Support your local hardware store
Remember that scene from “The Longest Yard” when Burt Reynolds’ incarcerated character snaps his fingers, and boxes of sparkling new football uniforms are delivered to his rag-tag team of inmates just in time for their big showdown with the guards?
That was a great moment for prison procurement. One feels inspired by it.
One gets a very different feeling from the procurement policy of the real-life Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover, Md.
Here’s how Bill Harris, owner and operator of two Ace Hardware stores in Maryland, explains it:
“My wife, who runs the Princess Anne store near the prison, was told by a supplier, ‘Have you heard about the new mandate? The prison system is going to be buying from Grainger from now on.’ ”
A few days later, a UPS driver breaks some news to Harris: “I hate to tell you this, but I just delivered 40 Grainger boxes to the prison.”
Illinois-based industrial supply house: 2; Local hardware store: 0.
During a period of rising concern for Main Street businesses and growing sentiment for support-your-local-store, the long-range procurement policy seems out of touch. It’s the anti-cash mob for downtown businesses.
Harris believes an important principle is being trampled.
“This is sad not just for me, but for the community,” Harris said. “It’s going to affect local jobs and hiring, and it’s money going to an out-of-state company.
“Why can’t the state see that if they shop local, the local economy will benefit?” Harris asks, with airtight logic.
We called the warden of the prison. Couldn’t get through. But at the Maryland Department of General Services, which manages procurement for the prison, spokeswoman Susan Woods said: “This is basically to protect taxpayer interests and streamline the quality service across the board.”
I’d call it penny-wise, pound-foolish, but that would concede that Grainger offers better pricing, and Harris will not concede that.
The rule has been in place since at least 2007, according to Woods. That’s news to Harris. And it was also news to Senator Jim Mathias, who called Harris after a local newspaper article brought light to his position. “He told me, ‘I’m in your corner,’ ” Harris recalled.
For the record, Harris is no fair-weather hardware store retailer looking for special treatment. Seventeen years ago, a Walmart opened in his small town on the bypass. Six months later he packed up and moved out to the highway. “I had to do it to survive,” he said. “I had to be out where they were.” Then five years ago, Lowe’s opened some 500 ft. away.
He’s a survivor.
In “The Longest Yard,” the inmates beat the guards. Is there a happy ending for Harris Ace Hardware? Harris has an answer:
“It’s amazing the number of people who have come into both of our stores and said, ‘We’re glad you said something. We’re with you. We’re going to continue to shop right here.’ ”
— Ken Clark
Exploring the secrets of weather and retail
Bill Kirk and Gerry Kress are weathermen. But not the television variety.
As owners of Weather Trends, they predict temperatures and atmospheric conditions around the country (they say they’re pretty good at it); but more importantly, they analyze the weather’s impact on retail sales.
Here’s one of the secrets to the analysis: Not all heat waves are created equally.
Kirk explains: “People think 90-degree weather drives air conditioner sales,” he said. “Not necessarily. Take a 95-degree heat wave in New York City. If the year before was 100 degrees during the same period, then the demand for air conditioners would be down about 50%. What matters is the delta — meaning, the difference between the current trend and the previous-year trend.
“It’s not rocket science,” Kirk said.
But it is meteorology.
Home Channel News asked for a surprising weather-based merchandising discovery.
“One would be mousetraps,” Kirk said. “There is a 95% correlation between d-Con mousetrap sales and the weather. In the fall, when it gets cold, mice get cold, too. And they go scurrying for warmth. The correlation is off the charts, and the sales volume is staggering.”
Homechannelnews.com will begin publishing a bi-weekly Weather Trends forecast and analysis beginning this month.
And to any who might wonder why the topic of weather deserves editorial coverage, Kress bristles. “Retailers ignore the weather at their own peril,” he said. “And if you don’t think the weather matters, then you won’t be in the retail business very long.”
D.C. Hotline: Legislation would reform EPA lead rule
By Ben Gann, director of legislative affairs, NLBMDA
The Lead Exposure Reduction Amendments Act reforms the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting (LRRP) rule by restoring the opt-out clause and suspending the rule if the EPA cannot approve a commercially available test kit that meets the regulation’s requirements.
The rule took effect in April 2010 and requires remodeling firms performing work on pre-1978 housing to be EPA-certified and follow costly work practices. Originally, the rule protected pregnant women and children under six from lead hazards, a position the NLBMDA strongly supports. However, in July 2010, EPA removed the opt-out provision from the rule preventing homeowners without children under age six or pregnant women to forego the use of lead-safe work practices. Moreover, none of the EPA-approved lead paint test kits currently available meets the standard for false positives required by the rule.
In March, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, introduced a Senate version of the bill (S. 2148). The Senate bill currently has 12 cosponsors. Then in June, Reps. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) and Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) introduced a House version of the bill, which now has 22 cosponsors.
Passage of the legislation is a top priority for NLBMDA. We continue to receive positive feedback from congressional offices and encourage lumber and building material dealers to contact their members of Congress asking them to cosponsor H.R. 5911/S. 2148.