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Toro Co. has a record first quarter

BY Ken Clark

The Toro Co. reported gains in sales and net earnings for its fiscal first quarter ended Feb. 3.

Looking specifically at the Bloomington, Minn.-based company’s residential segment reveals the same upward trend. Residential segment net sales for the fiscal 2012 first quarter totaled $137.6 million, up 11.6% from the same period last year. The company said consumers’ continued acceptance of the residential zero-turn riding product and retailers’ desire to take walk power mower products earlier generated strong shipments of spring goods.

Residential segment earnings for the fiscal 2012 first quarter totaled $12.6 million, up 10.9% from $11.4 million in the same period last year.

Across the total company, which includes a professional segment where golf and landscape contractor equipment showed strength, Toro reported record sales of $423.8 million, up 10.6%. Net earnings were $19.9 million, up 15.3%.

“Looking beyond our existing business, our most recently announced acquisition of the Astec underground products presents substantial opportunities in adjacent markets. As always, now begins the challenge of successfully integrating the acquisition into the company’s operations," said Michael Hoffman, Toro’s chairman and CEO.

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Home Depot points to Q4 winners

BY Ken Clark

The Home Depot this week announced fourth-quarter sales of $16 billion, a 5.9% increase over the same quarter last year. What happened? From Craig Menear’s perspective, the answer involves execution, warm weather and strength in maintenance and repair categories.

"Warmer-than-expected weather encouraged customers to tackle exterior projects," said Menear, Home Depot’s executive VP merchandising. A "nimble response," he said, led to double-digit comps in gutters, roofing, vinyl siding, patio furniture, fencing, exterior paint, pressure washers, exterior lighting and concrete.

The company said the growth was widespread — all 40 top markets saw positive comps.

Menear cited the departments that outperformed the company’s average comp: tools, electrical, building materials, paint, lumber, lighting, outdoor garden and flooring.

Other categories were merely described as "positive comps" — hardware, bath, kitchen, indoor garden and plumbing. And on the negative side of the ledger was millwork, where negative comps were probably caused by an anniversary against the expiration of an energy-efficient tax credit.

"In addition to strength in seasonal products, exterior projects and interior projects, the maintenance and repair categories that make up the core of our store continued to execute well in the fourth quarter," Menear said. Light bulbs, cleaning, pipes and fittings, and caulk performed well.

On the product side, Home Depot has high expectations for a variety of products. First, an improved version of its Behr Premium Plus Ultra Interior Paint & Primer in One. (Menear said the new version will have better stain-blocking capabilities and improved adhesion.) Also, new Maytag ranges equipped with Aqualift cleaning technology, are coming into stores. So are washer and dryer laundry pairs from GE and LG. And a new line of power trimmers from Ryobi will be offered. The latter was described as combining "gas like" performance with a quick-charge platform.

And another good sign for home spending: Transactions for tickets more than $900 were up 3.0% in the fourth quarter, he said.

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Lowe’s stores hit by counterfeit scam

BY HBSDealer Staff

Two men used counterfeit dollars to purchase items at several Lowe’s stores in Florida and Alabama and then returned the items for cash, according to an article in the Press Register.

The alleged crimes, which happened over the weekend of Feb. 18 to 19, began with the purchase of an $890 power tool in the Lowe’s garden center in Malbis. The men used counterfeit $20 and $50 bills. Thirty minutes later, the suspects returned the item to the same store and received a cash refund, according to police. The pair then purchased a second item with counterfeit money, which was taken to a Pensacola store the next day and returned for a cash refund.

Altogether, five Lowe’s stores have been affected by the counterfeit scheme, police said, estimating the total amount of money lost from the scam at $2,800. Daphne police will check video surveillance footage from Lowe’s and will bring the Secret Service into the investigation, the newspaper reported.

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