Throwback Thursday: Erb Lumber’s big comeback

BY HBSDealer Staff

Back in the early 1980s, Erb Lumber president Fred Erb was guiding his Birmingham, Michigan-based chain of 29 stores through one of the home center industry’s most volatile periods.

As reported in the July 16, 1984 issue of National Home Center News, the forerunner of HBSDealer, Erb Lumber’s new 140,000 sq. ft. distribution center was just one of the projects on the company’s plate. Erb Lumber was also moving to unify its merchandising approach – a task made difficult by the wide variety of footprints in the chain, which had grown largely through acquisitions.

What kind of merchandising did he have in mind?

“I’m talking about the kind where you walk into the store and the presentation tells you to buy,” said Erb.

A slowdown in housing starts in 1980 and 1981 hurt Erb Lumber, which saw a 75% drop in net income over that period. But 1983 came witha 154% rebound.

Erb explained in 1984 that the company needed to expand its sales with consumers.

A prototype in Detroit revealed some of the ideas that would play a role: expanded kitchen cabinet displays, bathroom vanity and paint departments visible from the front door, a trebling of the number of endcaps storewide, the covering of the inside walls of the store with cedar pine boards, and longer evening operating hours.

Erb's strategy and execution paid off in growth – the company had 45 stores in 1993. That’s the year that the family sold the business to Carolina Holdings, which later became Stock Building Supply, and even later became BMC Stock Holdings.

Erb was a remarkable figure in the home improvement industry and a respected philanthropist in Detroit even after his business years. He died in 2013 at the age of 90.


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84 Lumber delivers its full, ‘controversial’ message

BY HBSDealer Staff

It was deemed too controversial for the Super Bowl audience — thanks to a plot that worked its way across a barren (but beautifully filmed) landscape to reach a climax at a divisive border wall.

The first-ever 84 Lumber Super Bowl commercial showed part of the story in 90 seconds, the rest went live online at the web site

At noon on Monday, the 5-minute, 44-second Youtube video was showing 3,288,260 views. Thumbs up were leading thumbs down by more than 5 to 1.

The company said the commercial said the themes of hard work, dedication and sacrifice found throughout the film are the same ideals valued in 84 Lumber employees.

At the end of the story, immigrants enter the U.S. through a big door in a border wall.

“Even President Trump has said there should be a ‘big beautiful door in the wall so that people can come into this country legally,'" 84 Lumber president and owner Maggie Hardy Magerko said. “It’s not about the wall. It’s about the door in the wall. If people are willing to work hard and make this country better, that door should be open to them.”

The ad and the short film, created by 84 Lumber’s agency partner, Brunner, was created to position 84 Lumber as a company of opportunity for the next generation of the housing industry, the company said.

“This is a spot and a campaign that demands attention, serious reflection, spirited dialogue and, most importantly, tells the world who 84 Lumber is,” Brunner’s chief creative officer Rob Schapiro said. “With a platform like this, we had a responsibility to do more than create a commercial, but to create something meaningful that would get people talking about the housing industry in a positive way. And ignoring the conversation that’s taking place in the media and at every kitchen table in America just didn’t seem right.”

The price of a 30-second Super Bowl commercial has been reported widely as a cool $5 million. 

84 Lumber’s Super Bowl commercial wasn’t the only spot that focused on immigration. A Budweiser commercial during the Super Bowl looked back at Adolphus Busch’s entry into the United States.

Super Bowl Sunday also included a football game. The New England Patriots beat the Atlanta Falcons, owned by Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank, by a score of 34-28. 


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Here are the NLBMDA’s Top 10 Stories from 2016


The NLBMDA released the following list of 10 most popular stores of 2016, based on feedback from its E-Update, Green Update and Workplace Safety and Risk Management newsletters.

1. OSHA Issues New Rule to Require Electronic Reporting of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses

OSHA has issued a final rule that will require all establishments with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the current recordkeeping regulation to electronically submit to OSHA injury and illness information from OSHA Forms 300, 300A, and 301. Establishments with 20-249 employees in certain industries must electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300A only. This includes the LBM sector. These are new annual reporting requirements, with phased-in deadlines highlighted below.

State Plan states have six months to adopt requirements that are substantially identical to the requirements in this final rule. The new annual electronic reporting requirements are effective January 1, 2017, with a phased-in schedule based on the size of the establishment. For the calendar year 2017, establishments with 250 or more employees and those with 20-249 employees must submit Form 300A by July 1, 2017. For calendar year 2018 and thereafter, establishments with 250 or more employees must submit Forms 300A, 300 and 301 by July 1, 2018. Establishments with 20-249 employees are only required to file Form 300A. Beginning with calendar year 2019, the reporting deadlines will be moved from July 1 to March 2. OSHA intends to post the data from these submissions on a publicly accessible Web site. OSHA does not intend to post any information on the Web site that could be used to identify individual employees. The new rule also addresses how employers must inform employees of their rights to report work-related injuries and illnesses. For more information, read the NLBMDA Regulatory Alert: OSHA issues final rule on injury and illness electronic reporting. OSHA has posted online Frequently Asked Questions as well as a Fact Sheet that provide more information. These and other materials are available on OSHA's webpage on the final rule.

Find NLBMDA's Regulatory Alert: OSHA Issues Final Rule on Injury and Illness Electronic Reporting here. Please direct your questions to Frank Moore, NLBMDA's Regulatory Counsel at [email protected]

2. NLBDMA Meets with Congressional Offices on DOL Overtime Proposal

NLBMDA has been meeting with Congressional Democrats as part of the Partnership to Protect Workplace Opportunity, and has been asking them to sign on to a letter to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez asking the department to revise its proposal for increasing employees eligible for overtime pay. For your reference, click here to view the list of representatives that have already signed on to the letter.

Under the proposal, the salary level which employees would qualify for overtime pay would increase from $455 per week ($23,360 annually) to an estimated $970 per week ($50,440 annually). The Department of Labor has said that a final rule should be released in July and will take effect in early-2017.

3. Employers Must Post Injury & Illness Summaries February-April

Employers must post a copy of OSHA's Form 300A, which summarizes job-related injuries and illnesses logged during 2015. The summary must be displayed in a common area where notices to employees are usually posted each year between Feb. 1 and April 30. Businesses with 10 or fewer employees are exempt from OSHA recordkeeping and posting requirements. Lists of both exempt and newly covered  industries are available on OSHA's website. The LBM sector, other than the exemption for businesses with 10 or fewer employees, are covered and must comply. Visit OSHA's Recordkeeping Rule  webpage for more information on recordkeeping requirements.

4. NLBMDA Attends Overtime Rule Symposium

On February 1, NLBMDA attended a symposium sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce titled Impacts of the Proposed Overtime Regulation on Vulnerable Employers. The event highlighted the impact the proposed overtime regulations will have on the most vulnerable employers-small businesses, nonprofits, academic institutions, and state and local governments. The symposium also featured presentations and panels from a variety of business leaders struggling to determine how they will be able to absorb the increased labor costs the new overtime regulation will create. The primary objective of the symposium was to bring greater awareness on the devastating impact that the Proposed Overtime Rule will have on the business community.

On July 6, 2015, the Department of Labor (DOL) proposed changes to the regulations that determine whether a white collar employee will be classified as exempt from being paid overtime. Under the proposal, the salary level under which employees qualify for overtime pay will increase from $455 per week ($23,360 annually) to an estimated $970 per week ($50,440 annually).

If you would like to watch the symposium and learn more about how the overtime proposal will affect a variety of industries, click here. Analysis conducted by Oxford Economics for the National Retail Federation found that the proposed overtime rule will erode career pathway opportunities, disproportionately affect lower-cost states, and may actually hurt the workers the rule is designed to help. 

5. DOL Issues Joint Employer Guidance

In guidance issued last week by the Department of Labor (DOL) on the joint employer standard, more companies could be classified as joint employers of workers employed by a staffing agency or contractor and held liable for labor violations tied to those staff. The 15-page interpretation by DOL explains how to analyze joint employment in "vertical" arrangements, when one company contracts with another company, and "horizontal" arrangements, when one worker is employed by two related companies. While non-binding, the guidance could play a significant role in class action litigation for unpaid overtime and other labor violations.

6. NLBMDA Issues Guidance on Department of Labor's New Overtime Rule

On May 18, the Department of Labor issued its new overtime rule despite vigorous opposition from the business sector. NLBMDA, among many other groups, filed comments against the proposed rule, citing the negative impacts on employers and employees alike. See NLBMDA Disappointed with Final DOL Overtime Rule; Vows to Continue to Work Against Implementation of Poorly Constructed Policy (May 18, 2016). The new rule increases the threshold salary levels for employees exempt from overtime pay. This includes a 100% increase in the standard white collar exemption as well as a 34% increase for highly compensated employees. The rule takes effect December 1, 2016 and both salary thresholds will be updated every three years, with the first update scheduled January 1, 2020. Employers are able to count certain non-discretionary incentive bonuses, including commissions, towards 10% of the new standard threshold, so long as they are paid at least quarterly, and employers may make up any shortfall at the end of each quarter to keep an employee within an exemption. Notably, the new rule does not change the various duties tests and numerous exemptions, including the exemption for Outside Sales. See NLBMDA Regulatory Guidance: New Department of Labor Overtime Rule. This and other material may also be found at on the NLBMDA Regulatory Affairs Webpage under Labor and Employment. NLBMDA plans a webinar for members on the new rule and urges dealers to take action on the DOL Overtime Rule by going to NLBMDA's Legislative Action Center and sending a letter to their Representative and Senators asking for support and passage of the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act (H.R. 4773).

7. Department of Labor Issues New Rule on Overtime

On May 18, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a new rule affecting the regulations on overtime pay: Defining and Delimiting the Exemptions for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside Sales and Computer Employees.

The standard salary threshold for full-time salaried "white collar" workers is increased from $455 per week to $913 per week (or from the current annualized $23,660 to $47,476). This number is based on the 40th percentile of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census region (currently the South) and will be adjusted accordingly every three years. The highly compensated employees salary threshold for full-time salaried workers is increased from $100,000 to $134,004 per year. This number is based on the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally, and will also be adjusted accordingly every three years.

The new rule also allows up to 10 percent of the salary threshold for non-HCE workers to be met by non-discretionary bonuses, incentive pay, or commissions, provided these payments are made on at least a quarterly basis. The effective date for the new thresholds is December 1, 2016.
These threshold levels will automatically update every three years, beginning January 1, 2020. The Department of Labor will post the new salary levels 150 days in advance of their effective date, beginning August 1, 2019.

The new rule does not change the three basic tests that a worker must meet in order to claim a white collar exemption, nor does it change the elements of the duties tests that all white collar workers must meet in order to claim the exemption, either as executive, administrative or professional employees. The new rule also leaves in place the various exemptions to the overtime requirement, such as the Outside Sales Exemption and the Motor Carrier Exemption.

8. Ask Your Senators to Pass the Small Business Health Care Relief Act (S. 3060)

This week, the House of Representatives passed the Small Business Health Care Relief Act, which allows small employers the flexibility to offer pre-tax dollars to help pay premiums and/or other out-of-pocket costs associated with medical care and services. Specifically, the bipartisan legislation allows employers with less than 50 employees to provide Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) to employees without being penalized.

Under an HRA, an employer can set aside pre-tax money to reimburse employees for premiums and other out-of-pocket expenses. The money cannot be deducted from an employee's paycheck, but HRA's allow employers to limit some spending on health care each year.

Historically, HRAs have been a valuable option for employers wanting to help their employees pay for health expenses with tax-free dollars. However, effective July 1, 2015, the Department of Treasury issued guidance under the authority of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that employers continuing to offer HRAs are subject to a $100 per day, per employee penalty totaling up to $36,500 per year.

The Small Business Healthcare Relief Act will:

* Ensure small businesses and local municipalities with fewer than 50 employees are allowed to continue using pre-tax dollars to give employees a defined contribution for healthcare expenses;
* Allow employees to use HRA funds to purchase health coverage on the individual market, as well as for qualified out-of-pocket medical expenses if the employee has qualified health coverage; and,
* Protect employers from being financially penalized for providing this cost-sharing option to employees.

For more information, download NLBMDA's Regulatory Guidance: New Department of Labor Overtime Rule and visit NLBMDA's Regulatory Affairs webpage: Labor and Workforce.

9. NLBMDA Attends Small Business Legislative Council Annual Meeting

Last week, the Small Business Legislative Council (SBLC) held its annual meeting in Washington, D.C. NLBMDA attended the meeting which featured a speech from Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), Chairman of the House Small Business Committee. Chairman Chabot spoke to the group about the need for streamlining regulations to make them less burdensome on small businesses.

NLBMDA is a member of SBLC, which represents an independent, permanent coalition of trade and professional associations who share a common concern for the future of small business. The purpose of SBLC is to consolidate the strength and maximize the influence of business on legislative and federal policy issues of importance to the entire small business community and to disseminate information on the impact of public policy on small business.

10. Regulatory Alert: Employers Responsibility Under OSHA's Hazard Communication Rule

NLBMDA's Workplace Safety and Risk Management eNews highlighted a Regulatory Alert on employers' responsibility under OSHA's Hazard Communication rule, as updated in 2012. This Regulatory Alert may be found at NLBMDA's Regulatory Affairs webpage under the heading Hazard Communication. June 1, 2016 is the final implementation deadline for implementation of the 2012 updates, at which time employers are required to conform any alternative workplace labeling of containers to the new labeling format, maintain current Safety Data Sheets for all hazardous chemicals used in the workplace, update their hazard communication program as necessary, and provide additional employee training for newly identified physical or health hazards if necessary. These are also considered on-going compliance obligations. The 2012 updates also required employers to provide employee training on the new label and Safety Data Sheet formats by December 1, 2013. NLBMDA held several webinars on the new training requirements and produced the 15-minute DVD, Employee OSHA Training Requirements on Product Label Elements and Safety Data Sheets. Copies of the DVD may be found at NLBMDA's Online Store at [email protected].

To be added to NLBMDA's association e-update newsletter, Green Update, or Workplace Safety & Risk Management Communications, please contact NLBMDA at [email protected].


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How concerned are you that a trade war could hurt your business?