Stat Flash: Economic Perception remains a concern
Consumer research from Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD Group shows some positive movement in consumer sentiment in January, but concerns linger.
The January figure for the NPD U.S. Economic Perception Indicator rose to 40.0 on a scale of 0 — "very concerned" — to 100 — "very confident." The figure is an improvement upon 37.4 recorded in December, but it is below the year-ago figure of 41.4:
• January 2012: 40.0
• December 2011: 37.4
• January 2011: 41.4
"While a one-month uptick does not suggest a trend, it does seem to suggest that consumers are coming out of the holidays with a little more optimism than when they went in," according to NPD.
Younger consumers appear more confident than older consumers, according to the NPD’s analysis.
The NPD Group’s U.S. Economic Perception Indicator measures consumer beliefs about the current and near-term state of the U.S. economy.
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Home Depot reports strong fourth quarter
Boosted by mild temperatures and spring-like selling conditions throughout much of the country, Atlanta-based Home Depot saw sales rise nearly 6% in the fourth quarter.
The home improvement giant reported fourth-quarter sales of $16.0 billion, up 5.9% from the same quarter last year. Comparable-store sales were positive 5.7%, and up 6.1% in the United States.
"We had a strong finish to 2011, and with favorable weather, our business delivered results that exceeded our expectations," said CEO Frank Blake.
The performance also exceeded the expectations of most analysts on Wall Street, where expectations had called for about $15.5 billion in sales for the quarter.
Net earnings for the fourth quarter were $774 million, up 31.9% from the fourth quarter last year.
For the full year, Home Depot’s sales increased 3.5% to $70.4 billion, as comp-store sales increased 3.4% in total and increased 3.0% in the United States. Earnings for the full year were $3.883 billion, up 16.3% from earnings of $3.338 billion in 2010.
Looking ahead to 2012, Home Depot expects sales growth of about 4%, including an extra week in the upcoming fiscal year. The company also plans 11 new stores in 2012.
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At Coney Island boardwalk: it’s wood vs. wood-alternative
Emotions are running high over the building materials to be used to replace Coney Island, N.Y.’s famous boardwalk, according to an article in the New York Times.
While community members clamor for wood to be used to repair stretches of the 2.7 mil boardwalk, authorities are suggesting easier-to-maintain non-wood alternatives.
Arguments for and against real wood boards are plentiful, and are represented by the following: "It’s like putting a piece of plastic into a diamond ring, and this is our jewel,” Rob Burstein, the chairman of the Coney-Brighton Boardwalk Alliance, was quoted as saying. Also: “Suggesting that you can only have wooden Boardwalks because that’s what they were originally built of is like saying you should only have cobblestone streets,” Adrian Benepe, parks commissioner, was quoted as saying.
The city’s suggested plan calls for $6.85 million to replace 60,110 square feet of boardwalk with wood-alternative planks.
Both parties have good points
Both parties have good points but since they are spending the public's tax dollars, the decision must be based on suitability for use and lowest overall cost over time, not on nostalgia, personal preference or manufacturer's claims (though nostalgia might be considered if suitable options are of comparable cost). While I have no dog in this particular fight, as one long involved in the forest products business, I do have some insight on wood, preservative treatment and non-wood substitutes, having represented a failed alternative deck product at our distribution division and having seen the performance of several other wood alternatives over time. Three things to consider: 1. Suitability. The Coney Island folks should consider that wood alternatives can be very hot under foot compared to wood. This can be a serious issue on sunny summer days when boardwalkers are barefoot, and could bring liability should a baby blister her tender feet. Tests should be run on all materials under consideration to know in actual degrees just how hot the "boards" will be on 90-degree days, and what the risks are in terms of discomfort, liability and potential loss of traffic. Further, plastic can be slick when wet, despite wood-grain textures embedded in the deck surface. Smooth, real wood is used for sailboat decks specifically because it maintains good traction when wet. Finally, UV rays are hard on all deck products (wood turns gray, plastic can become brittle). Plastic deck manufacturers should be made to show how they have surmounted the issues that caused past alternative deck failures. 2. Durability. Wood is a proven commodity with a known life span, and has been safely pressure treated to last for many decades. Guaranteed. Alternative deck products have improved over the years and also come with various guarantees. But there have been notable failures and, despite accelerated testing to project estimated service life, we won't really know how these products fare over a 40-year period until 40 years have actually passed (unless the products fail sooner). 3. Cost. Alternative deck products have typically been 2-3 times more expensive than pressure-treated wood, and some are considerably higher. Such a costly product would therefore have to last 2-3 times longer than wood, or save that much in maintenance to be of equal value. It's possible, but officials need to determine the relative value with certainty. Bottom line: Involved parties should get the facts on suitability, durability and cost to determine the most cost-effective solution for the taxpayers. They needn't get caught up in the tradition of the wood boardwalk, nor in the claims of alternative deck proponents. Prove the best value and buy it. If claims cannot be substantiated or sufficiently backed with a performance bond, go with the proven product.