RILA defends Marketplace Fairness Act
An opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has prompted the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) to issue a point-by-point refutation of the essay, entitled “No Internet Taxation without Representation.”
DeMint, who opposes the Marketplace Fairness Act recently introduced in the U.S. Senate, argues that on-line retailers would have to navigate “nearly 10,000 state, local and municipal tax jurisdictions.” It would not be long, he predicted, before this complicated mandate is replaced by a “streamlined national sales tax.” The cost of compliance for small businesses would be overly burdensome, he stated.
“[The op-ed piece] included a number of factual errors,” the RILA said in an issued statement. To read a summary of DeMint’s arguments — and the RILA’s counterpoints — click here.
A mixed bag of home channel merchandise
IPG Decorative Concrete Line of Tapes
Intertape Polymer Group has targeted the decorative concrete industry with a new line of products. The line consists of five products: DC Ultra2in1 is a new double-sided masking tape designed to act as a barrier to an overlay application; DC Blue is a blue masking tape designed to prevent chemical bonding resulting in sealer failure; DC Orange is a clean removal duct tape designed to work on rough surfaces; DC Grout is reinforced tape for strong grout line pulls; and DC Drape is a film that prevents overspray and provides solvent-resistant protection. (intertapepolymer.com)
Bosch Angle Grinders with Protection Switch
Bosch Angle Grinders with Protection Switch only operate as long as the switch is being pressed. If the switch is released, the machines immediately shut down. The “Protection Switch” is designed so that the switch can be operated over the entire length of the handle, regardless of whether the angle grinder is held at the front, back or in the middle. As a result, users always have full control over the tool even in difficult working positions. The angle grinders offer power ratings of 1,100 to 1,500 watts. (boschtools.com)
Makita 18V Impact Driver
Makita’s new 18V LXT Lithium-Ion Brushless Quick-Shift Mode 3-Speed Impact Driver is the latest addition to the company’s 18V cordless line up. The tool features Quick-Shift Mode, an automatic electronic controller that downshifts and reduces rotation and impact speed prior to driving the screw into place. It is engineered to minimize screw thread stripping, screw breakage and damage to work. (makita.com)
Kuhn Rikon Classic Snips / Classic Mini Snips
Kuhn Rikon’s new Classic Snips and Classic Mini Snips can cut almost anything, whether for cooking, gardening, crafting or cutting packaging open quickly. Self-sharpening and rust-free, these stainless steel snips feature a spring-loaded design, ultra sharp shears and serrated lower blades. The Classic Snips and Classic Mini Snips feature ergonomic easy-grip handles for left or right-handed use. They lock shut for safety and storage. (kuhnrikon.com)
Weyerhaeuser Hardwood Edge
Hardwood Edge is the industry’s first OSB floor panel specifically engineered for use under hardwood floors. The panels offer enhanced dimensional stability and high density that provide for outstanding fastener holding — ideal for the demands of hardwood floors. Along with improved fastener-retention and high density, the panels include patented Down Pore drainage technology: Three specially shaped grooves at panel ends that eliminate standing water to reduce the potential for water absorption. That built-in drainage reduces edge swell, virtually eliminating the need to sand. (woodbywy.com)
Heat & Glo New Ultra-Slim REVO Fireplace Series
The Heat & Glo REVO Series features slender, 7-in.-deep profiles and the patented Razor burner. Once a hole is made in the wall and SLP venting pipe is set, the lightweight units are hung on mounting brackets. The fireplaces are available in square, linear and vertical models and can easily be installed during any stage of building or remodeling. (heatnglo.com)
Arrow Steel Sheds
Arrow Shed’s new sheds offer a range of durable, affordable vinyl-coated steel storage solutions. Along with protection for garden tools and other outdoor gear, Arrow Steel Sheds feature vinyl-coated steel that will not warp, split or crack. (arrowsheds.com)
Moen Faucets with Antimicrobial Product Protection
Moen is using technology from Microban International, which specializes in built-in antimicrobial product protection, to help keep faucet surfaces visibly cleaner and resist stain-causing bacteria. Microban technologies are engineered to work continuously and won’t wash off or wear away. The new Ashville and Walden collections are sold exclusively at The Home Depot. (moen.com)
Jenn-Air Ventilation System
The telescoping Jenn-Air Accolade ventilation system is arc-shaped, with a curved, sculptural profile designed to place ventilation power even closer to the cooking source than traditional systems. The 36-in. Accolade system is equipped with a pressure-stabilizing in-line blower system that removes cooking smoke at a rate of up to 1,200 cubic feet per minute. The inline blower system minimizes operating sounds. (jennair.com)
Larson 6-Outlet Waterproof Power Distribution System
Larson Electronics has added a 6-outlet portable low-voltage spider box to its line of power distribution systems. Equipped with six waterproof outlets, the system combines the benefits of a step-down transformer with the flexibility of a spider box, enabling operators to split a single 120 or 240 VAC input into six 12/24VAC or 12/24 VDC outlets. (larsonelectronics.com)
Husqvarna All-Wheel Drive Mower
The new Husqvarna HU800AWD features All-Wheel Drive technology, designed for uneven terrain and the toughest mowing conditions. It features a heavy-duty steel deck and a Honda GCV 190 engine. Its wheels feature an aggressive tread pattern, which provides additional traction and maneuverability. The All-Wheel Drive walk mower is available exclusively at Lowe’s and authorized Husqvarna dealers nationwide. (husqvarna.com)
John Deere 50G and 60G Compact Excavators
The John Deere 50G and 60G Compact Excavators are the newest models of the G-Series line. The 50G and 60G are outfitted with a DOC/DPF after-treatment device to meet the Final Tier 4 emissions requirements. Both models incorporate the auto-idle feature that slows engine speed when the pilot-control levers are momentarily released. (deere.com)
Milwaukee 18V Compact Impact Wrenches
As part of the new M18 FUEL line, the new tools feature Milwaukee’s exclusive combination of the PowerState Brushless Motor, RedLink Plus Electronic Intelligence and RedLithium 2.0/XC4.0 Battery Pack to deliver up to two times more runtime, up to 50% more torque and a proprietary 3-Mode Drive Control feature. The new PowerState Brushless Motor works harder, lives longer and converts energy into power more efficiently. RedLink Plus Intelligence hardware and software allows the user to choose between three fastening modes with the Drive Control feature. (milwaukeetool.com)
Aqua Mizer Toilet Flush System
The new version of the Aqua Mizer Adjustable Flush System delivers the same leak prevention and flush volume reduction as the original, features a new design that has fewer parts and enables the product to be sold at about half the price of the original. The system’s leak-prevention feature gives the user full control of the water entering the tank. The new chlorine-resistant flat flapper is adjustable to set the optimum flush volume for each toilet. (aquamizerinc.com)
Walking the aisles at Bankston Lumber
Chuck Bankston, the fourth-generation owner of Bankston Lumber and the incoming chairman of the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) stands beneath a sign in the yard’s main warehouse in Barnesville, Ga.
The sign reads: “If you’re not having fun, you’re fired.”
It’s a far cry from Six Sigma management principles, but the sentiment on the sign fits Bankston’s personality, and it’s one of a handful of unconventional yet rock-solid-successful approaches to the business for his single-unit, central Georgia lumberyard.
“I’m not a micro-manager,” Bankston said. “It’s more important to me to empower people in their jobs. And I’m more focused on balancing family and business.”
Case in point: The yard is closed on Sundays. And Saturdays, too.
Whatever he’s doing, the style seems to be working. The debt-free building products company has never had an unprofitable year since its founding in 1929, even through a lingering construction downturn has challenged the business. The January-through-June building permit numbers in the four surrounding counties combined falls short of 100. (Bankston Lumber’s home county of Lamar had a meager eight permits issued during that period.)
That’s why remodeling projects play a big role in the company’s revenue stream. And the Bankston’s two outside salespeople have drummed up business where they can — pool houses, for instance — while staying close to the county administrators for tips on new construction.
And the yard is willing to travel for business. The yard supplies materials to contractors engaged in the booming Robins Air Force Base, some 50 miles away. Bankston Lumber also supplies materials to the student housing at Barnesville’s own Gordon College.
One of the biggest recent transformations is next door at the new truss division; Bankston Lumber entered the truss business in 2007 and had a strong rookie year. But the lack of new construction took its toll, pushing the division to a low point in 2009. “We were wondering if we made the right decision,” Bankston said.
But the truss business rebounded with a 26% increase in 2011. And during a recent visit, the covered but open-air facility was humming with activity.
Eric Evans leads the Bankston Truss division, which came into being when Banskston purchased Evans’ former company, Custom Truss. An Alpine computerized saw is at the heart of the operation, cutting sticks to exact lengths, which are assembled on two massive wooden slabs. Finishing the job is a giant press that rolls along rails elevated a few feet above the ground. (The elevated rails are an idea drawn up by Evans, and imitated elsewhere, Bankston said.)
The company was founded in 1929 by Chuck’s great grandfather Ed Bankston, who ran a portable sawmill operation, buying land, clearing it, in some cases selling it and some cases keeping it. The business transformed into a full production mill in the 1940s, then a lumberyard. During the 1970s, the lumberyard was decidedly DIY-focused, as an Ace Home Center, but refocused on the pro in the 1980s.
But a family business is more than a collection of business decisions and earnings statements. And the Bankston family has collected some classic stories over the generations from Ed to Pete to Cary to Chuck to 17-year-old Chad, the fifth generation of Bankstons to work at the yard.
Cary Bankston, Chuck’s father, remembers decades ago when a supplier tried to sell a new window concept to one Bankston Lumbers buyer named Elmo. The pitch went on for 20 minutes within earshot of founder Ed. When the pitch finally concluded, Ed lifted his hat above his eyes and drawled: “Elmo, don’t put anything in stock that takes that long to sell.”
“It’s good advice — I wish I had heeded it more,” Cary said.
Chuck Bankston’s own history is part of the family lore. As a small boy, he played in the yard and climbed the wooden racks. At 11, he was already sweeping floors. And at 15, he was delivering lumber, even though 16 was the minimum age to drive a car.
“We knew the sheriff,” Bankston explained.
After a brief stint with State Farm Insurance, he returned to the family business in 1992, becoming the yard’s first outside salesman, with pockets full of quarters to call in orders — more than a million dollars’ worth in his first year.
On the merchandise front, the business has embraced more energy-saving home products, some of which Bankston tests in his own home, including the Ecosmart electric water heater and Enerflex Radiant Barrier insulation.
Bankston Lumber has held lunch-and-learns with property managers and contractors and plumbers to promote products, and he’s sold about one tankless heater per week for the past three years.
Marvin windows and Masonite doors have a strong presence in a small showroom near the counter.
Bankston is a big believer in the power of networking through both the NLBMDA (see sidebar) and the Tyrone, Ga.-based Construction Suppliers Association (CSA), the trade association for independent dealers in Georgia and Alabama. Bankston calls the CSA roundtable events extremely rewarding.
“The meetings help sharpen the sword,” he said. “We can ask the guy who is leading the pack how he does it, and I get a lot out of it.”
Sometimes it’s more than he expected.
When Bankston hosted a CSA roundtable group in Barnesville, the group toured the yard and then met in a conference room to discuss the topic of security.
“They asked me how secure we were, and I told them that the fencing around the perimeter was adequate and that the merchandise in the store was pretty well protected because it was so close to the registers and all the people near the front desk. And then one of the dealers threw a big Bostitch nail gun on the desk and said: “So you’re saying we couldn’t steal this?”
“One of them had taken it in broad daylight,” Bankston said. “That was an eye opener.”
It also shows the power of a new pair of eyes on operations. “They are going to tell you how it is, which is what you want.”