An article about a U.S. Commerce Department ruling that some imported bottom-mount refrigerators were sold at prices unfair to American competitors led to several letters.
“There is no way that free enterprise businesses can compete and win against companies being underwritten by their countries.
“There is a core group of Americans who are being ignored in this NEW GLOBAL FREE TRADE economy. Not everyone can go to college or be trained for high-tech jobs.
“In the past, Americans who graduated from high school could go get a job at the local factory and have good benefits and raise a family. Our factories have a minimum wage, EPA, OSHA, health insurance, unemployment insurance, taxes, etc. These factories have been and are going overseas at a rapid pace. We are stupid to let other countries ship goods to us that have none of the same requirements. I do not care how cheaply products get made from China; if there are no jobs, you cannot buy them. A healthy manufacturing America has a strong underlying buying power.
“This country was built on manufacturing. They say our initiative, ingenuity and technology will save us, but we are losing that too. We better wake up or learn to say: ‘Want fries with that?’ ”
— Joe Patton
“Other countries do it to us! We need to protect American businesses much more stringently than we do. I support the ruling!”
— Name withheld
“The antidumping [effort] has not worked for our industry. Canadian softwood has a duty coming into the U.S. because of pressure from U.S. producers. They just ship their cheap wood elsewhere now. China gets a majority of it. Softwood prices have been depressed for U.S. and Canadian producers since it was imposed.”
— John Cole
“Dumping. The very name is calculated to put companies in a bad light to avoid the real issue. Domestic companies don’t want to lose market share, but in protecting them we damage consumers. ‘Dumping’ rules interfere with a free market.
“Any attempt to mess with the free market is a stab in the dark. How low is too low? When is it just a competitive price, and when is it dumping? What people are willing to sell for and pay for should not come under the purview of the bureaucrat. No one knows the answer except the people in the transaction.
“Either you believe in a free market or you don’t.”
— Les Burch
An article about a debt-burdened South Carolina hardware store featured in a Yahoo.com video series called Remake America generated the following letter.
“The last four years have been tough for the building community, especially the smaller family-run stores. It has been hard to deal with changing bank regulations after you have been in business over 30 years, and everything as you knew it has changed. We have watched many of our friends go down, both competitors and customers. We are still standing, but every day is a challenge. As we read about the South Carolina folks and talk with folks around the United States, we know that we are not alone in our everyday fight. I think that some of the suggestions for diversification in the store were good, as well as the use of email and Facebook. We will continue to follow the story and wish them success in whatever way the story continues.”
— Sandy & John Bencsik
The following letter is a response to the article “New bill may scale back lead paint rules.”
“[The EPA’s lead paint rule] has had no effect on business, except we opened numerous new accounts as a result of our lead-abatement certification classes!
“If anything, this is a yet another classic example of the failure and ineptitude of our federal government — similar to the Departments of Energy, Housing and now the new agency created to protect us from unscrupulous banking. Billions of dollars, lots of rules and regs, no enforcement, no local or state involvement. The federal government is going where it doesn’t belong.
“In my opinion, lead abatement, as with most other tasks, belongs with the individual states. This way it could have been adopted and enforced as part of the permitting process.
“The scope, size and budget of our federal government are eating us alive.”
Power tool’s next frontier: Brushless
If you haven’t seen it yet, you will soon. “Brushless technology” is the next big thing coming to the power tool aisle.
Bill Palmer, Home Depot’s senior merchant for power tools, is preparing a big push for brushless beginning in May. In layman’s term, the engineering feat eliminates the standard friction-fighting brushes inside the small motors powering drills and drivers. In marketing terms, there’s a high sizzle factor.
“Virtually, it’s the motor you can’t kill,” said Palmer, during a Home Depot organized media tour of power tool technology in New York City recently. Brushless won’t exist in a vacuum. Rather, it will stand along with lithium-ion batteries, which will power 60% of cordless drilling sold in 2012, Palmer said.
“With lithium and an upgraded brushless motor, now you’ve got more than one thing to lay your hat on,” Palmer said. “Innovate the innovation.”
Facing ‘new realities,’ opening smaller stores
Canadian retailer Rona believes it will have better success with smaller stores and a larger digital offering.
The Quebec-based retailer and distributor, Canada’s largest, will close 10 of its warehouse-sized stores by the end of the year, shifting its focus to the opening of 25 smaller-format units.
Rona’s blueprint for change — termed “New Realities, New Solutions” — calls for bringing Rona “closer to consumers, which means being either just a click away, or no more than 10 minutes distance from a Rona store that perfectly meets their needs,” said Robert Dutton, Rona’s president and CEO.
Luc Rodier, executive VP retail, added: “In response to consumer demand, these stores emphasize service, with more experienced staff and a central service counter that forms the heart of the store and is visible as soon as you enter, along with a more user-friendly layout, a regionally based offering and an optimal choice of products in key categories.”
Rona currently operates 700 retail and distribution locations throughout Canada.
The new focus comes on the heels of a C$151 million loss posted for the company’s fourth quarter, which ended Dec. 25, 2011. This compares with a profit of C$20 million in the same period a year ago.
The rollout of the 25 smaller stores includes retrofitting and reducing the size of 13 big-box stores. The new “proximity” stores will average 35,000 sq. ft., and the concept will be deployed in 20% of the Rona corporate store network, the company said. Other new plans for the company include the rollout of a new integrated digital platform, which includes the new website rona.ca.