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Paving the Way to Success

BY CSA STAFF

Parking lots are one of the first areas encountered by a customer. C.B. Kuzlik, VP of Rose Paving Co., hich provides parking-lot management solutions for commercial and industrial properties nationwide, spoke with Chain Store Age executive editor Marianne Wilson about proper maintenance.

Chain Store Age: What is the biggest mistake that chains make with regard to parking-lot maintenance?

C.B. Kuzlik: Oftentimes, due to budget constraints, retailers will ignore minor wear and tear until defects become major problems such as large potholes. Such a strategy is especially risky because it doesn’t take much for a customer to fall in a pothole or trip over a crack. Even fender-benders can be blamed on poorly marked striping. But accidents can be minimized if a parking lot is in top condition.

Ongoing maintenance is the only course of action to avoid the potential for lawsuits and the costly alternative of total parking-lot replacement or other structural repairs. Being proactive is a much better solution than reacting to untimely emergencies or liability issues.

CSA: Explain the difference between preventive maintenance and structural maintenance.

Kuzlik: Preventive maintenance is a cost-effective solution used to prevent further deterioration of a parking lot. It encompasses such corrective measures as crack-sealing, seal-coating and asphalt patching/repair on small areas, and is an ongoing process that needs regular monitoring to ensure that rehabilitation strategies produce predicted results.

Structural maintenance is a more costly solution used to improve structural capacity of the parking lot. It encompasses large asphalt patching, asphalt resurfacing, concrete reconstruction and storm-basin rebuilding. The effectiveness of structural maintenance is contingent upon routine preventive maintenance performed on the newly overlaid surface.

CSA: What are the benefits associated with each of the above?

Kuzlik: The cost to repair structural damages far exceeds the cost to perform routine maintenance. As a result, true benefits come from preventive maintenance. In fact, a highly effective-preventive-maintenance approach known as pavement-management planning, or PMP, is a great method to keep parking lots in top condition. And, because it is a long-term plan, retail facility managers are able to budget well in advance for repairs, providing greater control over maintenance expenses.

CSA: Are crude-oil prices affecting parking-lot maintenance projects?

Kuzlik: Rising crude-oil prices are impacting the cost to perform maintenance on parking lots. Last year, the price of asphalt paving mixtures rose 28%, the highest percentage increase in history. Compounding rising material costs are skyrocketing fuel and natural-gas costs, both of which impact pricing on asphalt projects. Raw materials, aggregates (stone and sand), and liquid asphalt require transportation from plants to job sites. No one knows what will happen next price-wise, but we do know that rising prices will have a significant impact on projects currently bidding or in production.

CSA: What advice do you have for retailers with regard to potential material shortages and price increases?

Kuzlik: Material-shortage scenarios may be avoided by working with well-established, national paving contractors that complete a high volume of projects every year. These paving companies have built relationships with suppliers over many years, affording them preferred material availability.

Also, be advised that signing contracts promptly is more important than ever before. Historically, there have been time limits on the validity of material bids. Industry standard used to be 90-150 days; but that’s no longer true. Additionally, it is advisable to increase funds in capital-expenditure budgets by about 20%. Reputable contractors will not be able to absorb price increases.

CSA: How can retailers ensure that they get what they paid for?

Kuzlik: Asking tough questions allows you to realize the true competency of a contractor. To evaluate the fairness and value of a contractor’s bid, compare applications. Be clear on a contractor’s terminology and the details of what work will be performed. Ask about the materials the contractor plans to use on the job. Check references to see if a contractor has worked on comparable projects in your area. Find out if the contractor will verify satisfaction through a quality-control system encompassing on-site project management and post-job inspections.

Ultimately, it is up to you to make sure that the contractor is actually complying to work specifications. To ensure that you get what you pay for, all work should be carefully inspected and monitored as it is being performed.

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Finish Line 4Q Profit Narrows

BY CSA STAFF

Indianapolis, Finish Line said Thursday the company earned $21.1 million in its fourth quarter, compared with profit of $28.1 million during the same period a year prior. Revenue rose to $429 million from $399.2 million.

Expenses for the quarter rose to $93.9 million from $85.1 million. The company also saw an asset impairment charge of $7.5 million compared with $2.5 million a year ago. Comp-store sales fell 5.4% during the quarter.

For the full year, the company earned $32.4 million.

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Sharper Image, OfficeMax Partner

BY CSA STAFF

San Francisco, Sharper Image has announced a multi-year licensing agreement with OfficeMax. The agreement with OfficeMax is the first to be announced by Sharper Image’s newly created brand licensing division.

Under the agreement, OfficeMax will offer Sharper Image branded office furniture and accessories made exclusively for OfficeMax under the Sharper Image Office brand. Products will include desks, chairs, shredders, desk sets, accessories and related items. The first product collection is currently rolling out into OfficeMax stores, with additional collections to debut throughout and beyond 2007.

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