Universal Forest Products Inc.’s Retail Building Materials segment hit $196.9 million in net earnings for the first quarter of 2012, up 12.3% from the same period a year ago, the company announced today. The segment’s first quarter net sales account for 43% of the company’s total gross sales for the period.

The quarter’s growth represents a 25% increase in sales to independent retailers, part of a company strategy to boost sales to that market, company CEO Matthew J. Missad told analysts Thursday morning.

The Residential Construction segment saw net sales growth of 8.6% over the first quarter of 2011 to $51.9 million. The segment’s first quarter 2012 sales account for 11% of total gross sales for the period.

Overall, the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company rebounded from a $3.7 million loss in the first quarter of 2011 to report net earnings of $4.2 million for the quarter. Net sales jumped 18% over the year –ago period to reach $457.1 million for the first quarter.

Michael Cole, UFP’s chief financial officer, said that weather-related demand could account for between 50% and 75% of the increase in sales, but added that increased market share is also likely a factor.