Rule no. 1: Don’t be boring
The 3rd Annual Home Improvement eRetailer Summit delivered bytes of best practices.
Chicago – There was plenty to talk about at third-annual Home Improvement eRetailer Summit, and the polished presentations (there were no technical difficulties at this event) touched on taxes, supply chain, best practices, and statistics. The spirit of the event was summed up nicely by the title of the kick-off presentation: “Really Bad Time to be Boring: Reinventing Retail in the Age of Amazon.”
It’s also a time to embrace change – even the term “omni-channel” which for the past few years was a staple of retail headlines and white papers, is falling into obsolescence along with “Information Super Highway.” Today’s experts like the term “continuous retail,” – or simply “retail,” with a nod to the acceptance of multiple channels as mainstream.
In his opening presentation, Steven Denis, founder and president of SageBerry Consulting, described waves of change that have played upon the retail business. These waves of disruption are likely going to intensify, he said, adding: “The key for a retail is to learn how to surf.”
And such learning will require keeping a company’s collective eyes open for trends. And there’s no shortage of these either. The conference took place within walking distance of multiple Amazon Go stores in downtown Chicago. Presenter Laura Heller, director of external communications for Performics, described these stores as “a grab-and-go convenience store for the office worker.” The receipt from the cashierless experience actually informs the customer how much time was spent in the store – an important point in today’s time-pressed world.
Amazon Go is cutting edge, but Jeff Bezos’ latest baby is the Amazon 4-Star concept. This is a store that features items marked 4-stars or higher by the ratings of Amazon.com. Heller described it as a treasure-hunt style store that opened in New York City in July, and has since added locations in Colorado and California.
Not every retailer can copy the Amazon model – it’s too expensive. But according to Joe Derochowski, Executive Director, Industry Analyst, The NPD Group, now is a very good time to invest. The population demographics are smiling on the home improvement industry. “You are in a growth window,’ said Derochowski. “Take advantage of it while you can.”
Home improvement is still in the early stages of conversion to online sales. NPD research pegs this statistic at 17%, lagging behind consumer electronics, small appliances, footwear and other sectors. But the dollar-percent growth vs. one year ago is at the top of the list – 26%. Among home improvement categories, the specific leaders in online sales are air filters, area rugs, blinds, plumbing and storage, according to the NPD Group tally.
Event founder Sonya Ruff Jarvis offered “a big thank you to the speakers, attendees and sponsors who validated the Summit as a much needed event for the home improvement industry.”
The 4th annual Home Improvement eRetailer Summit is slated for Nov. 6-8, 2019, in Chicago.
Tariffs, Trade and Son of NAFTA
Pro Dealers get an accelerated course on international trade issues.
Chicago — Why is there no solution to the U.S.-Canada softwood lumber trade dispute? And can President Trump unilateral withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement?
These were some of the questions posed during a presentation called Lumber and Wood Products Trade Issues Update, the final presentation of the 2018 ProDealer Industry Summit. And the answers to these and other questions were complicated.
Stephen Claeys, a partner at Wiley Rein LLP and expert on international trade law, provided background on the softwood lumber dispute – a long-running dispute that dates back to the 1930s and represents about $15 billion in annual trade.
“It comes down to who owns the trees,” he explained. “In Canada, it’s the Queen of England. In the U.S., it’s private landowners.” In the Canadian provinces, the government is accused of setting the stumpage price artificially low, giving Canadian lumber producers an unfair advantage.
A previous trade agreement expired in 2015, and a getting a new deal might take a while. Why? Claeys pointed to several reasons. First, there are many seats at the table. The national governments, the provinces, Canadian industry and the U.S. industry. Just among the provinces, each province has its own type of tree and its own pricing. And the issues add up quickly. There are many complications from dealing with privately owned Canadian lumber to lumber that comes from old barns, and third-country imports.
And then there’s the issue of what happens to the duties that have already been collected.
“These are real issues that you have to work out,” Claeys said. “It’s kind of crazy, but that’s why it’s so hard to do. “
Why can’t we just return to the old agreement? Claeys said that’s what it appeared the Canadian government had hoped to do. But there was objection from U.S. industry.
In the meantime, anti-dumping duties range from 3.2% to 7.28% on these products, and countervailing duties designed to offset subsidies range from 3.34% to 18.19%.
On the topic of Chinese tariffs, Claeys laid out the recent history.
On July 6, the U.S. slapped 25% tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese imports. China retaliated.
On Aug. 23, the U.S. slapped another 25% tariffs on $16 billion of Chinese imports. China retailiated.
And effective September 24, the U.S. slapped another 10% tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports. And that tariff will increase on 25% on Jan. 1. And whether or not China will retaliate remains to be seen.
“As you can imagine with each list, it’s getting harder and harder to avoid affecting products used in home building. Sinks, granite counter tops and a whole range of products used in home building are now included in list 3.
He described both sides now in a sort of holding pattern over international trade. But there is a real possibility that China could again retaliate. And there is still $267 billion of Chinese imports that have not been identified for tariffs yet.
Other high and low points from international trade as recounted by Claeys include the North American Free Trade Agreement – NAFTA, and “Son of NAFTA.” The U.S.-Canada-Mexico Agreement, which is expected to replace NAFTA, would preserve North American supply chains and continue tariff-free trade among the countries. It will probably receive congressional approval next year. As a bargaining chip, the President could conceivable withdraw unilaterally from existing North American Free Trade Agreement, but at an uncertain and perhaps expensive economic and political cost.
Summit kicks off in Chicago
Pro dealers from around the country gather to share, learn and grow.
Chicago — The 2018 ProDealer Industry Summit gets underway here at the downtown Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel. Three days of networking, education and planning for the growth of an industry are on tap through Friday.
Hosted jointly by the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association and HBSDealer, the summit officially kicks off with a Wednesday nigh welcome reception followed by the NLBMDA Officer Installation dinner and HBSDealer ProDealer of the Year event.
NLBMDA incoming chair Bob Sanford of Connecticut-based Sanford & Hawley will receive the gavel from outgoing chair Rick Lierz, of Boise-based Franklin Building Supply. Lierz
“It has been an honor and a humbling experience to represent America’s lumber and building materials dealers as this year’s chairman of the NLBMDA,” said Lierz. “Our association is the voice of the industry in Washington and we need this unified voice more than ever right now. I urge all dealers to get involved in their local associations and to consider attending NLBMDA events, particularly the Legislative Conference in the spring. The good it will do any dealer to be involved is well worth the time invested.”
Other highlights of the three-day conference include a keynote address from Commander Mark Nutsch, the Green Beret whose experiences in Afghanistan were portrayed in the Hollywood film “12 Strong.” The event also includes presentations on competing against Amazon; and best practices for succession planning and attracting talent.