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Remodeling activity was steady in the first quarter

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Remodeling activity remained steady during the first quarter of 2008, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ Remodeling Market Index (RMI).

The group’s market conditions indicator rose slightly, to 41.8 from 40.9 in the previous quarter. An index measuring future expectations remained unchanged at 37.9.

The Remodeling Market Index measures remodelers’ perceptions of market demand for current and future residential projects. Any number over 50 indicates that the majority of remodelers view the market conditions as improving. The NAHB noted that the index has been running below 50 since the final quarter of 2005.

“The remodeling market continues to show weakness, following the downturn in the overall housing market,” said NAHB chief economist David Seiders. “We expect there to be some further erosion in 2008, with a gradual recovery in 2009.”

Nationally, the RMI components for major additions and alterations during the first quarter increased to 44.15 from 42.28. Minor additions and alterations decreased to 41.57 from 41.76. Maintenance and repair remodeling work increased to 39.68 in the first quarter, from 38.11. The amount of work committed for the next three months decreased to 29.63 from 33.15 in the fourth quarter, “demonstrating a decline in the backlog of remodeling jobs,” the group said.

“Many remodelers are seeing smaller jobs and have a shorter backlog, but we expect activity to increase because necessary home repairs cannot be postponed for a long time,” said NAHB Remodelers chairman Lonny Rutherford.

Regionally, current market expectations dropped in the first quarter in the Northeast to 36.4 from 38.6, and in the South to 42.2 from 45.0. The Midwest, however, increased to 44.1 from 41.1, and the West was up slightly to 42.9 from 42.2.

The RMI is based on a quarterly survey of professional remodelers, whose answers to a series of questions were assigned numerical values to calculate the two separate indexes. Additionally, a variety of “special questions” are also asked at the end of the survey to help pinpoint market trends.

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Golden Hammer Awards presented at National Hardware Show

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Las Vegas The home improvement industry’s top retailers and suppliers were honored at the 24th Annual Golden Hammer Awards, held here in conjunction with the National Hardware Show. The May 6 ceremony at the Las Vegas Convention Center inducted Howard Elsberry, the former president and CEO of Westlake Hardware, as a member of the Home Channel Hall of Fame. Elsberry retired last year after a 40-year career as a hardware retailer.

Golden Hammer awards given to retail companies included Lowe’s as Retail Partner of the Year; ToolKing.com as Specialty Retailer of the Year; and Hanneke Hardware as Innovative Retailer of the Year. Tony Miller, accepting the award for Hanneke Hardware, said the St. Louis dealer has continually adapted its three stores to serve a shifting clientele of landlords, industrial users, builders, contractors and homeowners. “As all of you know, it’s easier to grow business with existing customers than to find new ones,” Miller said.

In the vendor category, Weber-Stephen was named 2008 Vendor of the Year. A communication award in the point of purchase category went to Premier Retail Networks for their Ryobi One video ads in Home Depot stores. A packaging award was given to Quickie Manufacturing for their AirWick Fresh Sweep broom. Elmer’s Products received a business-to-business advertising award for their “Elmer’s Rebuilt” campaign. Epoch Design took home the business-to-consumer award for “MailBoss,” their locking security mailbox campaign. The communications award for signage went to M-D Building Products, which created retractable trade show banners for Dupont caulk.

The Golden Hammer Committee, comprised of merchants from Ace Hardware, True Value, Do it Best, Orgill, Orchard Supply Hardware, Westlake Hardware and Elliott’s Hardware, also gave out five “committee choice” awards: Hillman Fasteners for category management; 3M for inventory management; Weber-Stephen for new product innovation; First Alert for quality control; and Andersen Windows for serving the pros.

Thirty-four suppliers also were honored with HCN’s Silver Circle awards. For a complete listing, see the June 16 issue of Home Channel News.

For the full list of winners, go to www.goldenhammerawards.com.

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Potlatch settles OSB lawsuit

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Potlatch has agreed to a $2.7 million settlement in a class action lawsuit against oriented strand board (OSB) producers. The Spokane, Wash., company announced the settlement, in which it admits no wrongdoing, as part of its first-quarter earnings.

In a statement, Potlatch said it settled the case “solely in order to avoid the further expense and burden of the ongoing litigation.”

The 2006 antitrust case alleges that OSB manufacturers began conspiring together in 2002 to artificially reduce the supply and inflate the prices of OSB. Three of the defendants have reached settlements so far: Huber Engineered Woods, Ainsworth and Georgia-Pacific. All have denied the accusations as part of their settlements.

Other companies named in the lawsuit include Weyerhaeuser, Louisiana-Pacific, Norbord Industries, Tolko Industries and Grant Forest Products.

Plaintiffs in the class action suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern Division of Pennsylvania, represents lumberyards and millwork shops in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Georgia.

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