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Spring into lawn & garden

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The lion’s share of lawn and garden sales occur in the second quarter: 36 percent of barbecue grills; 38.2 percent of grass seed/repair; 38.5 percent of long-handle tools; and a full 43.3 percent of fertilizer/herbicide/pesticide, according to data from Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD Group.

April, May and June will likely always remain the dominant season for these categories. But according to consumer data, there are some shifting sales trends afoot. Most notably, price appears to play more of a factor in consumer purchase decisions compared to last year.

As shown at right, warehouse home centers lead all channels in dollar share sales of fertilizer and barbecue grills (See charts 1 and 2). The story is very similar in long-handle tools and grass seed, where the big boxes also dominate. However mass merchants are making in-roads as price becomes a more important factor in the consumer’s decision-making process.

In barbecue grills, the mass channel grew significantly to 26.1 percent market share. But more than that, the data shows that two-burner barbecues gained 7.6 percentage points of dollar market share in 2007, while three-burner barbecues declined significantly, and four or more burners declined slightly.

“That seems to indicate folks are scaling back a little bit from those really big grills that were almost a status symbol for homeowners in recent years,” said Mark Delaney, NPD Group’s director of home improvement. “It’s much more about price these days than it was a year ago.”

Charts 3 through 6 reveal the relative importance of price, which showed year-over-year increases in its importance as a purchase motivator in all four breakdowns.

OTHER FINDINGS:

The 18-to-34-year-old age group showed a 5.6 percentage point increase in share of barbecue spending, while all other groups were flat or down. “Generation X is all about outdoor living,” said Delaney.

Women shop in mass. While females accounted for 34.8 percent of total dollars spent on fertilizer/herbicide/pesticide, they accounted for 48.9 percent of the mass channel spending in the same category.

Consumers report a surge in the purchase of combination packages of seed with fertilizer. The dollar share jumped from 32.6 percent in 2006 to 41.2 percent in 2007. Still, seed-only purchases are most common, with 58.8 percent market share.

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Home Depot to close 15 stores

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Home Depot will close 15 underperforming stores, the company has announced, and remove 50 future openings from the new store pipeline. The closings will include layoffs of about 1,300 employees.

The closings, at locations in the Midwest and Northeast, will generate approximately $547 million in pre-tax charges in the company’s first quarter. The company will release first-quarter results on May 20.

The stores to be closed are as follows:

• Store no. 2015 in East Fort Wayne, Ind.

• Store no. 2032 in Marion, Ind.

• Store no. 2310 in Frankfort, Ky.

• Store no. 379 Opelousas, La.

• Store no. 2819 Cottage Grove, Minn.

• Store no. 6901 East Brunswick, N.J.

• Store no. 6904 Saddle Brook, N.J.

• Store no. 6171 Rome, N.Y.

• Store no. 3702 Bismarck, N.D.

• Store no. 3874 Findlay, Ohio

• Store no. 3865 Lima, Ohio

• Store no. 4552 Brattleboro, Vt.

• Store no. 4932 Beaver Dam, Wis.

• Store no. 4933 Fond du Lac, Wis.

• Store no. 4913 Milwaukee, Wis.

Home Depot said in a statement it still intends to build 55 new stores this fiscal year, including 36 new stores in the United States.

As for other stores in the works, the company said it has “determined that it will no longer pursue the opening of approximately 50 U.S. stores that have been in its new store pipeline, in some cases for more than 10 years. Accordingly, the company will record a charge of approximately $400 million related to capitalized development costs and ongoing obligations associated with those future store locations.”

“This is a continuation of our disciplined approach to capital allocation that we outlined last year,” said Frank Blake, Home Depot chairman and CEO, in a statement. “We will invest in our core retail business, in this case our existing stores, which drive our most profitable sales. Our capital efficiency model will also provide improved returns for our shareholders through dividends and share repurchase.”

Home Depot added that investments in existing retail stores will continue to include “maintenance, merchandising resets and other initiatives to improve all elements of the customer’s shopping experience.”

The company reiterated that its total capital spending for the current fiscal year is projected to be approximately $2.3 billion, down from $3.6 billion last year.

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Sherwin-Williams earnings fall in the first quarter

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Sherwin-Williams saw earnings fall in the first quarter of 2008, but the worldwide paint and coatings giant is still seeing strength in international sales.

Earnings fell 30.3 percent in the first quarter to $77.9 million from $111.8 million in the same period last year. Net sales grew just over 1 percent to $1.78 billion from $1.76 billion in the same period last year.

The stronger net sales were in large part due to strong Global Group sales, as was the case last quarter. Favorable currency rates and eight acquisitions since last year’s first quarter helped aid international sales, according to the paint company.

In the company’s retail Paint Stores Group, net sales were $1.031 billion in the quarter, 1.9 percent lower than in last year’s first quarter. Sales were weak due to “soft architectural paint sales and weak sales in non-paint categories partially offset by improved industrial maintenance product sales.”

Same-store sales decreased 6.5 percent compared with last year, and earnings decreased 31.9 percent. Earnings were weaker because of increased product and freight costs, the company noted.

The company’s Consumer Group, which includes paint products like Dutch Boy, saw sales decrease 4.8 percent in the quarter to $286.9 million. The sales decline was due primarily “to soft DIY demand at most of the segment’s retail customers.” Earnings in the Consumer Group were down 23.7 percent due to higher raw material costs, as well as a lower volume of movement at the company’s distribution centers.

The Global Group’s net sales increased 14.8 percent to $461.9 million due to market share gains, selling price increases, favorable currency translation and acquisitions. Earnings for the Global Group increased 21.7 percent to $7.7 million.

“Paint demand in the domestic new residential, residential repaint, DIY and commercial markets was weaker during the first quarter than we had anticipated at the start of the year,” said Christopher Connor, chairman and CEO of Sherwin-Williams. “We continue to be pleased with the strong sales improvements of the foreign business units in our Global Group and the continued growth they have been achieving in the architectural, industrial maintenance, OEM and automotive finishes product lines.”

Connor also noted that the Paint Stores Group opened 17 new stores in the first quarter and closed 23 “redundant stores.”

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