Serving Canada's Home Improvement Industry

Retailers, Wholesalers, and Manufacturers of Hardware, Building Supplies, Kitchen & Bath, Paint & Decorating, Lawn & Garden, and Other Allied Products.


October 15, 2018

Construction, Retail Largest Underground Sectors

In 2016, three industries accounted for more than half of underground economic activity ‒ residential construction (26.6 per cent), retail trade (13.5 per cent), and accommodation and food services (12.1 per cent), says Statistics Canada. These industries have continued to be the main contributors to underground economic activity in Canada since 1992, the first reference year of this study. Underground economic activity in Canada totaled $51.6 billion in 2016, or 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Since 1992 ‒ the starting point for this study ‒ the underground economy as a proportion of GDP has been relatively stable, reaching a high of 2.7 per cent in 1994 and a low of 2.2 per cent in 2000. The underground economy in Canada increase 3.5 per cent from 2015 to 2016 — higher than the two per cent growth in total economy GDP. In real terms (that is, with price changes removed), the underground economy increased 1.8 per cent, while the total economy was up 1.4 per cent. Of the $51.3 billion in unreported income in 2016, the largest share went to employees (46.8 per cent) in the form of labour compensation. Wages not accounted for in payroll records and tips on undeclared transactions totaled $24.2 billion in 2016, equivalent to 2.3 per cent of official compensation of employees. This amount represented $1,669 for every job in the business sector in 2016. The remaining portion of underground income went to incorporated business owners (28.3 per cent) and unincorporated business owners (25 per cent).

Co-op Country Stores Joins BMR Group

Co-op Country Stores, a banner of 17 stores that specializes in the sale of agricultural products and hardware products, has joined BMR Group. The network of stores includes nine in Nova Scotia, four in New Brunswick, three in Prince Edward Island, and one in Newfoundland and Labrador. The addition of the Co-op Country stores brings the total number of new BMR Group locations in the Maritimes to 22 for the year 2018.

Young Workers Could Alleviate Canada's Labour Shortage

While small businesses are facing record-high job vacancy rates and ongoing labour shortages in certain sectors, youth unemployment remains almost twice as high as the Canadian average, says a report by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). Many young people start their careers in small businesses, but more than half of employers say that high schools do not adequately prepare them for the jobs of today. The report recommends that high schools and post-secondary institutions collaborate with the business community to help close the gap by revamping their curriculums to emphasize soft skills like workplace communication, problem solving, and networking and promoting careers in the trades. Governments and schools must create more work-integrated learning opportunities, such as co-ops and internships, especially in sectors experiencing labour shortages. Governments can further improve the accessibility of work-integrated learning opportunities and encourage more small businesses to take on inexperienced workers by offsetting the cost of hiring through measures like co-op tax credits or a holiday on employment insurance premiums for young employees.

Hitachi Koki Changes Name

Georgia-based Hitachi Koki U.S.A., Ltd. has changed its corporate name to Koki Holdings America Ltd., for the U.S. and Canada. The company is the North American division of Koki Holdings Co., Ltd. headquartered in Japan. Koki owns several brands including HiKOKI, Metabo, Metabo HPT, Tanaka, and Sankyo. In North America, Koki is overseeing the name change from Hitachi Power Tools to Metabo HPT in mid-October.

Milwaukee Acquires Imperial Blades

Wisconsin-based Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation, a subsidiary of Techtronic Industries Co. Ltd., has acquired Imperial Blades, also based in Wisconsin. Imperial Blades is the original inventor of the universal shank for use on oscillating multi-tools and also manufactures oscillating blades and a broad range of accessory solutions. Founded in 2008, the company has grown at an impressive rate with new product technology such as Storm Titanium coating and the Carbide Extreme Blade.

Northwest Territories Implements Energy Rebates Programs

The governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories are working together to support residents and businesses in the Northwest Territories to implement energy efficient programs. A federal investment of $23 million and territorial investment of $7.4 million will go towards climate action programs including energy rebates and incentives, winterization upgrades for low-income owner-occupied homes, and new electric heat incentives for commercial buildings. The investment is part of the government of Canada's Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund which provides $1.4 billion to provinces and territories that have adopted Canada's clean-growth and climate action plan, the Pan-Canadian Framework, to deliver on commitments that tackle climate change, increase economic growth, and create good middle-class jobs.

Martin To Succeed Binkley

Carey Martin will be chief human resources officer at Whirlpool Corporation, effective March 1. Currently, she is vice-president of global human resources. She will succeed David Binkley, who plans to retire. Binkley has held the position since 2004.

October 12, 2018

Economic Growth Anticipated To Gear Down

The Canadian economy is at a crossroads in the business cycle; either strong economic growth will lead to inflationary pressures or growth will slow to a more moderate and sustainable rate of expansion, says the ‘Deloitte Economic Advisory.’ In its first outlook, Deloitte anticipates the latter — that the Canadian economy will gear down. Real GDP growth in Canada is expected to slow to two per cent this year, edge slightly lower in 2019 and fall to 1.4 per cent by 2020. This will reflect weaker consumer spending and the impact of a slowing global economy, with U.S. protectionism still posing a key international risk. Tighter monetary policy in North America and Europe will also play a role in tempering growth, but such policy also presents risks. “The signs that the North American economy is in the late stages of a business cycle are all around us, from a record long bull market in U.S. equities to low unemployment rates and rising central bank rates,” says Craig Alexander chief economist at Deloitte Canada. “The negotiation of USMCA reduces the downside risks to the Canadian economy and economic growth should persist. However, businesses should still prepare for more moderate domestic demand growth and a weaker U.S. economy over the medium term.”

September Housing Start Trends Lower

The trend in housing starts was 207,768 units in September 2018, compared to 213,966 units in August 2018, says the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). This was a 19-month low, following declines in four of the last five months. CMHC says the slowdown in the pace of new residential construction activity in recent months is a result of both lower single-detached and multi-starts activity and brings new residential construction closer to its long-run average from the elevated levels registered in 2017. Housing starts in the Vancouver, BC, census metropolitan area (CMA) trended lower in September as fewer projects in both the single-detached and multi-family sectors got underway. Starts in Winnipeg, MB, continued higher with a number of new condominium projects started. Toronto, ON, total housing starts trended higher in September, as the decline in the single-detached starts trend was more than offset by rising multi-unit starts. In Quebec, the trend of housing starts decreased in the third quarter. However, the year-to-date total is slightly higher than that of the first nine months of 2017, due to the strength of Montreal CMA rental apartment starts. The standalone monthly SAAR of housing starts for all areas in Canada was 188,683 units in September, down from 198,843 units in August. The SAAR of urban starts decreased by 5.9 per cent in September to 175,653 units. Multiple urban starts decreased by 8.9 per cent to 122,656 units while single-detached urban starts increased by two per cent to 52,997 units.

Walmart To Refurbish Stores

Walmart Canada will invest $175 million into its network of stores. Several stores across the country will be refurbished or updated to provide a comprehensive omni-channel experience featuring a seamless intersection of the in-store and online shopping experience. Twenty-three stores across the country are set for renovation before February 2019. The enhancements will include physical updates to provide a refreshed look and feel including wider aisles, updated colour palette, new signage, and, in some stores, an updated exterior store front design to provide clearer access. This initiative builds upon other recent investments including upgrades and new features for grocery delivery and pickup, the building of a fulfillment centre in Surrey, BC, and an intention to convert 100 per cent of its fleet to alternative power by 2028.

Shopify Opens LA Physical Store

Shopify, a provider of retail payment and logistics management software, has opened its first physical storefront in Los Angeles, CA. The first bricks-and-mortar location for the Toronto, ON-based company will display the company’s new line of hardware products and array of services it provides to businesses. The city is one of the most dense conglomerations of Shopify customers with over 10,000 merchants using the company’s technologies in the greater Los Angeles area. Customers can expect to see demonstrations and tutorials of how Shopify’s tools and features work. Showrooms displaying the work that Shopify does with some of its close partners will also show how business owners can turn their product visions into actual businesses. Like Apple, Shopify is staffing its store with experts on the platform who can walk new customers or would-be customers through whatever troubleshooting they may need.

Lowe’s Canada Partners With Club De Soccer Longueuil

Club de soccer Longueuil and Lowe’s Canada have signed a major partnership for the 2018/2019 to 2020/2021 soccer seasons. “By becoming a major partner of Club de soccer Longueuil, we are encouraging healthy lifestyles and offering young people on Montreal's South Shore ‒ where our head office is and where most of our employees and their families live ‒ an opportunity to reach their full potential through this sport,” says Jean-Sébastien Lamoureux, senior vice-president, communications, public affairs, and compliance at Lowe's Canada. Lowe's Canada jerseys for recreational and semi-professional athletes were officially unveiled last week at the ‘Amicale haut niveau’ tournament which took place in Longueuil, QC.

Canadian Tire, Kidde Canada Launch CO Awareness Campaign

Canadian Tire, Kidde Canada, and Scout Environmental (with support from Health Canada) have partnered together to launch the ‘Detect to Protect’ campaign. The campaign helps Canadians stay informed about carbon monoxide (CO), a dangerous pollutant. It includes giveaways, in-store events, and discounts on CO alarms. CO is an odourless, colourless, tasteless gas that leads to more than 300 deaths each year in Canada, all of which are preventable. Throughout November, all Canadian Tire stores across the country will be offering discounts on CO alarms. Additionally, Detect to Protect event ambassadors will be providing tips on CO prevention in select Canadian Tire locations ‒ as well as offering customers a chance to win prizes.

Dupuis Has New Role

Ray Dupuis is senior business development manager for the wholesale plumbing channel at Spectrum Brands Inc. He will be responsible for driving specification wins in the new construction space for Spectrum’s Pfister and Fortis brands. He has 20 years of experience in sales and leadership in the wholesale plumbing industry and joins Spectrum from Zurn Canada, where he was the national sales manager.

Show Focuses On Window, Door Industry

Members of the window and door industry will have the opportunity to visit 150 exhibits; source new ideas, products, and services; learn about industry-related issues and upcoming trends; and network with industry colleagues from across Canada and the U.S. at the 2018 WinDoor Show. It takes place December 3 to 5 at the Quebec City Convention Centre in Quebec City, QC. For more information, visit WinDoor

October 11, 2018

Non-residential Drives Increase

Canadian municipalities issued $8.1 billion worth of building permits in August, up 0.4 per cent from July, says Statistics Canada. Strength in the non-residential sector drove the increase, while the residential sector declined for the third consecutive month. In the non-residential sector, $3.2 billion worth of permits were issued in August, up 8.8 per cent from the previous month. Both the institutional (25.8 per cent) and commercial (8.9 per cent) components contributed to the gain, which was largely the result of the issuance of permits for a new hospital in Ontario and new office buildings in British Columbia. Meanwhile, the value of industrial permits fell 5.9 per cent in August to $677 million. This followed a 13.4 per cent gain in July as multiple permits were issued that month for transportation terminals and manufacturing structures in Ontario and Alberta. Municipalities issued $5 billion worth of residential permits in August, down 4.4 per cent from July and marking the third consecutive monthly decline for the sector. Five of the six provinces that posted decreases had lower intentions for both single and multi-family construction. The value of permits for single-family dwellings was down 5.2 per cent to $2.2 billion, maintaining the general downward trend that began in January 2018. While eight provinces posted decreases in the month, Ontario and British Columbia contributed the most to the decline.

September Dodge Momentum Index Moves Lower

The Dodge Momentum Index dropped 2.6 per cent in September to 159.5 from the revised August reading of 163.7. The index is a monthly measure of the first (or initial) report for non-residential building projects in planning, which have been shown to lead construction spending for non-residential buildings by a full year. Both components of the index were lower with the commercial component down 4.3 per cent and the institutional component down 0.1 per cent. The index has now fallen for two consecutive months; however, due to a very strong reading in July it increased 0.8 per cent from the second quarter to the third quarter. The index may seem to have lost some impetus, but this can be attributed to outsized gains in the late spring and summer, says Dodge Data & Analytics. In fact, the index is now returning to a more sustainable level of activity given the overall age of the current construction cycle.

BMR Group Recognized For Digital Transformation

BMR Group was awarded the ‘Digital Shift’ prize at the annual eCommerce event held by the Conseil québécois du commerce de détail (CQCD). The jury selected BMR Group for its digital shift that eloquently reflects digital success and quality at every level, combined with an excellent use of technological tools, says the group. The new BMR website was launched this year, following a major visual and technological transformation. The shift will expand to all of BMR Group’s banners, with an emphasis on an omni-channel approach.

Lowe’s Canada Completes Tree Planting Initiative

Lowe’s Canada has planted 48,658 trees in Canada in partnership with Jour de la Terre Québec and Earth Day Canada. The initiative was a result of the commitment Lowe’s Canada’s made last April to plant a tree for every ECO product (excluding forest products) sold on April 22 as part of its ECO program launch in all corporate and participating affiliated RONA, Reno-Depot, and Lowe’s stores across the country. From mid-May to late June, Jour de la Terre Québec and Earth Day Canada planted over 48,000 trees at various sites in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec with funding from Lowe’s Canada. “By both encouraging customers to purchase ECO products and greening up public spaces, we’re helping create healthy and sustainable environments in the communities where we operate today and for generations to come," says Jean-Sébastien Lamoureux, vice-president, communications, public affairs, and compliance at Lowe’s Canada.

eCommerce Driving SMB Growth

Canadian small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) leveraging eCommerce are growing significantly faster than their offline counterparts, says research from digital payments provider PayPal. SMBs that sell online through PayPal grew 22 per cent year-over-year in 2017, in sharp contrast to offline SMBs, which saw less than one per cent growth year-over-year in 2016. The research shows that international trade opportunities previously pursued mainly by bigger retailers are now much more accessible to small businesses through eCommerce. Encouragingly, the data shows that SMBs in the country are now targeting foreign markets with nearly 30 per cent exporting goods and services to three countries or more. More than 63 per cent of digital SMBs export their goods and services compared to 2014, when only 12 per cent of Canadian SMBs engaged in international trade. Digital SMBs that exported their goods and services experienced three per cent more growth between 2016 and 2017 than non-exporting digital small businesses.

Vibrant Orange Top Colour For 2019-2020 

‘Tropic of conversation,’ a vibrant orange hue full of warmth, joy, and positive energy, has been named the ‘2019 Colour of the Year’ by Beauti-Tone, a division of Home Hardware Stores Limited. The colour is part of the ‘Simon Chang 2019/20 Trend Colour Collection,’ which is made up of 24 hues – some traditional, some contemporary, and some that are downright edgy, says Home. The colours in this collection feature many shades that are deeper, richer, and more intense than on previous Beauti-Tone trend colour cards. The colour collection colours can be used to paint an entire room, but colours like Tropic of Conversation are fun to play with, either as an accent wall, on furniture pieces and interior doors, or hidden spots like inside closets or drawers, says Bev Bell, creative director, Beauti-Tone Paint and Home Products Division, Home Hardware. Beauti-Tone’s ‘Simon Chang 2019/20 Trend Colour Collection’ colours and colour cards are available exclusively at Home Hardware, Home Building Centre, and Home Hardware Building Centre locations across Canada.

Safis To Lead Builder Sales

Kelly Safis has been appointed as general manager of builder sales with Whirlpool Corporation. She has been with the company for 30 years, most recently as director, sales training.

October 10, 2018

USMCA Gets Mixed Reactions

The National Retail Federation (NRF) says retailers are supportive of the USMCA agreement reached by officials in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. NRF CEO and president, Matthew Shay, says the organization is pleased that a deal has been reached that preserves NAFTA’s trilateral framework, which is critical to protecting North American supply chains. As part of the deal, the Canadian government will reduce import and sales taxes for foreign retailers by de minimus threshold, benefiting Canadian consumers. Canadian Tire Corporation said in a statement that it hopes the government will extend the same treatment to Canadian retailers. “Doing so will support Canadian retail workers while further reducing prices for Canadian consumers, a win-win solution that Canadian Tire fully supports.” The BC Lumber Trade Council says it applauds officials for reaching a renewed agreement that “preserves the dispute resolution mechanism previously contained in Chapter 19 of NAFTA.” It says Chapter 10 of the new agreement maintains, for Canada and the U.S only, a binational panel review mechanism for reviewing anti-dumping and countervailing duty determinations by either country. Having a robust and fair dispute resolution mechanism is absolutely critical to maintaining a rules-based trading system and providing an avenue for Canada and Canadian companies to appeal unwarranted duties. Conversely, La Coop fédérée says it is disappointed in the concessions in the USMCA for the agricultural sector. It says it would have been desirable for the USMCA to be concluded with “full protection for supply management, a system that continues to demonstrate its effectiveness and relevance.” The union representing Canada Post says the agreement is an attack on the public postal service and it will be unfair to rural Canadians. Under the USMCA, the duty-free bar gets raised to $40 from $20 on online shopping from the U.S., but items shipped by Canada Post won't qualify for the exemption.

BMR Invests In Travaux Solutions

BMR Group has entered into a commercial agreement with Travaux Solutions whereby BMR Group shall become a shareholder of Travaux Solutions, a family-owned Québec company that specializes in referring construction and renovation contractors. Due to a partnership since 2015, BMR Group has Travaux Solutions in about 30 BMR renovation centres. “This strategic alliance looks very promising for the future. From the very beginning, Travaux Solutions has shown sustained growth and will now allow us to extend our value chain with turnkey services that will drive renovation projects,” says Pascal Houle, CEO of BMR Group. He says incorporating the solutions into BMR stores will turn them into one-stop shops where customers can find their materials, receive expert advice from an expert team, and find a certified contractor to carry out their project.

Epidemic Low Engagement Among U.S. Retail Workers

Nearly 35 per cent of U.S. retail employees feel disengaged at work – and that number is as high as 77 per cent in the UK – likely due to seismic socio-economic changes exacerbated by shifts in technology that have completely transformed the retail business, says ‘The Retail Industry’s Employee Engagement Crisis – And How to Solve It,’ an eBook by StaffConnect, a provider of mobile employee engagement solutions. The eBook reviews the current state of employee engagement in the retail industry and looks at why the sector is experiencing such low levels of disengagement. It discusses the negative consequences of disengagement and shares actionable solutions to help retailers turn the situation around. With today’s mobile technologies, there’s no reason for remote retail workers to lack easy access to the information, communication, and resources they need to more effectively do their jobs, says the eBook. Mobile applications have the ability to reach the entire retail workforce (desk and non-desk employees), facilitate feedback, and generate engagement-related insights and reports. For more information, visit the StaffConnect infographic on the Home Improvement Retailing website.

Lowe’s Appoints Interim CFO

Tiffany L. Mason has been appointed interim chief financial officer for Lowe’s Companies, Inc. She will continue to serve in her current position as senior vice-president, corporate finance and treasurer. She is serving as CFO until David Denton joins the company. Denton was appointed CFO in August, but will join Lowe’s when he finishes his role at CVS Health Corporation.

Costco Sales Increase

Costco Wholesale Corporation had net sales of $43.4 billion for the fourth quarter of its fiscal 2018 year, an increase of five per cent over net sales of $41.4 billion. Comparable sales in Canada increased 5.7 per cent for the quarter compared to the same quarter a year ago and comparable sales for the eCommerce segment increased 26.2 year-over-year. Net income was $1,043 million compared to $919 million.

October 9, 2018

Edmonton Gets New Model Lowe’s

Lowe’s Canada has opened its second store in the greater Edmonton, AB, area featuring the new model store which offers an enhanced shopping experience. The store was designed by taking the best of Lowe’s and RONA’s offerings. Guy Beaumier, executive vice-president, big box, for Lowe’s Canada, says the new model “provides a unique combination of products, services, and financing options to meet the needs of retail consumers and contractors alike.” The store underwent a 16-week physical transformation from a former RONA which involved construction, departmental sequencing of new racking and re-merchandising, branding, and IT conversion, as well as training of staff focused on new product knowledge and customer service. It features a wider assortment of seasonal products such as Halloween decorations, items for the holiday season, and outdoor furniture including the latest fashion trends; a complete selection of appliances and the introduction of entirely new product categories including Lowe’s private labels and top brands such as John Deere, Husqvarna, and Cub Cadet; a broader selection of fashion plumbing products such as tubs, showers, toilets, vanities, sinks, and faucets with the introduction of high-profile brands such as Kohler and Grohe; and floor displays featuring the latest fashions in wood flooring and tiles with larger displays at eye level allowing customers to better visualize their projects and better experience the texture of flooring products. For pros and commercial customers, features include access to a drive-through lumber yard where contractors can load their vehicles directly to save time, as well as have access to a broader lumber assortment; introduction of corporately owned and operated delivery trucks to provide a more personalized level of service for deliveries to contractors; and enhanced assortment in key contractor categories including lumber, building materials, millwork, tools, and hardware. The store marks the company’s 67th store in Canada under the Lowe’s banner and sixth location in the greater Edmonton area.

Atlas Completes Coastal Acquisition

Atlas Engineered Products Ltd. has completed its acquisition of Coastal Windows Ltd. of Nanaimo, BC. Atlas says the Coastal acquisition is a very important element in its long-term strategy. Coastal has a small-footprint and high-quality window manufacturing operation that Atlas will replicate in all its operating regions across Canada. Eventually, Atlas will offer all its customers the option of filling the window openings in the prefabricated walls that Atlas supplies with Coastal’s high-quality windows. This will provide Atlas with a greater wallet share of the construction projects it is able to supply.

HighJump Integrates WCS With WMS

HighJump, a global provider of supply chain solutions, says its warehouse control system (WCS) is now integrated with its warehouse management system (WMS). The WCS provides supply chain professionals with a comprehensive solution suite to capitalize on connected and automated warehouses of tomorrow. It says supply chain professionals are rapidly automating operations to handle eCommerce, shorter delivery windows, and enhanced consumer expectations. With WCS, businesses can integrate and manage the latest automation technologies, such as autonomous mobile robots, while gaining real-time visibility to enhance complex workflows. The WCS works with any material handling equipment (MHE) provider. This creates a single point of data and communication amongst MHE, WCS, and WMS. Supply chain professionals have the insight and agility to adapt to high volumes, single line orders, seasonality, and beyond. 

Inbox Overload Mean Emails Ignored

Despite 47 per cent of consumers ranking eMail as their preferred channel for brand communications, over half (55 per cent) ignore marketing eMails due to inbox overload, says a study from Yes Lifecycle Marketing. Its ‘Surviving the Retail Apocalypse’report found that in addition to inbox overload, subscribers ignore marketing eMails because of irrelevant product recommendations (50 per cent) and content (41 per cent). The findings indicate that many retailers still fail to understand consumer preferences in terms of mailing frequency, timing, and content. Even though consumers will ignore eMails that fall short of their expectations, 42 per cent don't unsubscribe from these communications; instead, they scan the subject lines to determine whether they'll open them. As well, 33 per cent of subscribers ignore marketing eMails if they don't offer a discount or free shipping and 60 per cent will purchase from eMails that offer these incentives. Only 37 per cent of consumers say that the communications they receive from retailers are adequately personalized.

RPM Promotes From Within

Lonny DiRusso has been promoted to vice-president and chief information officer with RPM International Inc. Prior to this promotion, he held the position of vice-president – information technology at RPM for the past 13 years and, before that, the titles of director – information technology and management information systems manager. Matthew Franklin has been promoted to vice-president – information technology. He joined RPM 20 years ago and previously held the position of senior director – IT operations. Gordon Hyde has been promoted to vice-president – operations. He began his career at RPM more than 20 years ago as vice-president – operations for Zinsser, a former RPM operating company, and subsequently held similar positions at RPM and its wood finishes group before joining RPM specialty products group in 2015.

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