Up the scale


Whether we’re in a boom or a bust economy, there’s no shortage of luxury items in the home channel — and in fact, brand equity for many of the nation’s high-end companies has only improved in recent years, with well-heeled customers virtually shielded from the squeeze of the recession.

Then again, when it comes to home improvement retailing, luxury can mean anything ranging from prohibitively expensive building materials to upscale flashlights that may only retail for a little under $200 — attainable enough for many middle-class Americans.

Whether they’re apt to grace the glass cases of neighborhood hardware stores or the hallways of luxury homes, here’s a roundup of HCN’s favorite upscale products.

Coast A25R Rechargeable LED Flashlight

The definitive must-have for survivalists everywhere, or perhaps just a crowd pleaser on Father’s Day? In either case, this high-end stainless steel flashlight is made for the pros but comes tricked out with bells and whistles all users can enjoy, including a USB charger, a backup rechargeable battery pack, 466 lumen output, extra-wide flood beam and a bulls-eye spot beam that extends up to 560 ft. away.

Price: $179 (

Gladiator Garage Storage System Packages

With these customizable garage storage kits, Gladiator (of Whirlpool Corp.) proves that garage storage can be strong and beautiful at the same time.

Price: $538 and up (

GE Monogram French Door Refrigerator

Built with tempered glass, fabricated steel and anodized aluminum, this luxury model is GE’s first-ever Monogram French door refrigerator, launching January 2014.

Price: $7,499 and up (

Altoz Precision Mowers

Altoz is the latest in a spate of promising start-up companies that seek to revolutionize their respective spaces. In Altoz’s case, the lawnmower market gets a much-needed update in the form of this commercial-grade zero-turn precision mower.

Price: $8,299 and up (

Big Green Egg

The subject of its own cult following, the Big Green Egg possesses storied grilling, baking and smoking abilities thanks to its high-quality ceramic design, now optionally nestled in its own custom table. (

Progressive Nutrition Top-Line Xtreme Horse Supplement

Good enough for the dressage horse but robust enough for all levels of physical demand, Top-Line is packed with amino acids to restore necessary muscle to topline-deficient horses.

Price: $109 (

Inspire Aledora Slate Roofing

New to the roofing scene this month is Aledora Slate Roofing from Inspire Roofing Products (part of The Tapco Group), to be introduced at the 2014 International Builders’ Show in February. Aledora is a direct response to the many pain points involved in slate roofing, including cost, weight, breakage tendencies and maintenance requirements. The thick slate alternative nails the authenticity factor with surface texture, jagged tile edges and natural shadow variance. (

Moen Isabel Showerhead        

Combine an 8-in. diameter with Moen’s advanced, self-pressurizing Immersion technology for unparalleled water pressure and multi-function luxury.

Price: $470 (

Jen-Air 24-in. Steam and Convection Wall Oven 

Chock full of features and cooking-mode options, the newly launched steam and convection oven from Jenn-Air brings combi-oven restaurant technology to the home. (

Marvin Integrated Interior Shade System

This recent release from Marvin is designed to fit all Marvin windows and doors sans-measuring, open from the top or bottom, and offer precise light control. (

Maytag Maxima XL Front Load Steam Washer

As if the Overnight Wash & Dry cycle isn’t enough of a selling point, the Maxima XL is capable of providing an extra-tough Power Wash, energy-saving Cold Wash, a special allergen-removal cycle that eliminates 95% of common allergens, and an Optimal Dose Dispenser that can store 12 loads’ worth of detergent. With a capacity of 4.3 cubic ft., it certainly earns its XL title.

Price: $1,449 (


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Proper Toppers: What’s up with roofs?


Asphalt shingles dominate the residential roofing market — crowning some 4-out-of-5 homes in the United States, according to the Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association.

But other roofing materials (metal, wood, slate, synthetic slate, clay and concrete tiles) are gaining in popularity as homeowners seek alternative roofing products that provide enhanced durability, energy savings and reduced maintenance, or that complement regional aesthetics.

Consumers have also become increasingly aware of the importance of the roof in the protection and curb appeal of their homes. Accordingly, features such as aesthetic possibilities, environmental attributes and fire resistance have entered the equation alongside cost considerations.

Roofing materials are available in an incredible range of styles and colors. The most popular asphalt shingle colors include earth tones, black, brown and tan, but the palette now includes new deep reds, blues and grays that allow the homeowner to match the roof to the siding. Initiatives that encourage cool or reflective roofs are putting enhanced focus on warm neutrals and other light colors. But improved insulation and technology that reduces heat absorption has increased the viability of black and dark colors.

“Deep, strong colors are now being used on home exteriors,” said John Ferraro, general manager for ARMA, “and a neutral asphalt shingle roof color can allow the body color to showcase the home. There are also regional preferences, said Emily Videtto, executive director of shingles and new product development for GAF.

Color has always been a consideration, but cool roofing is rapidly becoming a major factor as well. Cool roofs are highly reflective options that stay significantly cooler than normal roofs in summer. Certified by the Cool Roof Rating Council, products are rated by their thermal emittance and solar reflectance index: the higher the number, the cooler the roofing material. In some areas, cool roofs qualify for utility rebates or government tax credits.

In recent years, hurricanes along the coasts, storms in Tornado Alley and high-profile fires in the West have increased the demand for roofing
materials and systems that offer enhanced protection from high winds, hail and fire. Many roofing products now also include algae or stain repellents.

But, remember, actual performance depends greatly on the quality of the installation.

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Message from the top: Improvement


Orgill chairman, president and CEO Ron Beal says the concept of constant improvement is fundamental to the way the company runs its business. The proof is in the growth. The Memphis, Tenn.-based distributor has grown by more than 50% in the past five years, and has more than doubled in size in the last decade. Here’s the HCN Q&A with the CEO:

HCN: What’s the latest area of improvement for Orgill?

Beal: This year we have made a concerted effort to improve our replenishment fill rates, which were already consistently good at 96% plus. For the second half of the year, we’ve achieved 97.5% company-wide, and two of our DCs have averaged over 98%. It will be hard to improve much over these numbers going forward, but we will certainly try.

HCN: With housing starts up 18% in 2013, have we definitely hit a full-fledged recovery mode?

Beal: We’re all wanting this to be the case. We have seen steady growth in the pro dealer sector of our business, both in terms of same customer sales as well as overall segment improvement.

HCN: You have said distribution seems simple, but it’s very difficult to execute. What are some of the complications that have arisen in recent months?

Beal: Most of the complications to normal operations recently have been weather related. Twice during recent weeks, transportation staffs in all of our distribution centers were battling snow and ice at the same time. I can’t remember this ever happening in the past.

HCN: What do you think distinguishes Orgill from other distributors?

Beal: Conceptually, almost all hardware distribution companies are doing pretty much the same things; providing wholesale product delivery to the retail store, and offering varying levels of retail support. It really boils down to execution.

We’re unique in that we’re the only national non-co-op distributor. We don’t spend much time trying to simply be different from distributor competitors. We think it is much more productive to instead devote our energies toward providing the best possible mix of goods and services to our retail customers.

HCN: In terms of categories of merchandise, what’s on your list of high-growth areas?

Beal: We think that core departments will be especially strong this year. Any pickup in housing activity ripples throughout the industry. Coupled with the severe weather we’re seeing so far this winter, this should generate a lot of fix-up and repair projects. Plumbing, lawn & garden, paint and tools should all benefit as a result.

HCN: Are there any ways that your retail customers are changing?

Beal: Retailers are definitely getting more sophisticated in understanding the need for the whole area of electronic commerce. This is driven in large part by the changing habits of consumers in general. For us, this means programs like our new Boost system, which allows a local retailer to customize a local Internet commerce presence without the significant backend costs of supporting an individual system. We’ve also significantly enhanced our small order fulfillment capabilities to support shipments direct to consumers on behalf of our dealers.


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