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Year-round barbecue grilling on the rise

BY HBSDEALER Staff

With another Memorial Day weekend winding down, it’s worth noting that more consumers are using their grills year-round, according to recent research from NPD Group.

As part of the group’s annual “Eating Patterns in America” report, the research firm identified that usage of outdoor grills is at an “all-time high” and nearly double what it was 20 years ago. In 1985, when the survey first started, 17 percent of households used a grill at dinner at least once during an average two-week period throughout the year; in 2007, it was 38 percent.

“While summer still accounts for the highest consumption levels of grilled food, grilling has increased the most in the other seasons of the year,” says Harry Balzer, a vp at NPD Group and author of the eating trends report.

Broken down by seasons, grill usage patterns are as follows:

• Grill usage in the spring months of March through May was 37.2 percent in 2007, up from 31.4 percent in 1998.

• The number predictably spikes in the summer, at 49.3 percent in the months of June through August 2007, up from 46.3 percent in 1998.

• Grill usage in the fall months has risen most dramatically, to 39.9 percent in 2007 from 30.3 percent in 1998.

• Use of grills also is up in the winter months of December through February, to 26.5 percent in 2007 from 18.7 percent in 1998.

• Total usage for all four seasons in 2007 was 38.2 percent, up from 31.7 percent in 1998.

The majority of households have an outdoor grill (76 percent), and the grill of choice is one that uses gas — 75 percent of grill owners have a gas grill. In 2007, NPD estimates grill sales grew by 3.2 percent (unit sales) from the previous year.

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Toro expects a flat year for sales

BY HBSDEALER Staff

A weakening economy and late spring season have put Toro’s second-quarter earnings 16.3 percent lower than the same quarter last year, according to the company.

The manufacturer of landscaping equipment reported net earnings at $62.8 million, down from $74.9 million last year.

Net sales were $638.5 million, down 7 percent from $686.7 as reported last year.

“We remain focused on managing our business in light of these difficult conditions and will continue to drive customer demand for our innovative products,” said Michael Hoffman, chairman and CEO.

For the year, the company expects net sales to roughly equal 2007, at $1.9 billion.

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Sign of the times: Lennar’s Memorial Day Sell-a-thon

BY HBSDEALER Staff

As a glut of new homes in the United States challenges home builders as never before, many are turning to sales tactics more often seen in retailers and car dealers.

Case in point: Lennar has announced a Memorial Day Sell-a-thon featuring “hundreds of homes nationwide” and “once-in-a-lifetime deals.” An advertisement for the sales weekend features a promise of “no mortgage payments for nine whole months,” meaning no “live” mortgage payments for that time period. Buyers would then begin to pay on the principal and interest of the purchase after that time period.

Other home builders have big sales plans in the works similar to Lennar: Ryland Homes has extended its “Get More Sales Event” through May 31 from an original end-date of May 18.

In its most recent study of home-builder confidence, the National Association of Home Builders said confidence levels are still hovering around record lows set in December.

“The single-family housing market is still deteriorating,” said NAHB president Sandy Dunn. “Even fewer builders now foresee market conditions improving over the next six months compared with our April survey, and builder ratings of buyer traffic through model homes also have dropped off over the past month on a seasonally adjusted basis.”

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