David Frane of Tools of the Trade reported recently on the first-quarter earnings of two giants in the building supply business, Home Depot and Lowe's, and put it into perspective by equating earnings with miles-high stacks of $20 bills. The reaction from one reader was less than enthusiastic: Why should a building magazine waste time on such things? The answer, as Frane explains, is these two retail chains have an enormous impact on the construction world, and what they do affects everyone in the trades, whether they shop there or not. Their sales dwarf those of other home-improvement chains (the next closest, Menards, has sales less than one-fifth as much as Lowe's and about one-eighth that of Home Depot). Even the biggest lumber and building material dealer in the country is far behind. Read More