‘Extreme Makeover’ gets closer to foundation-system supplier

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Fans of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” may wonder: “How do they build a house so quickly?” One answer is in the concrete foundation system.

New Holland, Pa.-based Superior Walls of America, a pre-cast concrete foundation system manufacturer, has signed on as a supporter for Season 8 of ABC-TV’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” The company will supply and install custom-made energy-efficient basement and crawl space foundations for a variety of homes featured on the home improvement show in 2010 and 2011.

“This sponsorship actually represents a formalization of our ongoing relationship with ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,’ ” said Keith Weller, CFO of Superior Walls of America. “Since the show started in 2003, our corporate office and licensee partners have donated almost two dozen foundation systems to project homes for ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.’ Now we’re excited to ‘step up’ our commitment to support the goals of this television show in helping special families get their dream homes.”

Certified crews for Superior Walls will deliver and install the customized insulated panels to the job sites involved with the show and have the entire foundation system installed typically in less than six hours.

The show’s director of construction, David Bohler, described the speed of the system as “amazing.” He added: “Given the strict timeline that our show operates under, these foundation systems are perfectly suited for our needs.”

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