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Rail disruptions hurt LP performance

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Nashville, Tennessee-based Louisiana-Pacific reported first-quarter sales of $445 million, a 16% decline compared with the year-ago quarter. 

Like most building-material companies with construction-related customers, the winter weather was cited as a drag on the company’s performance. 

“The severe weather across much of North America in the first quarter took a toll on building activity and logistics,” said Curt Stevens, CEO. “The rail transportation systems in both the U.S. and Canada were in disarray in the first quarter, which caused unplanned downtime at our operations, increased inventory and late shipments and negatively affected our reported results.”

Loss from continuing operations was $14 million, compared with income from continuing operations of $65 million in the same quarter in 2013. 

"With better weather, we are hopeful that housing starts will accelerate to the forecasted level of 1.1 million for 2014,” continued Stevens. “Our current order files are much stronger than we have seen over the last several quarters, and our customers have a positive outlook for the rest of the year.”

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Simpson Strong-Tie sees opportunity in DIY

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Las Vegas — Simpson Strong-Tie is reaching out to the DIY customer with easy-to-assemble work bench kits and also ideas to empower the typical homeowner. 

Here at the National Hardware Show, the Pleasanton, California-based fastener giant was displaying its DIY Done Right boxed kit work bench, as well as DIY-focused brochures and marketing materials to help connect retailers with consumers.

According to David Larson, national accounts manager, DIY represents a huge market in which to grow for the generally pro-oriented company. He estimates that DIY spending accounts for about 10% of the company’s sales, compared to 90% pro — though its’ a difficult ratio to measure.

The company’s brochure DIY Done Right brochure positions the use of Simpson Strong-Tie connectors and fasteners as the "professional way" to handle DIY projects. The same brochure offers ideas and hints for storage units, work benchs, trellises, fences and decks.

"DIY is the way to go these days," the brochure states.

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Managing innovation? It isn’t easy

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Las Vegas — These are exciting times for retail technologists, and the IT guys are in demand. The flip side of that coin shows that change is coming, and somebody is going to have to manage it.

During the Presidents Council lunch here during the National Hardware Show, Robert Howard, a partner at consulting firm Kurt Salmon, delivered a presentation on managing innovation, and kicked it off with the caution: "It’s kind of fuzzy."

(Check out some of the innovation spotted at the National Hardware Show.)

What’s clear, he reported, is expectation of dramatic changes. For instance, he pointed to statistics showing that in the next five years:

• 41% expect to provide personalized offerings, based on previous behavior, to a shopper’s smartphone;

• 35% expect to recognize their customers in the store with geofencing or presence technology;

• 42% expect to send coupons based on a customer’s location in the store;

• 56% of all transactions will be completed via mobile point of sale self-checkout at a terminal or on a shopper’s mobile device; and

• 42% of sales will come from online, mobile and social commerce sites.

That’s a lot to think about, not even counting 3-D printing and its disruptive possibilities. This technology he described as a trend in its infancy, but also a frontier in its "Wild West" stage. "It has a long way to go, but it’s coming," Howard said.

The stakes are high, as the economy moves from a service economy to what he described as "an experience economy," and customer retention can be difficult.

There is a wide gulf, he said, between the percentage of company executives who said customers might switch after having a bad experience (49%) and customers who say they have actually switched after bad experiences (89%). 

Those numbers show an urgent need for companies to get the experience right.

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