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A year in the headlines

How do you wrap up 2011? Here’s how: Take all the most popular stories — as measured by page views at homechannelnews.com — from each of the past 11 months and combine them in one, cream-of-the-crop editorial.

It’s an automatic, can’t-miss column, and it goes like this:

 • January: Lowe’s shakes up in-store staffing
Lowe’s said it would cut 1,700 middle managers but hire an additional 8,000 to 10,000 part-timers. It’s worth noting that in the two quarters following the Jan. 29 move, Lowe’s comps fell further behind Home Depot comps.

• February: HD will hire 60,000 for spring push
At a time when unemployment was riding at 8.9%, this story had legs, even though it’s not unusual for the big boxes to ramp up for their biggest selling season. (A related story: “Lowe’s gets ready for spring, too.”)

• March: 84 Lumber closes 10 locations
According to the Home Channel News Top 200 Pro Dealer Scoreboard, 84 Lumber finished last year with 274 stores. The company’s empire peaked at 475 stores in 2006.

• April: Organizational shake-up at Stock Building Supply
Since the downturn, perhaps no pro dealer had been through more management changes than Stock. Here, Stock created four regional divisions and eliminated two top executive positions.

• May: Deadly tornado flattens Missouri Home Depot
The story included heroism, and it included tragedy. The company honored five store associates for their actions in the storm. One of them, Dean Wells, died while making a final sweep of the store. 

• June: Scotts finds a new niche: Cannabis
Scotts Miracle-Gro CEO Jim Hagedorn said targeting the growing market for medical marijuana makes sense. And why not? Scotts helps people grow grass.

• July: Myrick no longer with ProBuild Holdings
ProBuild is a company that might challenge Stock for the title of “Most Reorganized.” Some said they saw this particular headline coming. Not me.  

• August: What’s ahead for ProBuild?
The only headline of the bunch phrased as a question. It’s a question as valid today as it was in August.

• September: In tough times, a company protects its people
Many of the thousands of readers of this story surely asked: “How can they do that?” Well. They’re doing it. This item documented how Marvin Windows and Doors refuses to fire employees, even though their business is suffering during the downturn. One reader wrote: “This action will come back to them tenfold in the form of loyal employees.” We hope so.

• October: Lowe’s announces 20 store closings
You’ll notice a common thread through some of these headlines: Companies that are making moves — drastic or otherwise — in the face of a difficult market are well-read stories.

• November: Former ProBuild execs form LBM company
When former executives of major players strike out on their own, that’s a story — especially with former ProBuild CEO and current Kodiak Building Partners CEO Paul Hylbert explaining: “We believe the time is right to acquire assets in this space.”

That’s not a bad story to end on. I’m predicting better big news in 2012.

— Ken Clark
kclark@homechannelnews.com