Noland Co., a 101-branch wholesaler based in Newport News, Va., named Jean F. Preston vice president/marketing and branch operations effective April 1, when the current head of marketing, Kenneth C. King, retires. Also, Paul J. Barber was appointed director of corporate data.

King, a 42-year veteran of Noland, had been vice president/marketing and branch operations since 1998. Before that he had managed the company's Frederick, Md., operations for 21 years. Preston has been with Noland 27 years, starting as a trainee in the corporate data division in 1978. He became director of corporate data in 1997 and was elected a vice president in 1998. Barber spent 11 years in Noland's corporate data division, left the company in 2000 and returned in January 2005.

In other news, Noland reported net income of $18.4 million, or $5.45 per share (diluted) for the year ended Dec. 31, 2004, up 48% vs. the prior year. The rise in earnings stemmed from a significant improvement in sales and a $3.5 million year-to-year increase in after-tax gains from the disposal of surplus real property, the company said.

Sales of $548.1 million were 16% higher than for 2003. Plumbing sales, which benefited from rising prices, were up 18%, and air conditioning sales rose 14%. Electrical/industrial sales increased 13%, mostly due to Noland's sharper focus on the strong commercial construction market, according to Lloyd U. Noland III, chairman.

Although gross profit margins were down slightly due to costs associated with the LIFO method of accounting for inventories, higher sales led to a 12% increase in gross profit for the year.

An 8% increase in operating expenses was attributed to costs associated with Noland's new central distribution center and five branches opened since mid-2003. Operating profit rose 57%, aided by gains from the sale of surplus property.

For the fourth quarter, sales were $139.5 million, up 19% vs. the same period in 2003. Net income for the quarter was $6.6 million, or $1.95 per share (diluted) compared with $3.3 million, or 97 cents per share, for the fourth quarter of 2003.

“We think the climate is right for another good housing construction year,” Noland said in a statement. “Plus, commercial construction is forecast to do even better than last year.”