Urban

Urban flight means home improvement trends will become a sustained shift

People walk into a house for sale in Floral Park, Nassau County, New York, the United States, on Sept. 6, 2020. Home buyers eying for cozy backyards and more office space are staging bidding wars in the suburbs surrounding New York City amid the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wang Ying | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

As some Americans flee cities and move into suburban or rural areas during the coronavirus pandemic, some analysts are predicting home projects and repairs will shift from a trend to long-term habit.

That could add up to more sales for Home Depot, Lowe’s and other retailers with a wide variety of home improvement items, from paint and tools to kitchen appliances, according to a Wells Fargo Securities research note. Those retailers have already seen strong sales and growing profits during the pandemic, as Americans spend more time in their homes and dollars they would have otherwise doled out for restaurant bills or summer vacations.

The suburban shift could also benefit auto-focused retailers, such as Carvana, AutoZone, O’Reilly Automotive and Advance Auto Parts, according to the note.

In the research note, Wells Fargo senior equity analyst Zachary Fadem spelled out factors that have driven some people out of cities. Among them, he said, about 65% of early Covid-19 cases were concentrated in dense cities. People have sought out more space as they work and learn at home and as aspects of city life from public transit to high-end restaurants are unavailable or unappealing.

He pointed to recent earnings reports by retailers that soared past Wall Street expectations, citing de-urbanization as one of the causes.

A survey of about 1,000 consumers by the Wells Fargo analysts found that more than 88% planned to increase their retail spending in the second half of the year

Continue Reading

Urban wildfire: When homes are the fuel for a runaway blaze, how do you rebuild a safer community?

TALENT, Oregon — Late morning on Sept. 8, forest scientist Dominick DellaSala sat at the desk in his home office to do a final edit on a newspaper opinion piece. The topic: The need to better prepare for catastrophic wildfires — or “black swan events” — that can rampage through neighborhoods.

His computer screen went dark. The power had gone out.

He went outside to investigate the outage. Looking south, he spotted a dense cloud of smoke.

“This was totally black. It was huge. And it was heading in our direction,” DellaSala recalls.

DellaSala spent the next few hours up on his roof, cleaning out gutters and hosing down the asphalt shingles before evacuating. His home was spared as the fire veered away from his street, but more than 2,800 structures and three people were killed in one of the most destructive wildfires in Northwest history.

Forest scientist Dominick DellaSala surveys the field near  a dog park that was the ignition point for the Almeda Fire, one of the most destructive in Oregon’s history. (Hal Bernton / The Seattle Times)
Forest scientist Dominick DellaSala surveys the field near a dog park that was the ignition point for the Almeda Fire, one of the most destructive in Oregon’s history. (Hal Bernton / The Seattle Times)

This one had nothing to do the management of thickly forested Northwest mountain slopes. It started in a patch of grass by a dog park in the north end of Ashland on a hot day with fierce, dry winds. The fire raced through a county greenway park, chewed through roadside brush and jumped into the heart of two communities — Talent and Phoenix, with a combined population of more than 10,000. Then houses, trailers and commercial buildings became the fuel that fed its relentless advance.

In the immediate aftermath of the historic early September fires, people here and in other ravaged Pacific Northwest towns such as Malden, in Eastern Washington, are primarily focused on the need to find short-term shelter

Continue Reading