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News

February 6, 2018

Accessibility, Investment Top Home Buying Motivators

Improved accessibility and investment opportunity are the top motivators for buying a home for first-time buyers, previous owners, and current owners in 2017, finds a survey by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). Conversely, changes to mortgage regulations and concerns about possible future interest rate increases were not among the top motivators for prospective home buyers. More than 40 per cent of first-time buyers and previous owners say they would delay their home purchase if they were not able to find their ideal home. An existing move-in-ready home is the top choice for all groups, followed by a newly-constructed home, noted by roughly one-fifth of first-time buyers and previous owners. Among all groups, the two most common actions completed one or two years prior to the purchase of a home are saving for a down payment and determining what type of home to buy. The majority of future home buyers intend to obtain a mortgage to finance their home purchase, with first-time buyers showing higher incidence compared to previous owners and current owners. Across all groups of future home buyers, more than 60 per cent say they are likely to have a financial buffer in case their expenses change in the future.


Renoworks Builds Its Base

Increasing demand from manufacturers resulted in entirely new product categories being added to Renoworks Software Inc.’s visualizer technology platform, including interior trim and fireplaces. The company offers building products manufacturers a number of different digital marketing and sales solutions that highlight the products they manufacture. Manufacturers can develop digital product libraries to expand their distribution channel on the Renoworks PRO platform which includes remodelers and new home builders. They can also incorporate the full Renoworks solution suite into different marketing and sales initiatives including online visualizers, mobile applications, builder and channel programs, or integrated pricing solutions.


Lowe’s To Hire 7,000

Lowe’s Canada is holding a cross-country hiring day on February 24 to hire more than 7,000 employees for Lowe’s, RONA, and Reno-Depot stores across Canada. The hiring event is in preparation for spring – the busiest season of the year for the retailer. Positions include full-time, part-time, and seasonal. Lowe’s Canada operates more than 630 corporate and dealer stores in Canada under different banners. Potential candidates can walk into any Lowe’s, RONA, or Reno-Depot corporate store across the country between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to learn more about employment opportunities, fill out applications, and take part in on-the-spot interviews.


Foulkes Leads HBC

Helena Foulkes is chief executive officer of HBC. She joins the company from CVS Health, where she served as executive vice-president of CVS Health and president of CVS Pharmacy.


ScottsMiracle-Gro Sales Rise

The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company had sales of $221.5 million in its first fiscal quarter, an increase of seven per cent over sales of $207.4 million in the first quarter of 2017. Gross margin rates decreased to 15.3 per cent from 17.7 per cent. GAAP loss from continuing operations was $20 million for the quarter compared with a loss of $58.1 million a year ago. Non-GAAP adjusted loss from continuing operations was $62.2 million compared with $52.6 million.


Revenues Increase At Ingersoll-Rand

Ingersoll-Rand plc had net revenues of $3,618 million in the fourth quarter of 2017, an increase of eight per cent over net revenues of $3,359 million in the fourth quarter of 2016. Operating income for the quarter was $387 million, up 10 per cent over operating income of $353 million a year ago. Adjusted operating margin was 11.1 per cent versus 10.9 last year. The company says residential HVAC product, channel, and digital investments continue to yield market share gains in a healthy market.


February 5, 2018

Employers Spending More On Employee Development

Canadian organization spending on learning and development has been steadily increasing since the end of 2010, says the Conference Board of Canada. Its ‘Learning and Development Outlook’ shows employers spent, on average, $889 per employee on learning and development in 2016-17, an increase of $89 per employee since 2014-15. The average number of hours of learning per employee per year is also on the rise, increasing from 25 hours in 2010 to 32 hours in 2016-17. The report says organizations with strong learning cultures exhibit better overall organizational performance in the areas of employee engagement, customer satisfaction, overall productivity, and overall leadership performance compared to organizations with weak learning cultures. Yet, although Canadian organizations are indicating that learning is a top priority for them, approximately 58 per cent say that they have experienced challenges in their business environments in the past few years that have directly impacted their learning and development strategies or budgets.


Retail Sales On A Roll

November data shows retail sales growth is back on track to come in at a 20-year high, says retail consultant Ed Strapagiel. With one month of data left, the momentum indicates that December is unlikely to disappoint. The 12-month growth trend improved considerably during much of 2017, while the three-month trend weakened slightly, but is still running at a historically high pace, he says. The automotive and related sector boosted sales throughout the year, with store merchandise also particularly strong. Building material and garden equipment/supplies dealers and electronics and appliance stores are leading the way with double digit year-to-date retail sales growth of 13 per cent and 12.5 per cent respectively. All retail store types in this sector are posting positive sales increases. Home furnishings stores are up just 1.6 per cent year-to-date after 11 months of 2017, but even this is ahead of what grocery stores are producing. Overall year-to-date results for 2017 (11 months) show that Canadian eCommerce sales are up 36.6 per cent from a year ago, a much higher gain than for retail in general. Total eCommerce sales are estimated at $15.5 billion while bricks-and-mortar location-based retailers sold an estimated $6.8 billion in eCommerce sales for the 12 months ending November.


Lowe’s Enhances U.S. Benefits

Lowe's Companies, Inc. says it will enhance benefits for U.S. full-time employees. The company will also offer a one-time bonus of up to $1,000 for its more than 260,000 hourly employees. The bonus will be paid in addition to the company's store-level bonus program. Now, in addition to the company's benefits program, eligible full-time hourly and salaried U.S. employees will qualify to receive 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and two weeks of paid parental leave; an adoption assistance benefit to cover up to $5,000 of expenses related to agency, legal and other fees; and eligibility to enroll in health benefits sooner.


Vogue USA To Build Brand

Designer heating solutions manufacturer Vogue USA, has appointed home interior specialist PR consultancy Publicity Engineers to commence all trade and consumer public relations on its behalf for U.S. and Canada international press. Vogue USA brings its heating portfolio from the UK, which includes heated towel dryers, designer radiators, and heating accessories for both residential and commercial projects. The PR agency will help the company develop and grow its brand and business to reach its core demographics in the U.S. and Canadian markets heading into 2018.


USG Sales Up

USG Corporation had consolidated net sales of $831 million for the fourth quarter of 2017, an increase from net sales of $734 million in the fourth quarter of 2016. Net income decreased to $95 million from $510 million and adjusted net income increased to $264 million from $251 million. Operating profit increased to $87 million from $59 million, while adjusted operating profit increased to $106 million from $96 million for the quarter. The company had a net loss of $62 million, compared with net income of $307 million a year ago. The U.S. wallboard and surfaces segment generated $80 million of operating profit in the quarter, U.S. performance materials generated $80 million in operating profit, and U.S. ceilings generated $25 million of operating profit.


Income Turns Around For Resolute

Resolute Forest Products Inc. had net income of $13 million for the fourth quarter of 2017, up from a loss of $45 million in the fourth quarter of 2016. Sales were $898 million for the quarter, an increase of $9 million over the year-ago period. Operating income was $54 million, an $88 million increase over operating loss of $18 million a year ago. The wood products segment had operating income of $57 million in the quarter compared to $64 million in the previous quarter. EBITDA for the segment was $65 million compared to $73 million.


February 2, 2018

Spending On AI To Increase Fourfold

Global retailer spending on artificial intelligence (AI) is forecast to grow nearly fourfold, reaching $7.3 million by 2022, says Juniper Research. This is up from an estimated $2 billion in 2018 as retailers target new avenues to increase personalization of the customer experience. ‘AI in Retail: Disruption, Analysis and Opportunities: 2018-2022’ shows that retailers will heavily invest in AI tools that allow them to differentiate and improve the services they offer customers. These range from automated marketing platforms that generate tailored, timely offers, to chatbots that provide instant customer service. Spending will be strongest in customer service and sentiment analytics where AI can be applied to understand customer reaction to the products purchased and the service received. This will prove to be a key tool for retailers seeking to improve their customer experience. Fifty-four per cent of spending on AI will be towards customer service and sentiment analytics, with 30 per cent of spending on AI-based automatic marketing, and 16 per cent on demand forecasting. It predicts that retailers will use AI insights to design and target new product ranges, as well as to create promotional offers.


Ply Gem Acquired To Merge With Atrium

Private equity firms Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (CD&R) and Golden Gate Capital plan to acquire Atrium Windows & Doors and Ply Gem Holdings, Inc. to merge the companies and form an exterior building products company that will provide enhanced product breadth and a stronger North American platform. Ply Gem’s board of directors has unanimously approved the agreement. Ply Gem will continue to be headquartered in North Carolina and Gary E. Robinette will continue as chairman and chief executive officer. The transactions are expected to close in the second quarter of 2018. Closing of the acquisition of Ply Gem is not subject to the closing of the acquisition of Atrium.


Lowe’s Opens Store In Alberta

Lowe’s Canada opened its 63rd store under the Lowe’s banner in Canada. Located in St. Albert, AB, this store marks the sixth Lowe’s location in the Greater Edmonton Area. It features a retail offering space totaling more than 107,000 square feet, including 86,800 square feet of retail sales space, and an adjacent garden centre of 21,100 square feet. It features 40,000 products in-stock with thousands more available through special order and on the Lowe’s website. Products will include an extensive assortment of top-of-the line appliances, a year-round selection of barbecues, a wide assortment of seasonal products, and an extensive assortment of stylish home and outdoor décor, and home organization products for the house and garage.


Consumers Like Year-round Outdoor Spaces

Consumers will adopt more of a year-round mindset regarding their outdoor spaces, says Trex Company in its annual outdoor living forecast. The company says the drivers behind this trend are modern high-performance materials and innovative design approaches. However, just because people will spend more time outdoors doesn’t mean they’re willing to put in extra hours for care and maintenance. The company says high maintenance materials such as wood are seeing a decrease in demand as consumers opt for lower maintenance offerings that deliver performance and sustainability. It forecasts that wood alternatives, particularly composite decking, will experience above average gains in demand through 2020. The hottest design influences include comfort and coziness with accents such as plush cushions, protective pergolas, and other cozy warming features. Modern, metal finishes and sleek designs will also abound, as homeowners become inspired by commercial architecture in settings such as hotels and urban rooftops.


Neutrals, Earth Tones Top Brick Trends

Fired-clay brick trends this year feature whites, greys, black, deep reds, painted, and glazed brick with overall larger sizes, says the Brick Industry Association (BIA). As well, clean, cool shades top the trends at all home price ranges, primarily whites with white mortar and all greys from light to charcoal to steel. Sandy earth tones are also trending, reflecting how fired-clay brick is made from abundant natural resources. Sleek, black brick is also gaining popularity – especially for restaurants and office spaces – and gaining ground in the residential sector. Residential black and dark grey brick is trending primarily for contemporary and art deco looks, along with re-emerging blended reds in a rolled edge texture. For inside the home, genuine thin brick is booming for kitchens, entrance foyers, accent walls, and other interior applications. Painted brick is also on the rise.


Laflamme Leads Resolute

Yves Laflamme is president and chief executive officer of Resolute Forest Products Inc., succeeding Richard Garneau who is retiring. Previously, Laflamme was senior vice-president, wood products, global procurement, and information technology, for Resolute.


Griffon Revenue Strong

Griffon Corporation had revenue of $473.3 million for the first quarter of 2018, an increase of 24 per cent compared to revenue in the first quarter of 2017. Home and building products (HBP) revenue was $371 million, an increase of 40 per cent year over year. Income from continuing operations was $22.8 million, compared to $7 million in the year ago period. EBITDA was $43.7 million, an increase of nine per cent over last year.


February 1, 2018

Retailers Want Better Sourcing

Heading into 2018, retailers will begin to demand better tools to facilitate B2B buying, a trillion-dollar market currently divided between 1.2 million retailers, says a white paper by Hubba, a global B2B commerce network. ‘The Curated Future: Why less selection, not more, will be the defining retail trend in 2018’ shows that most retailers (90 per cent) are actively trying to grow distribution to curate a relevant assortment of products for their consumers, who face a paradox of choice in an over-saturated market. Hubba says 75 per cent of methods buyers use to source new products currently involve no digital technology, yet over 40 per cent of those interviewed express interest in a B2B rating system and digital solution to identify the right products for their specific customers. The paper shows quality, not quantity, will become the defining retail experience. As well, independent retailers will consolidate their power and improve their economies of scale while increasing their products’ speed and efficiency to shelf.


U.S. Consumer Conference Back Up

The U.S. Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index increased in January, following a decline in December. The index now stands at 125.4, up from 123.1 in December. The Present Situation Index decreased slightly, from 156.5 to 155.3, while the Expectations Index increased from 100.8 last month to 105.5 this month. The board says consumers’ assessment of current conditions was slightly less positive in December, while their assessment of business conditions was mixed. The percentage saying business conditions are good decreased slightly from 35.8 per cent to 34.9 per cent, while those saying business conditions are bad increased slightly, from 11.7 per cent to 12.7 per cent. Consumers’ assessment of the labour market was also mixed. The percentage of consumers claiming jobs are plentiful increased from 36.3 per cent to 37.6 per cent, while those claiming jobs are hard to get increased marginally, from 16 per cent to 16.4 per cent.


Housing Markets Remain Vulnerable

While improving conditions were noted in both Winnipeg, MB, and Saskatoon, SK, Canada's housing markets remain highly vulnerable overall for the sixth consecutive quarter with evidence of overvaluation and price acceleration, says Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). CMHC's ‘Housing Market Assessment’ (HMA) finds that while overvaluation at the national level remains moderate, markets in Toronto and Hamilton, ON, and Vancouver and Victoria, BC, are highly vulnerable due to price acceleration and overvaluation. CMHC defines vulnerability as imbalances in the housing market. Imbalances occur when overbuilding, overvaluation, overheating, and price acceleration or combinations of these depart significantly from historical averages.


TIMBER MART Gets Commercial Member

Central Construction Materials has joined the commercial arm of TIMBER MART. The Parksville, BC, business has been serving contractors and builders throughout Vancouver Island since 2004 with a variety of building materials including gypsum, insulation, steel, roofing, masonry, and siding. Its three-acre property is comprised of a 17,000-square-foot storage yard, as well as two buildings which house 17 full-time staff. Allan Versteeg, buyer for Central Construction Materials, says the company chose TIMBER MART because it will provide them with the buying power and programs it needs to better compete in the commercial market.


ITOCHU To Acquire Alta Forest Products

ITOCHU Corporation and ITOCHU International Inc. plan to acquire all membership interests of Alta Forest Products LLC from Canadian company E.R. Probyn Ltd. and U.S.-based Welso Lumber Company. Alta is one of the largest wood fence board manufacturers in North America, producing 360 million board feet annually in its four manufacturing plants. The company has established a leading position in the market for western red cedar fence boards. The acquisition will strengthen ITOCHU’s position in the North American fence distribution industry. It already owns MASTER-HALCO Inc, which operates five chain link fence manufacturing plants and 53 distribution centres in North America.


Epicor Makes Appointments

David Mehok is chief financial officer with Epicor Software Corporation. Previously, he was chief financial officer for CLEAResult. Clarke Pich is head of global professional services. Most recently, he was group vice-president of the commercial segment of the North American cloud consulting sales team at Oracle.


3M Sales Solid

3M had sales of $8 billion for the fourth quarter of 2017, an increase of nine per cent over sales in the fourth quarter of 2016. Fourth-quarter operating income was $1.8 billion and operating income margin was 22.8 per cent. Total sales grew 15 per cent in safety and graphics, 12.5 per cent in electronics and energy, 7.3 per cent in consumer, 6.9 per cent in industrial, and six per cent in healthcare. Latin America/Canada sales increased 2.5 per cent year over year. In the consumer segment, sales grew in consumer healthcare, home improvement, and stationery and office, while sales in home care were flat.


January 31, 2018

Fair Housing Plan Affects Toronto Home Sales

The ‘psychological’ effects of the government of Ontario’s fair housing strategy contributed to an 18 per cent dip in home sales last year, says the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB). In a report recapping the 2017 sales year, TREB says the provincial plan to improve housing affordability spiked what had been a record-setting first quarter of 2017. The Ontario Fair Housing Plan (FHP) was announced in the spring and included new measures such as a 15 per cent tax on foreign buyers, actions to increase the housing supply, and rent controls. TREB statistics show a decline in sales over the second and third quarters, but the board's analysts say actual policy changes were not the primary factor. In fact, sales rebounded toward the end of the year, suggesting a waning effect of the FHP. By year's end, 92,395 homes changed hands, down from more than 113,000 transactions in 2016. TREB forecasts between 85,000 and 95,000 transactions in 2018, which represents a likely decrease from 2017.


Gender Diversity Could Increase Profitability

Hiring more women will grow a company’s profitability, says a survey by McKinsey & Co. After a global analysis of more than 1,000 companies, the firm found that the organizations that were in the top 25 percentile for gender diversity at the executive level were 21 per cent more likely to have above-average profitability when compared with companies with lower levels of gender diversity. Women have different strengths and assets than men, says Jack Skeen, a Fortune 500 leadership coach and author. He says that having female executives also changes the way potential clients view a company. “Studies have shown that people view women as more trustworthy and this could help in building valuable business connections.” He says that employers would be wise to keep studies like this in mind. “When our companies are inclusive and diverse, they are stronger … and so are we.”


Fenestration Specs Released

The 2017 edition of ‘AAMA/WDMA/CSA 101/I.S.2/A440, NAFS ‒ North American Fenestration Standard/Specification for windows, doors, and skylights’ (NAFS) has received final approval and is now available. This standard is the result of a multi-year effort by the American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA), CSA Group (CSA), and Window & Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA). The updated 2017 standard replaces the 2011 edition of the joint standard. The 2011 NAFS standard is already referenced in the 2015 editions of the ‘International Building Code’ and ‘International Residential Code,’ with the new standard to be included in the 2018 editions of these codes. The new standard is being proposed to replace the 2011 edition in the ‘National Building Code of Canada’ when it is updated.


UFPI Sells Florida Property

Universal Forest Products, Inc. (UFPI) has closed the sale and lease-back of its property in Medley, FL, a 35-acre site that includes one of its large operations as part of a long-term plan to enhance its operations in the region. The move is part of a strategy to create efficiencies and advantages not possible with the current facility by optimizing the capacity of its other three Florida operations, including two it acquired from Robbins Manufacturing in 2017, and adding a state-of-the-art facility in south Florida. The company will lease back the Medley facility as it executes its long-term plan for Florida and the southeast region.


Gaffke Joins AZEK

Jeanine Gaffke is chief marketing officer with the AZEK company. Previously, she was vice-president of marketing and business development at Emerson.


Valspar Drives Sherwin-Williams Sales

The Sherwin-Williams Company had consolidated net sales of $3.98 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017, an increase of 43 per cent over consolidated net sales for the fourth quarter of 2016. The increase was primarily due to higher paint sales volume in the Americas group and the addition of Valspar sales. Minus Valspar, net sales increased 6.9 per cent in the quarter. Net sales in the Americas group increased 8.9 per cent to $2.19 billion. Net sales of the consumer brands group increased 89.1 per cent to $571.6 million in the quarter due primarily to the inclusion of Valspar sales.


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