Erika Engle

Friday, March 19, 2004

Cement strike has
mixed impact on home
improvement stores

THE more than 40-day strikes at Hawaii's two major cement companies have had mixed impact on home improvement retailers.

Sales of Quikrete, a mainland-made favorite for do-it-yourselfers, went up five to 10 percent at City Mill Co. Ltd. toward the beginning of the strike, according to Vice President Carol Ai May.

Within the last week or two, sales began flattening, she said.

And with news of a tentative settlement at Hawaiian Cement and Ameron's best and final contract offer, sales of Quikrete may get back to normal.

But City Mill is still having a very good year, said May.

Side-jobs often done by people in the trades can help keep food on the table when an employer's project is stalled. Such work also keeps cash registers ringing.

Anecdotally it appeared that those left out of work by the strike "might be doing fix-up jobs for friends and neighbors," she said.

"If I had a son like that, I'd say it's time to come over to mom's."

Sales of Quikrete and similar bagged products saw "good movement" at Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse in Waipahu as well, according to Dan Marshall, store manager.

"I had anticipated there might be some type of impact from the building change," he said.

Brisk sales of non-cement products defied expectations at Hardware Hawaii Ltd.

"We kept on expecting things to slow down," said Barry Lundquist, executive vice president and chief operating officer.

The company's lumber delivery operation runs eight trucks around Oahu and with projects stalling because of the strike, drivers were advised work might become scarce.

"For some reason, just the opposite has happened. This has been the busiest time in our history. Our lumber deliveries have been at record levels," he said. Wednesday "was the biggest day ever."

The increase in business year-over-year is in the double-digits, Lundquist estimated.

"I'm at a loss to explain it."

The Kailua store has experienced some of its biggest customer counts. "We used to have slow days during the week. Now, our parking lot is jammed during the week, just like Saturdays."

Part of the reason could be repairs of damage from recent bad weather, or the side-job scenario, any of those "more lumber-intensive remodeling types of things," Lundquist said.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at:


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