STAFDA sees industry strength
Nashville, Tenn. At the 31st annual convention of the Specialty Tools and Fasteners Distributors Association (STAFDA), competition and costs of doing business emerged as big themes. The event’s trade show at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel featured 968 booths, a new STAFDA record.
Greg Drouillard, president of STAFDA, encouraged members to “welcome the competition” during his state of the industry report Monday in Nashville.
“News in construction isn’t all bad,” said Drouillard, owner of Target Building Materials, of Windsor, Ontario. Case in point: During the first eight months of the year, non-residential building in the United States was running 3 percent ahead of last year.
“The market for renovation is strong,” he said. “There are still plenty of opportunities for STAFDA members, although you may need to shift your sales emphasis. That won’t be the first time for most of us, and we are fortunate to have that flexibility.”
These are competitive times for STAFDA distributors, and controlling costs will play a major role in success — especially delivery costs. STAFDA’s 2007 distributor profile report showed only 27 percent of distributors enforce a minimum delivery charge, and the average is just $25. Meanwhile, it’s taking longer to reach customers.
“It’s no longer possible for distributors to absorb freight costs, so we need to seriously consider controlling some or all of these costs with pricing strategies,” said Drouillard. Options include a “real” minimum delivery charge, he said, a fuel surcharge or some offsetting savings the customer can earn by picking up his order.
Attendance was another storyline here in Nashville. There were 968 booths at the Specialty Tools and Fasteners Distributors Association, up from 933 last year. About 21 percent of those booths are new companies, “plenty of new vendors and new products,” said Georgia Foley, STAFDA executive director.
Because of fewer attendees per company, the overall attendance figure of 5,300 pre-registered attendees was down from the previous year’s record showing in Las Vegas. “Still this will easily be our second largest convention,” said Foley.
Next year the STAFDA convention and trade show is heading to Denver. The organization changed gears for 2009 — moving to Atlanta, instead of New Orleans, which carried concerns about a slower than expected recovery, including high crime rate, according to Foley. The dates for the 2009 Atlanta show will not change from the previously scheduled Nov. 8 to 10.
Also on Monday morning, keynote speaker Chris Gardner, whose rags-to-riches life story was made into the hit movie “The Pursuit of Happyness,” received a standing ovation from the general session audience for his advocacy of fatherhood and family values.
LACN convention draws dealers, protestors
Monterey, Calif. Green building topics dominated the agenda of the Lumber Association of California and Nevada (LACN) annual meeting this year, but that didn’t stop protestors from gathering outside the hotel on Nov. 2 to picket Sierra Pacific Industries, an LACN member who attended the event. A crowd of 30 individuals, organized by ForestEthics, chanted and held signs urging the Redding, Calif., lumber producer to stop its clear-cutting logging practices. In response, a spokesman for Sierra Pacific Industries said the company operates under sustainable forestry practices. “The state approves all of our timber harvesting,” the spokesman said.
Inside the hotel, Mark LaLiberte of Building Knowledge, kicked off the conference by urging dealers to stay ahead of the green building curve by familiarizing themselves with the green industry’s offerings. “People don’t want to buy anything from someone who knows less than they do,” he observed.
LaLiberte gave numerous examples of building materials, some inexpensive and easy to install, that reduce energy consumption and block moisture from coming into houses. He also talked about the unforeseen consequences of some well-intentioned products, like whole-house fans designed to cool down home interiors. Installed in today’s airtight homes, these powerful fans can suck air out of the garage, where gasoline, pesticides and other toxic chemicals often reside, he observed.
Educating builders and contractors is just the first step, LaLiberte said. “Dealers are going to have to help their builders market [green] homes,” he predicted.
The debate over various green building standards came up during Kelly McCloskey’s presentation on the use of lumber in non-residential building projects. A representative of the Wood Promotion Network, McCloskey outlined the differences between the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED and the Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes rating systems. Lumber dealers around the country should urge their legislators not to codify one set of standards over the other, McCloskey said, adding, “Give the markets some options.”
The LACN is currently lobbying the Nevada state legislature to offer tax breaks to buildings that qualify under both rating systems, according to executive director Ken Dunham. The trade association was also instrumental in persuading California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to veto legislation last month that would have mandated LEED standards (or their equivalent) in state buildings. The LACN and other representatives of the wood products industry had opposed the bills, saying they went too far in their effort to promote sustainable building practices.
The three-day convention also included sessions on selling wood products to commercial builders, finding and hiring quality people and budgeting/forecasting. Although attendees commiserated over the state’s building slump — production of single-family homes fell 50 percent in September, according to the California Building Industry Association –several dealers said they were keeping busy with high-end remodels.
Home Depot Canada holds holiday light exchange
Further promoting energy-efficient lighting products, Home Depot’s Canadian stores held a “holiday light exchange” this weekend.
Consumers were able to bring in their traditional incandescent holiday lights for a $3-off coupon toward a string of energy-efficient LED lights. The promotion took place Nov. 3 and 4. The company said the LED lights use “80 to 90 percent less energy than traditional light sets.”
The LED lights have been promoted as part of Home Depot’s newly launched Eco Options program, which brands and promotes environmentally friendly products from several product categories.
The company also has been involved in several initiatives promoting the use of compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs as opposed to incandescent indoor lighting.