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Toro reports record-setting first quarter

BY Ken Clark

The Toro Co. reported net earnings of $31.4 million in the first quarter of 2013, compared with net earnings of $19.9 million in the same quarter last year.

Net sales increased 4.9% to $444.7 million for the period ended Feb. 1.

“Our record-setting first quarter, driven by particularly strong channel demand for large turf equipment and the continued growth of micro irrigation sales, propelled us to a solid start for the year,” said Michael Hoffman, Toro’s chairman and CEO. “Our financial performance benefitted from both accelerated sales related to pre-Tier 4 product shipments and early professional end-user demand, along with positive effects of our productivity initiatives.” 

A new 30-in. professional walk power mowers for landscape contractors and the newly Toro-branded products from the company’s Astec and Stone Construction acquisitions from 2012, are helping create further opportunities, the company said.

Hoffman described the company’s residential business retail potential as "solid."

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Sherwin-Williams settles over stock plan

BY Ken Clark

Cleveland-based Sherwin-Williams Co. announced an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor to settle a previously disclosed investigation of transactions related to its employee stock ownership plan. 

The agreement calls for an $80 million payment to the plan, which will result in an after-tax charge to earnings of $49.2 million. 

In a statement, the company said: "Following a nine-month negotiation with the DOL, the company’s management and board of directors have decided that it would be in the best interest of the company and its shareholders to enter into this agreement to resolve these claims and avoid potentially costly litigation." 

Sherwin-Williams added: "The company believes that the DOL’s claims are without merit and strongly disagrees with the allegation that ESOP plan participants sustained losses of any kind as a result of these transactions. The company’s position is supported by internal audits and audits by an independent third party and the DOL."

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New California tax irks lumberyards, retailers

BY Ken Ryan

Lumberyards and retailers say they’re getting stiffed by the state of California and its new tax on lumber.

Here’s the background. Since Jan. 1, California retailers have been required to collect a 1% assessment on sales of certain lumber products. However, so-called "secondary" wood products, in which additional labor has added significant value — such as furniture, windows and doors — are exempt.

To collect the tax, which was signed into law last fall, stores have worked quickly to reprogram their registers to calculate the higher rate on these sales. Adding to retailers’ angst, the law requires that this 1% assessment be shown separately on the invoice, separate from state or local sales taxes.

California’s Board of Equalization is allowing lumber-product retailers to keep $250 in sales tax per location to reimburse them for startup costs, but some say that is not enough. The West Coast Lumber and Building Material Association (WCLBMA), which represents independent retailers, has asked the board to provide up to $4,500 per location in reimbursement the first year and $1,500 annually thereafter to handle updates and product changes.

Ken Dunham, executive director of the WCLBMA, said the assessment is disproportionately unfair to his trade. "Most hardware stores, unless they have a full line of wood products, are in reality a minor player in this," he said. "Some of the hardware stores will carry a few types of things like 2x4s and some plywood, but not a lot else. They can handle that additional assessment pretty easily. The full lumberyard is another story."

The Home Depot, which had yet to upgrade all of its California stores by late January, argued in a letter to the Tax Policy Division of California that the law "fails to appreciate" that retailers will face ongoing costs to maintain their collection systems.

"Because items sold in the store are changing weekly, retailers would have to reprogram their collection systems continually to capture new products," the Home Depot letter stated. "It makes no sense to reimburse retailers for initial programming costs and then require them to shoulder those same costs to capture new lumber products."

The 1% assessment is expected to generate $30 million to $35 million annually to help California enforce its timber-harvesting regulations.

Dunham believes there has to be a better way. "Simply giving the state more money from the general public and making the lumber retailers collect it is not the answer," he said.

For more, visithomechannelnews.com

Stat of the month

48Consecutive months the national unemployment rate was at 7.8% or higher, the most since the 1930s.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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