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News

June 19, 2017

U.S. Housing Market Back To Normal

A decade after the onset of the Great Recession, the national housing market has, by many measures, returned to normal, says the latest ‘State of the Nation’s Housing Report’ by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. Housing demand, home prices, and construction volumes are all on the rise, and the number of distressed homeowners has fallen sharply. However, along with strengthening demand, extremely tight supplies of both for-sale and for-rent homes are pushing up housing costs and adding to ongoing concerns about affordability. National home prices hit an important milestone in 2016, finally surpassing the pre-recession peak. Nominal prices were up last year in 97 of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas. At the same time, though, the longer-term gains in real prices varied widely across the country, with some markets experiencing home price appreciation of more than 50 per cent since 2000, while others posted only modest gains or even declines.


Groupe BMR Opens Chicoutimi Store

Potvin & Bouchard has opened its store in Chicoutimi, QC. Founded 85 years ago, the company invested $3.1 million to create a 50,000 square-foot store. The renovations included the construction of a more modern facade, the installation of wood structures inside the store, and a new layout of the store’s departments for a more intuitive shopping experience. The goal of this renovation project was to improve customer experience in-store. It is part of a large-scale project to improve store design and customer service for all of Groupe BMR’s corporate stores.


Manufacturing Sales Rise

Manufacturing sales rose 1.1 per cent to a record high $54.4 billion in April, mainly due to higher sales in the petroleum and coal product and primary metal industries, says Statistics Canada. Sales were up in 13 of the 21 industries, representing 62 per cent of Canadian manufacturing sales. Sales were up in eight provinces in April, with Quebec and Alberta largely responsible for the total national gain, while sales were down in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Inventory levels rose for the fifth consecutive month, up 0.9 per cent to $73.4 billion in April. The inventory-to-sales ratio was unchanged at 1.35 in April. Unfilled orders rose for the third consecutive month, up one per cent to $90.2 billion in April, reflecting a 1.7 per cent gain in the aerospace product and parts industry to $49.8 billion. Unfilled orders in this industry represented more than half of total orders. New orders rose 0.4 per cent to $55.3 billion, the fifth consecutive monthly gain.


Intertape To Invest In Woven Products Company

Intertape Polymer Group Inc. plans to acquire a majority stake in India-based Capstone Polyweave Private Limited. The principal purpose of the partnership will be to provide IPG with a globally-competitive supply of certain woven products in order to better serve and grow IPG's woven products business. IPG will be partnering with the current shareholders of Capstone, who are also the shareholders and operators of Airtrax Polymers Private Limited. Airtrax manufactures and sells woven products that are used in various applications, including in the building and construction industry.


June 16, 2017

Home Sales Drop

National home sales posted a sizeable decline in May, with a 6.2 per cent drop from April, says the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). The month-over-month percentage decline was the largest since August 2012. Actual (not seasonally adjusted) activity stood 1.6 per cent below last May's level. The number of newly listed homes went up 0.3 per cent from April to May and 4.3 per cent from May 2016 to this year. While May sales were down from the previous month in about half of all local markets, the sizeable national decline largely reflects a 25.3 per cent month-over-month drop in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) in Ontario. Activity was also down significantly from the previous month across the Greater Golden Horseshoe region. By contrast, activity rose to multi-year highs in Montreal and Quebec City, QC. There were 4.7 months of inventory on a national basis at the end of May. With new listings having surged and sales having declined in some markets within the Greater Golden Horseshoe area in Ontario, the number of months of inventory in the region is up from all-time lows. That said, housing markets in the region remain among the tightest in Canada, with most urban centres in the region still registering less than two months of inventory.


Concern Less Over Engagement

Midsized business owners in the U.S. are now less concerned with employee engagement, compared with the prior year's study, says the ADP Research Institute. Its study, ‘Fixing the Talent Management Disconnect: Employer Perception vs. Employee Reality in the U.S. Midsized Market,’ shows only 34 per cent of respondents this year said it was a top concern, down from 41 per cent the prior year. Most midsized companies lack a formal approach to manage employee engagement. Only 27 per cent have a formal process in place for performance management and even less ‒ 26 percent ‒ have a formal process in place for training and learning development. They also said they lack the tools needed to keep and grow talent. "Midsized business owners clearly have a lot on their plates these days," says John Ayala, president of major account services at ADP. "But clearly, midsized business owners can't be so distracted by what's going on in national or state governments that they neglect their most important asset ‒ their people."


Building Materials Drive U.S. Retail Sales

Advance adjusted estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for May were $473.8 billion, a decrease of 0.3 per cent from April and a 3.8 per cent increase over May 2016, says the U.S. Census Bureau. Total sales for the March through May period were up 4.4 per cent from the same period a year ago. Retail trade sales were down 0.3 per cent from April, and up four per cent from last year. Sales for building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers were up 10.8 per cent and sales for non-store retailers were up 10.2 per cent from last year.


Arrow Fastener Develops Display System

Arrow Fastener Company has created an in-store display system to make the shopping process for customers trouble-free and the selling process for retail associates easier. The manufacturer has been steadily upgrading its branding, packaging, and product designs to strengthen both its brand and retail presentation. However, in order to increase sales and profitability, it focused on merchandising. “We continue to conduct a great deal of research with consumers and with our retailers to help ensure that the in-store experience is a positive one,” says Gregg Malanga, product manager. “The way products are presented is a crucial component. Arrow’s new displays make it easier to see and browse products and deliver a good brand experience.” The display unit provides education at the point of purchase, offers uniformity with a consistent experience, and features a logical good/better/best progression to help consumers make their decision.


Voice Controls Coffee Machine

Consumers can now control the Bosch Built-in Coffee Machine with Home Connect, via voice control through Amazon Alexa. As well, Amazon Dash Replenishment integration enables automatic delivery of detergent tabs for Bosch dishwashers and additional Home Connect skills will soon allow consumers to operate a variety of Bosch appliance categories via voice control. Home Connect is a cross-brand solution that enables smart control of connected home appliances. Through an app, consumers can operate and monitor select Bosch appliances remotely. The 2017 Bosch collection of smart appliances with Home Connect includes a built-in coffee machine, dishwasher, laundry pair, wall oven and refrigerator, and will expand further in the coming years.


June 15, 2017

CFIB Praises Surcharge Decision

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is praising announcements from Visa and Mastercard that they will soon allow merchants the power to levy limited surcharges when accepting credit card payments from consumers. For several years, CFIB called on the credit card industry to allow merchants to surcharge some or certain types of credit cards, such as premium cards, in order to provide merchants additional powers to address their rising costs. “The ability to add a small surcharge to accept a credit card payment – particularly for higher cost premium credit cards – is an important power to have, but it is not expected to be widely used by smaller merchants,” says Dan Kelly, president of CFIB. However, the group believes the ability to surcharge will be helpful in guarding against future credit card fee increases as merchants could take collective action in the face of a large fee hike. “Very few Canadians know that Interac debit has always allowed surcharging and this power is used in very limited circumstances – typically by very small merchants selling low-ticket priced items.”


Westlock Home Hardware Reopens After Flood

Westlock, AB, Home Hardware has re-opened after closing its doors to the lower level due to a flood in August 2016. The store renovated the basement and will host a grand re-opening with promotional savings for customers. “The effects of a flood can be devastating,” says Blair Kneller, dealer-owner. “It has been a long eight months of getting the store basement back together. The support from everyone has been amazing during this time and we look forward to being able to help our customers with all of their project needs.” The renovated basement now includes a cement floor with expanded retail space and larger inventory. Seasonal products are also available year-round including hockey, biking, and camping and fishing equipment.


IKEA Selects Rethink

Rethink Communications has been selected as creative agency of record for IKEA Canada. Its mission is to deliver original and breakthrough creative for the Canadian market in all media channels. It will be a key contributor to IKEA Canada's continued success as a leader in the home furnishings market and support the organization's coast-to-coast expansion plans.


Canadians Challenged By Floor Cleaning

When it comes to time to clean house, most Canadians surveyed say they prefer to do the job themselves instead of relying on a partner or family members, says a survey by Vileda Canada. At the same time, most say they would not turn down a helping hand if their favourite Canadian celebrity like Ryan Reynolds, Jim Carrey, or Pamela Anderson dropped by with a mop in hand. The survey shows that 64 per cent of Canadians prefer to clean their home alone; with women feeling more strongly so (71 per cent) than men (56 per cent). Canadians spend on average just under three hours a week house-cleaning, with floors named the most challenging cleaning issue.


June 14, 2017

Personalized Service Needed To Compete

Nearly half of avid U.S. online shoppers bought items from international retailers, demonstrating the need for retailers to offer more personalized services as a way to compete against lower prices, says the sixth annual ‘UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper’ study. It found that almost all avid U.S. online shoppers (97 per cent), made purchases on marketplaces, up 12 points from 2016, and that 81 per cent cite price as the most important factor when searching for and selecting products online. According to respondents who purchased from an international retailer (47 per cent), 43 per cent were driven by lower prices on U.S. marketplaces and 36 per cent wanted unique products not found from U.S. retailers. Of the 47 per cent of U.S. consumers who purchased from an international retailer on a U.S. online marketplace, the majority of these retailers are based in China (61 per cent), the UK (23 per cent), Canada (15 per cent), and Japan (14 per cent). China is now the biggest eCommerce market in the world with approximately US$900 billion in 2016 sales, accounting for nearly half of all digital retail sales worldwide


Napanee Home Hardware Celebrates Tree Day

Napanee Home Hardware is celebrating National Tree Day and Canada’s 150th anniversary with Tree Canada and by planting trees and shrubs around the elementary school in Greater Napanee, ON. Students and teachers at a local public school will plant more than 100 native species to create a hedgerow of lilacs around the school’s soccer field as well as a forest of native trees and shrubs in one corner of the schoolyard. The planting initiative represents the seventh anniversary of National Tree Day, held annually to remind Canadians of the numerous health and environmental benefits provided by trees. Although Tree Day is normally held in September, drought conditions caused the school to postpone it last year until this spring.


Superior Glove Offers Safety Education

Superior Glove is changing its style for the American Society of Safety Engineer (ASSE) conference and expo. Rather than focusing solely on product innovations, it will also be educating audiences about workplace safety in its presentation ‘The Top Five Facts You Need to Know to be Safer at Work.’ In 2015, hand injuries were the second most common workplace injury, accounting for nearly one in 10 emergency room visits according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). First showcased at the ‘Partners in Prevention’ health and safety conference in Toronto, ON, the presentation looks at risks in the workplace, opportunities for improvement, and actionable steps to keep workers safe. Over 4,400 occupational health and safety professionals will be attending ASSE's Safety 2017 conference and expo June 19 to 22 at the Denver Convention Center in Denver, CO. For information, visit: http://www.asse.org/


Sears Canada Revenue Drops

Sears Canada Inc.’s revenue was $505.5 million in the first quarter, a decline of 15.2 per cent compared to the same quarter last year. The difference between this decline and the same stores sales increase of 2.9 per cent was primarily due to the decline in revenues in the company's direct business, a result of a planned and significant reduction in catalogues versus last year in response to lower customer demand, some products not being available on the new website during the period while back-end logistics technology was under development, and a planned decline in the number of merchandise pick-up locations to reduce costs. The net loss for the first quarter was $144.4 million compared to a net loss of $63.6 million in the same quarter last year. However, it continues to focus on its new format, with 10 stores planned to be completed between June and August. Including the four stores launched in 2016, this will provide Sears customers with 14 new format stores by the end of fiscal 2017.


June 13, 2017

Canadian Economy Hums Along

The Canadian economy is humming along as the country nears its 150th birthday, says RBC’s ‘Economic Outlook’ quarterly report. Consumer spending, housing starts, and a strong turnaround in business investment are largely responsible for the continued momentum that has built on the robust gains in the second half of last year. It expects real gross domestic product (GDP) to grow by 2.6 per cent in 2017 and 2.1 per cent in 2018. Continuing an eight-year trend, consumers are expected to provide a large lift to the economy in 2017. With business investment on the rise and government spending on infrastructure ramping up, it projects the economy will grow at nearly double the average pace of the prior two years. "Canada's economy is on track to post its strongest gain in three years", says Craig Wright, senior vice-president and chief economist at RBC. "While we don't discount the risk of a slowdown resulting from the pending renegotiation of NAFTA or the expected cooling of the housing market, we remain confident the economy will continue to grow at an above-potential pace for the remainder of this year."


Manitoba Home Hardware Re-opens

Morris, MB-based Morris Home Hardware has re-opened after combining three stores into one with a significant expansion. The original location, purchased by Allen Chen in 2015, had three buildings – an initial store with two buildings across the street. The initial store has now increased from 6,000 to 10,000 square feet. Chen says he’s excited to showcase his products all under one roof.


Intertape Makes Acquisition

Intertape Polymer Group Inc., a manufacturer of packaging products and machinery, will acquire substantially all of the assets of Canadian Technical Tape Ltd., a privately-owned North American supplier of industrial and specialty tapes based in Montreal, QC. The acquisition will further enhance and extend its product offering and provide additional distribution channels for IPG products in Canada, the U.S., and Europe. Cantech has three manufacturing facilities within North America located in Montreal, QC; Cornwall, ON; and Johnson City, TN.


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