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A retail veteran sees changes ahead

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Cologne, Germany — John Herbert has a front row seat on the global home-improvement retailing scene. The former president of EXPO Design Center West Coast (USA) and the current general secretary of the European DIY-Retail Association, Herbert identified six major changes facing retailers in 2014.

Speaking at the Presidents Council 2014 VIP Retail Trends event here at the International Hardware Fair, Herbert’s six changes describe an industry where brands — both private-label and national — play an increasingly important role in a world of smaller stores with larger online presences. 

The list of six major changes to expect in his view, begins with the concept of click and collect. "Armchair shopping is exploding," he said. "This is really a major revolution."

That revolution is forcing the hand of brick-and-mortar stores to step up their game or face irrelevancy. Faced with the threat of losing customers to the Internet, "The stores of the future are going to be much, much more exciting," Herbert said. 

Brands will play an increased role in retail strategy, both the national brands and private labels. "In the future, there will be no alternatives — store brands will become stronger, and own brands will become stronger."

Rounding out the list of major trends at retail are the movement to design smaller store footprints, and the movement to embrace mobile retailing. 

An outspoken admirer of the United States hardware retailing industry, Herbert pointed to stats showing the United States, with 9% of the world’s population, has 60% of the DIY market. U.S. home improvement retailers are "miles ahead of the rest of the world," he said.

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European forecast: Optimistic and wobbly

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Cologne, Germany — European economists have a new phrase to describe their expectations for future growth. Out of fashion is "cautiously optimistic." In fashion is "moderately positive, but wobbly."

At least that’s how Dr. Alexander Bursch, director of research at Deloitte Germany, described his economic forecast for Europe. In a presentation here at the Presidents Council Retail Trends event during the Internationale Eisenwarenmesse (International Hardware Fair), Bursch added his voice to the chorus calling for a recovery for both Europe and the United States. He also pointed to the U.S. situation as a model for how that recovery might play out. 

The question on the table was "After the Great Recession, what’s next for Europe?" The short answer: slow growth of 0.7% to 1.2% in 2014. 

One difficulty, however, in predicting Eurozone growth is the disparate economies across the continent. Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Italy trail in growth and employment, while Poland, Germany and Austria lead the way. 

Across Europe, a 12% to 13% unemployment rate is unprecedented, plus it rises to about 25% in crisis countries. The recovery will be aided by reforms in Eurozone crisis countries that are gaining traction. Still, it will be "wobbly." 

"Don’t expect a rubber band that springs back," he said. "It will be moderate, step-by-step recovery."

Lessons from the U.S. recovery are likely to play out in Europe, he said. Chief among them is the concept that Americans turned increasingly to lower-priced products and brands, and found them to be better than they expected. 

Post-recession, he expects consumers will stick to lower price points, shop with less brand loyalty and generally avoid risk where possible — saving more and using the credit card less. 

"Consumers will start spending money again — but more cautiously," he concluded.

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Paul Sullivan named chairman of NAHB Remodelers

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Remodeler Paul Sullivan, CAPS, CGR, CGP, of Waterville Valley, N.H., was named the 2014 chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodelers during the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas.  

“Professional remodelers are a driving force within the National Association of Home Builders,” said Sullivan, president of the Sullivan Company Inc. “I am honored to represent our remodeler members as NAHB Remodelers chairman at a time of growth for our organization and industry.” 

Sullivan has served the Builders and Remodelers Association of Greater Boston as president and was named the Remodeler of the Year twice by that association. He isa n NAHB Life Director and has has chaired and served on numerous committees within NAHB. In 2013, Sullivan was named the NAHB Green Advocate of the Year and was also honored as a Green Partner of Excellence from the Home Innovation Research Labs for his work developing the 2012 National Green Building Standard. 

Sullivan is a third generation remodeling contractor. His Newton, Mass.-based company provides residential remodeling in the greater Boston area. 

In 2014, Sullivan will lead NAHB Remodelers as the housing industry continues to recover amid increased regulation and scrutiny from governmental agencies. He will work with members of Congress to help level the playing field for professional remodelers throughout the country who can provide safe, efficient and comfortable homes for their clients.

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