John Caulfield, Contributing Editor
vol. xi, #4, January 24, 2005

IN THIS ISSUE: • Builders FirstSource: independent goes public • Industry helps tsunami victims • TIM-BR Mart looks to bright future • LBMAO Show positioned as buying event • Huttig completes purchase • Restoration founder resigns • Ace dealer gets embezzled

* * * * * * NOTE: Dollar amounts are stated in the currency of the country from which the story originates. — Michael McLarney, Editor & Publisher * * * * * *
"It's curious how much more interest can be evoked by a mixture of gossip, romance and mystery than by facts." —Eleanor Roosevelt (and no cracks about the content of certain e-newsletters!)
DALLAS — The management and owners of Builders FirstSource disclosed last week that they plan to take the national pro dealer public, and have apparently scuttled their plans, revealed last fall, to sell the company.In a prepared statement, Builders FirstSource said that next month it would register its initial public offering with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and expected to complete the IPO by the summer. Prior to the offering, the company plans to refinance its existing debt, pay a dividend to its stockholders and make a cash payment to its option holders in lieu of a dividend.Floyd Sherman, Builders FirstSource's CEO, said that the "strides in performance" that his company has achieved in recent years have "positioned" Builders FirstSource "to access the public capital markets." Paul Levy, founder of JLL Partners, the investment firm that owns Builders FirstSource, added that his company would continue to be a large stockholder in the retailer after the IPO. Company officials did not reveal what their price target was for the stock offering. Interestingly, Levy told Hardlines last September that JLL at the time was against taking BFS public because JLL would have to hold onto the company's stock for at least three to four years (so as not to scare off other investors). That's not something JLL wanted to do, because, as a mid-size equity investor, it needs to maintain certain levels of liquidity. Last fall, JLL retained two investment firms — Deutsche Bank AG and UBS — to auction off BFS's assets. It was not clear at press time what changed JLL's mind. Kevin O'Meara, Builders FirstSource's COO, said he was restricted from commenting about the offering because his company was in a "quiet period" prior to its S.E.C. filing. However, when asked what changes to the company's operations or competitive strategy might result from its going public, he responded that in "anything that matters to the customer, the answer is none." Builders FirstSource operates 42 manufacturing facilities and 63 yards in 11 states. Its sales last year increased nearly 7% to $1.7 billion.
CALGARY —The merger of TIM-BR Mart Ontario (aka Homecare) with its larger sister organization, Tim-BR-Marts Ltd., at the end of last year, marks a major, substantive move by a buying group to effect consolidation.According to Tim Urquhart, president of the new group, the deal only made sense. "When you look at the buying groups, we are the employees," he says of himself and his executive vice-president, Don Nash. "Our job is to serve the dealers in the best way we can." Nash was formerly president of the Ontario operation. The merger required the paring down of that operation, and centralizing the business into Tim-BR-Marts' Calgary head office, to serve the entire dealer base.Those dealers range from the eastern-most borders of Ontario to the Western shores of British Columbia. They number 340 stores, and their combined sales at retail will total about $1.8 billion. Tim-BR-Marts in the west accounts for about $1.2 billion of that. Despite similarities, including joint membership in a larger umbrella buying group, Matreco, the two groups both bring different strengths to the union, says Urquhart. "The west is good on the purchasing side," he points out, "bringing the volumes and working with preferred suppliers. The Ontario TIM-BR Mart brings the marketing skill." He's impressed by TIM-BR Mart Ontario's success at developing the TIM-BR Mart brand among its members. Of LBM 130 dealers (the Ontario group also has some commercial dealers), fully 110 of them carry the TIM-BR Mart banner, supported by strong standards for carrying that banner. "That's something we did not have in Western Canada." Sixty-four of the 170 Western dealers currently fly the TIM-BR Mart banner, but the program is not as rigorous or extensive as the one developed in the East. Nash expects to raise that number to 90, says Urquhart.
WINNIPEG — True Value Hardware has renewed its support of the sport of curling, both nationally and in communities across the country. True Value has been an official sponsor with the Canadian Curling Association's Season of Champions for six years. The Season of Champions is a combination of seven televised national and international curling events.At the local level, many True Value Hardware owners sponsor curling bonspiels in their communities. True Value is a banner of the Canadian co-operative, TruServ Canada.
ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Huttig Building Products, based here, has expanded its distribution network by completing its acquisition of Dallas-based Texas Wholesale Building Materials. Hutttig will pay $15 million in cash and assume Texas Wholesale's liabilities.This deal gives Huttig — which operates 44 branches serving 47 states — its first full-line distribution operation in Texas. In a prepared statement, Huttig estimated that sales from Texas Wholesale would fall between $90 million and $100 million in 2005. Texas Wholesale, one of the Southwest's largest regional distributors of millwork and building products, operates through a 260,000-square-foot distribution center in Dallas and a branch in Tulsa, Okla. (In October, Huttig had signed a letter of intent to acquire Texas Wholesale for $16.5 million in cash.)"The Texas market is a key part of Huttig's strategic growth," said Mike Lupo, Huttig's CEO. "Our entry into this market allows us to increase its residential market opportunity by over 150,000 annual housing starts and increase our coverage to over 80% of the U.S. housing market." In related news, Huttig has signed a definitive agreement to sell its four remaining one-step operations in Tennessee and Alabama in a transaction expected to close in the current quarter. Huttig sold its other one-step operations in Merriam, Kan., and Baltimore, Md. in August and December, respectively.
MISSISSAUGA, ONT. — The Lumber and Building Materials Association of Ontario is about to put on its second show. The 2005 Winter Buying Show will be held Feb. 5-6, 2005, again in London, Ont., at the Progress Building, Western Fair Grounds.The show targets more than 2,000 retailers and 150 vendors in the hardware, lumber and building materials industry. "We are very excited about this year's show," says Dave Campbell, President of the LBMAO. "To date, we have signed up more exhibitors, and pre-registration for both the show and the social events is up over last year."The social events include a Friday night Welcome Reception at the Sheraton Four Points hotel with a Las Vegas theme, while on Saturday night the LBMAO will host its annual Gala dinner, "An Evening with the Stars," also at the Sheraton Four Points. Registration for attendance to the show or any of the social events can be made on-line by visiting or by calling 866-535-0520.
AMERICUS, Ga., & MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Habitat for Humanity International said that over the next two years it intends to build an estimated 25,000 transitional housing units for victims of the underwater earthquake that has devastated several countries bordering the Indian Ocean.The cost of that effort, which Habitat estimated at US$25 million, will be partly defrayed by a US$1 million pledge from Lowe's Cos., the second-largest home improvement retailer in North America. The retailer also hopes to raise an equal amount of money through customer donations. Those funds will go towards helping Habitat build 200 or more homes in Sri Lanka.Lowe's 1,050 stores are serving as cash donation sites for Habitat's tsunami relief program. Donations can also be made through Lowe's website. The retailer will accept donations through Feb. 21. "Every gift is important, every gift will make a difference," said Paul Leonard, CEO, Habitat for Humanity, which has an active presence in six of the countries impacted by the tsunami including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Malaysia and Bangladesh.
CORDE MADERA, Calif. — Stephen Gordon, the founder of Restoration Hardware, the specialty hardware and home décor chain, has resigned. Gordon, who was also the company's chairman, said he is leaving to pursue other interests, but gave no specifics.Gary Friedman, the company's president and CEO, has been appointed by the board as interim chairman for the 102-unit chain.Gordon's resignation comes only days after Restoration Hardware reported that its holiday sales for the nine-week period ended Jan. 1, 2005 were up 11%, to $142.8 million over the same period a year ago, while same-store sales for that period increased 3.2%. Friedman projected that the company's sales for all of 2004 would be up more than 19% to $520 million. However, the company's profitability remains problematic, as the chain lost $9.1 million for the nine months ended Oct. 30, 2004. That was on top of a $10.8 million loss for the same period in fiscal 2003.
The recent Westcoast 2005 Trade Show and Convention, held by the Building Supply Dealers Association of B.C., managed to fill the aisles with dealers from all over the province, despite fluke snowstorms that closed airports and highways throughout the lower mainland.There were 242 booths at the trade show, enlivened by a series of show specials and opportunities to view new products. Despite the lower attendance, many suppliers reported significant increases in orders over 2004. Congratulations to BSDA president George Tracy and his team for delivering the goods despite the odds! (Next week, we'll announce some of the winners of the association's dealer awards.)
TORONTO — Home Depot Canada will in fact open 25 stores over the next 14 months, as promised, points out Nick Cowling, their PR Manager. Although Home Depot chairman and CEO Bob Nardelli announced 19 store openings for Canada in the coming fiscal year, that number does not take into account another six opening before the 2004 year end on January 31.FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Masters Ltd., a Bermuda-based Do it Best Corp. member, recently received two honors for its commitment to customer service. Masters received a "Best of Bermuda Gold" award in the Shopping & Services category. The 14th annual Best of Bermuda Gold awards were chosen by a panel of judges enlisted by The Bermudian, Bermuda's premier magazine, to celebrate the island's treasures. This was Masters' fourth receipt of a Best of Bermuda Gold honor. With annual sales approaching $3 billion, Do it Best Corp. is the second largest co-op in the U.S., and serves 4,100 member-retailers in the United States and in 45 foreign countries.MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Lowe's Cos. says it will put a new data center in Winston-Salem. The data center is the hub for the company's computer processing and information technology operations and will include redundant power and telecommunication sources, plus capacity to expand as the company's tech needs grow. RHINELANDER, Wisc. — A Vilas County woman was convicted of embezzling almost $470,000 from Nelson's Ace Hardware of Eagle. The 57-year-old woman, Judith Wolff, ended up getting sentences to seven years behind bars, plus eight years of probation and extended supervision. Considered a career criminal, Wolff stole the money to support her gambling addiction. The money, which began being siphoned into an account in her husband's name, was stolen over a four-year period. LONDON, U.K. — In yet another case of retail lines becoming blurred, grocery giant Tesco plans to open a number of stores this year that sell only non-food items. The first outlet, which will feature an array of products, including clothes, electrical goods, CDs and DVDs, is expected to open within months. MONTREAL — Forestry company Tembec reported consolidated sales for the first quarter ended December 25, 2004 of $888.8 million, up from $766.3 million from the same period last year. Tembec generated a net loss of $0.7 million, a swing from net earnings of $52.1 in the first quarter of last year. PRINCESS ANNE, Md. — Wal-Mart, struggling away to grow its little business, has applied for a federal grant worth up to $1.3 million, to help offset the construction of its newest planned distribution center here. It's received approval by Somerset County Commissioners this month. Most of the grant would be used to help fund Wal-Mart's purchase of land for the proposed center, while the remaining $500,000 would help fund street improvements. LONDON, U.K. — Kesa, the electricals chain spun off by Kingfisher last year, saw sales rise in the latest quarter by 6.2%. Sales were especially strong in multimedia and digital products. Sales for its French Darty chain were up 9.2%, while same-store sales rose 7.2%. In the U.K., the Comet chain enjoyed sales growth of 3.8%. ATLANTA — Georgia-Pacific Corp. says it expects to report between a loss of 1-4 cents per diluted share for the fourth quarter 2004, based on preliminary unaudited results. Unusual items are expected to include pre-tax asbestos-related charges of $159 million. NEWTON, Iowa — Maytag Corp. says it will no longer sell Maytag-branded appliances to specialty retailer Best Buy, although Maytag's Hoover brand of floor care products will continue to be sold there. According to Ralph Hake, chairman and CEO of Maytag, sales of its major appliances through Best Buy have declined "significantly over the years" and last year represented only about 1% of Maytag's consolidated revenue.
At Bélanger.UPT, the plumbing manufacturer and distributor, Dominic Prégent has joined as executive vice-president/general manager. He will be responsible for planning and organizing the company's strategic activities as well as overseeing the sales, marketing, finance, and administration departments.Mike Hladysh has been named director of engineering at Selkirk Canada. He has been with Selkirk, and before that, GSW Heating Products, which was purchased by Selkirk in 1999, for 18 years and previously held the position of engineering manager ... Jim Vargyas has been appointed director of logistics. A 16-year veteran of the Selkirk and GSW, he served most recently as logistics manager. In addition to their current roles, both men will take on responsibility for Selkirk Canada's new Energy Vent Division.At Western Forest Products Inc., the second largest coastal woodland operator in British Columbia, Paul Ireland has been appointed CFO, effective today, January 24. He comes over from Diavik Diamond Mines Inc. where he spent two years as vice-president, finance. Ireland succeeds Phil Hosier, who will be retiring, effective January 31, but continue to work with the company in a consulting role.
Housing starts in December 2004 were 2,004 thousand, up 10.9% from November 2004 but down 3.0% from one year ago, according to the Commerce Department. Building permits were 2,021 thousand, down 0.3% from November but up 2.1% from December 2003.The latest survey of business conditions by the Federal Reserve has some good news for the economy. Consumer spending increased in most of the 12 districts surveyed. Retail sales were good, especially for electronics, jewellery and home entertainment products.
The composite index advanced 0.2% in December, says Stats Canada, as six of the 10 components in the index were up. They included manufacturing and services, which were reinforced the steady growth of household demand. In fact, household demand posted its strongest and most widespread gains in over two years, led by the booming housing market as well as steadily falling import prices and rising incomes. Furniture and appliance sales grew 0.9%, its largest monthly gain in six months, raising annual growth to 10.0%. Sales of other durable goods advanced 1.1%, driven by autos.Investment in non-residential building construction remained unchanged at $6.6 billion in the fourth quarter, compared with the previous quarter, says Stats Canada, but the year overall closed higher, up 1.4% over 2003. Commercial and industrial investment reached $4.6 billion for 2004.

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