News Briefs


Monthly construction materials prices stable in July — with some exceptions

Commercial construction materials prices are 2.5% lower than a year ago.

Monthly construction materials prices stable in July — with some exceptions

The easing of supply chain challenges and a sluggish global economy has brought stability to construction materials prices. 

Overall construction materials prices were unchanged in July relative to the previous month, according to an Associated Builders and Contractors analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Producer Price Index data. Commercial construction materials prices were also flat in July, after falling 1.4% in June.

“Goods prices continue to stagnate in the context of improved supply chains and a sluggish global economy,” said ABC chief economist Anirban Basu. “It has been the improvement of supply chains that best explains recent positive economic outcomes in the U.S. economy. As supply chains have normalized, unmet demand has been more readily satisfied.”

Overall construction input prices are 3.1% lower than a year ago. Prices, however, increased in all three energy subcategories. Natural gas prices rose 11.0% in July, while crude petroleum and unprocessed energy materials prices increased 8.4% and 8.0%, respectively

With the exception of energy prices, which are heavily influenced by a cocktail of geopolitics, weather and investor frenzy, construction materials prices should be reasonably stable during the months to come, according to Basu. 

Another exception may be construction equipment prices. The price of equipment expanded 1.6% on a monthly basis in July and nearly 10% over the past year. 

 “Many contractors continue to complain about lengthy lead times for equipment as the nation continues to expand spending on infrastructure,” said Basu.

Associated Builders and Contractors is a national construction industry trade association established in 1950 that represents more than 22,000 members.


Consumer sentiment takes slight dip in August but still close to recent high

The share of searches for $20 per hour wages is on the rise.

Consumer sentiment cooled a bit in the dog days of summer but was still significantly higher compared to the year-ago period. 

The University of Michigan’s index of consumer sentiment fell to preliminary August reading of 71.2 after hitting a 22-month high of 71.6 in the prior month. The August reading is 22% than a year ago.  

Consumers’ views on current conditions rose to to 77.4 from 76.6 in July, while the expectations index fell to 67.3 from 68.3. 

The gauge of one-year inflation expectations inched down to 3.3% this month from 3.4% in July, showing stability for three consecutive months. The five-year inflation outlook fell to 2.9% from 3.0% in the prior month. 

The report was released on the heels of the  Consumer Price Index report, which showed that prices rose 3.2% annual pace in July, up from June’s 3% pace, with food and shelter costs driving up the increase.


"Consumer sentiment was essentially unchanged from July, with small offsetting increases and decreases within the index," said Joanne Hsu, surveys of consumers director, University of Michigan.  "In general, consumers perceived few material differences in the economic environment from last month, but they saw substantial improvements relative to just three months ago," she said. 



Qdoba to double its footprint to 1,500 sites with rapid expansion

Qdoba operates 750 locations -- with more to come.

Qdoba is going into overdrive and betting on franchising to grow its footprint.

The quick-service Mexican restaurant, which currently has 750 locations, expects to double in size during the next decade. Qdoba plans to open 40 new restaurants this year, followed by 60 in 2024. Starting in 2025, it will open 80-plus locations.

In August 2022, Qdoba was acquired by Butterfly Equity from Apollo Global Management. The chain was subsequently merged with Butterfly Equity’s Lemonade and Modern Market Eatery banners to form Modern Restaurant Concepts. (All three operate as separate brands.) 

"Qdoba is an exceptionally well positioned brand in one of the most attractive restaurant categories,” said John Cywinski, CEO of Modern Restaurant Concepts, parent company of Qdoba.We possess long-standing momentum, strong unit economics, a compelling operating model, an extraordinarily passionate guest following, and significant untapped geographic potential.

Qdoba is currently 80% franchised with 85 franchise partners in the U.S.  

“We are in the process of aggressively accelerating new restaurant development in partnership with existing and new franchisees,” Cywinski added. “Once our pipeline is fully established, we expect to sustain a 10% annual growth rate through new restaurant development.”

In keeping with its selective refranchising strategy, Qdoba recently sold 77 company-owned restaurants to existing franchisee, North Fork Fresh Mex, which now operates 97 Qdoba locations Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Virginia. North Fork has also committed to build 73 new restaurants during the next seven years and is now the chain’s largest franchise partner. 

Qdoba has now posted 10 consecutive quarters of positive comp sales growth, with average unit volumes of $1.6 million. 



What makes for an effective online back-to-school product image?

Back-to-school imagery

New analysis of hundreds of top-searched school supplies hero and carousel images on Amazon from image analytics software provider Visit reveals what online shoppers prefer.

Hero image trends

According to Visit research, when showing the number of products included with a purchase, hero images that used a cascading effect in the display performed better than those that relied on a mass of items.

In addition, more muted color palettes dominated high-scoring back-to-school hero imagery. And hero images that showcase packaging as it would be on physical shelves—such as closely cropped images of the front of the physical product package shot from a straight-on angle—earned low scores from shoppers. Stylized hero images were also more likely to generate appeal.

Carousel image trends

Meanwhile, visuals of people using school supplies with hands coming from the right-side border scored highly among carousel images. Carousel imagery that showed teachers using school supplies with groups of students also performed well, regardless of the age of the students shown.

Also, many high-ranking carousel images tracked by Visit included blue text detailing product capabilities or benefits on a yellow or orange background.

[Read more: NRF: Back-to-school shopping expected to reach “unparalleled” record high]


Kmart will soon be down to only two stores nationwide


To call Kmart a shadow of its former self is a gross understatement.

The former powerhouse discounter, which once operated more than 2,000 stores nationwide, will close its store at Westwood Plaza in Westwood, N.J., this fall, reported The closing will leave Kmart with only two brick-and-mortar locations nationwide, with one in Miami and another in Brideghampton, N.Y.  (The company also operates an e-commerce site.)

The upcoming Westwood closure follows multiple Kmart closings across the New York metro area in recent years. In July 2021, the retailer shuttered its nearly 25-year-old location in Manhattan, on Broadway at Astor Place. Wegmans Food Market will open its first Big Apple location on the site this fall.

The decline of Kmart has been slow but steady.   In 2005, it merged with Sears, creating Sears Holdings, with a total of about 3,500 stores. At the time, however, both brands were already in decline and closing stores, failing to keep up with changing shopper behaviors and such fast-moving competitors as Walmart and Target. The growing dominance of Amazon and other online competitors only hastened their downward spiral.

In 2018,  Sears Holdings, filed for bankruptcy. It emerged in early 2019  when its CEO, Eddie Lampert, secured a roughly $5 billion deal using his hedge fund ESL to buy the retailer’s assets out of court. The deal kept about 400 Sears and Kmart locations up and running under a new private entity, which is now called Transformco.  

According to various reports, there are only 11 Sears stores left in operation nationwide. Similar to Kmart, Sears operates an e-commerce site.


Sam’s Club to open 300,000-sq.-ft. DC in Oklahoma

Sam’s Club will open a DC in Oklahoma City in 2024.

Sam’s Club, a division of Walmart Inc., is expanding its distribution network.

The warehouse club retailer will open a multi-purpose distribution center in Oklahoma City, Okla., in early 2024. The 300,000-sq.-ft.  facility will be located at the OKC Logistics Park. Sam’s Club  plans to make a capital investment of approximately $40 million to open the facility.

“We’re excited to enhance our supply chain capabilities in the State of Oklahoma,” said Joseph Godsey, chief supply chain officer of Sam’s Club. “We are on a journey to transform the entire Sam’s Club supply chain through strategic expansion and cutting-edge automation. This investment will help us provide a better experience for our members in the speed and availability of our products.” 

Local officials applauded the investment. Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt said the new facility joins a growing distribution corridor in southwest Oklahoma City. Walmart is the state’s largest employer, with more than 35,000 jobs across Oklahoma.

“We are excited to extend our long-term partnership with Walmart and Sam’s Club to include this new distribution center,” Holt said. “Oklahoma City’s population continues to grow and as both our city and the company expand, we look forward to working together.”

Sam’s Club operates nearly 600 clubs in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.