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February 14, 2018

Small Business Needs Fairer Tax Measures

Fairer tax measures and incentives for innovation and youth hiring are at the top of small business owners' priorities for the upcoming federal budget, says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). “With tax season rapidly approaching, Canadian small business owners are telling us that the government's proposed tax changes are still top of mind. There is not enough clarity on the new income-sprinkling rules and we remain concerned that the proposed passive rules will hurt owners' ability to save and reinvest in their business,” says Dan Kelly, CFIB's president. “We're urging the government to listen to the senate's recommendations and put off implementing any tax changes until they fully analyze the impacts of these changes on the economy.” CFIB stresses that it is especially critical that Canada supports its small businesses to remain competitive as the U.S. introduces business-friendly tax reforms. With payroll taxes, such as CPP, increasing for the next seven years and sharp minimum wage increases across the country, small businesses are also looking to the federal government to provide some relief for their skyrocketing labour costs.

Slight Rise in Non-residential Building Prices

Contractors' prices for new non-residential building construction rose 0.8 per cent in the fourth quarter, says Statistics Canada. Higher prices to build industrial (+0.9 per cent), commercial (+0.7 per cent), and institutional (+0.9 per cent) structures all contributed to the gain. Prices for new non-residential building construction were up in all seven census metropolitan areas surveyed, led by Vancouver, BC. Contractors reported rising costs for lumber, concrete formwork, plastic, copper, and fuel-related inputs. Rebuilding activities in the U.S. after an active 2017 hurricane season contributed to higher prices for these materials. From August to October, four hurricanes made landfall in the U.S. causing widespread damage. Over the four quarters ending in December, contractors' prices for new non-residential building construction rose 3.1 per cent. Higher prices in Vancouver (+5.9 per cent) and Montréal, QC, (+4.4 per cent) led the increase.

Home Hardware Extends Aeroplan Partnership

Home Hardware Stores Limited has renewed its partnership with Aeroplan, a coalition loyalty program owned by Aimia Inc. Aeroplan has five million active members, who can earn Aeroplan Miles for purchases at any of Home Hardware’s 1,100 locations and online. Home Hardware will continue to leverage Aeroplan’s data analytics insights and capabilities

CertainTeed Canada Joins Millionaires Club

CertainTeed Insulation Canada insulation plant in Ottawa, ON, has been inducted into the ‘Saint-Gobain’s Millionaires Club’ ‒ a program designed by the parent company to reward plants that have operated at least one million work hours without a lost-time accident. The plant is only the 12th out of 66 Saint-Gobain insulation facilities worldwide to be awarded this honour. The company celebrated its employees at two dinner and dance events. The plant will now be able to use the Millionaires Club logo in communications and erect signage featuring the logo inside and outside the facility to promote the accomplishment.

Forests Ontario Award Winners Announced

Forester Jamie McRae earned the ‘2018 Ontario Wood Award’ at the Forests Ontario's annual conference. It acknowledges his contributions to the positive promotion of the Ontario Wood brand. A fifth-generation forester, McRae's family history dates back to the forestry boom of the mid-1890s. He currently manages the McRae Lumber Company, based out of Whitney, ON. In recent years, he began volunteering with Forestry Connects, a Forests Ontario program dedicated to educating high school students about the forestry industry via field trips. The ‘2018 Green Legacy Award’ – given annually to a visionary corporate partner that has been instrumental in ensuring a green legacy for future generations – was awarded to TD Bank Group. As the official sponsor of the Heritage Tree Program that celebrates historically significant trees, TD Tree Bee, an interactive tree-identification website, and community tree planting events, TD Bank is recognized for its commitment to re-greening communities.

Acquisition Drives Eastern Sales

The Eastern Company had sales of $54.1 million for the fourth quarter of 2017, compared to sales of $34.1 million for the fourth quarter of 2016. Net loss for the quarter was $200,000, compared to net income of $2.7 million in the year-ago period. The industrial hardware segment sales grew by 107 per cent, partially due to the acquisition of Velvac. Excluding the acquisition, the segment grew by six per cent year over year. The security product segment sales grew by nine per cent over the year-ago period.

Backyard Oasis Focus Of Spring Expo

Visitors can shop, sample, and learn from experts at the ‘2018 Backyard Living Expo + Barbecue + Beverage.’ This year’s event will include the Weber Grill Main Stage, Designer Source Area, Springfree Outdoor Play Zone, Outdoor Lifestyle Backyard Oasis, and Urban Retreat. It takes place April 6 to 8 at the International Centre in Mississauga, ON. For more information, click here

February 13, 2018

Technology Drives 2018 Builder Trends

Home connectivity, improved engineered products, and customization are some of the trends in home construction and repair/remodeling design identified by John Burns Real Estate Consulting. The trends identified include the internet of things (IoT) technologies opening the door-to-whole-home connectivity. The firm says Amazon’s Alexa and other personal assistants have opened the flood gates for smart home products, especially in home security, plumbing, appliances, and HVAC. As well, today’s engineered products offer great design and less maintenance. They look increasingly like their natural counterparts, often at better or comparable prices. Customization has also become simpler. John Burns says customizable product offerings this year focused on minimizing costs and complexity for the consumer. Standouts included private-label hardware options, mix-and-match handle/spout colours and finishes, and appliance panel customizing options. Backed by significant consumer research, building products companies continue to offer new products to stay one step ahead of the competition, says the firm.

Dodge Momentum Index Slides

The Dodge Momentum Index dropped 5.1 per cent in January to 143.7 from the revised December reading of 151.5. The index is a monthly measure of the first (or initial) report for non-residential building projects in planning in the U.S., which have been shown to lead construction spending for non-residential buildings by a full year. The commercial component of the index was 7.8 per cent lower in the month, while the institutional component was down 0.9 per cent. The fourth quarter of 2017 was particularly strong and January’s retreat returns it to a more sustainable level. On a year-over-year basis, the index is 7.7 per cent higher, with both the commercial and institutional components showing growth over January 2017. This suggests that non-residential building construction should continue to post moderate gains in 2018.

Strong Growth Forecast For Fall Protection Equipment

The global fall protection equipment market is expected to grow by more than five per cent from 2018 to 2022, says research by Technavio. The rise in global construction activity is a key driver supporting the growth because any construction workplace that is elevated requires the use of fall protection equipment for workers. And, although the construction industry witnessed a significant dip during the global recession of 2008, the market is witnessing a steady revival with the recovery of the global economy. Technavio says the increase in urbanization and the growth of the population are necessitating growth in infrastructure along with an increase in residential and commercial establishments. This bodes well for the growth of the construction industry and the fall protection equipment market.

Mohawk Earnings Climb

Mohawk Industries, Inc. net earnings were $240 million for the fourth quarter of 2017, an increase compared to net earnings of $234 million in the fourth quarter of 2016. Adjusted net earnings were $256 million, a five per cent increase over adjusted net earnings of $243 million. Net sales for the quarter were $2.4 billion, up 8.5 per cent over net sales of $2.2 billion in the year-ago period. The global ceramic segment sales increased 10 per cent year over year, while the flooring North America segment's sales increased three per cent and the flooring rest of the world segment's sales increased 18 per cent.

February 12, 2018

Businesses Need To Upgrade Payment Systems

Businesses of all sizes need to upgrade their payment systems because the current way Canadian businesses process payments costs them $2.9 to $6.5 billion annually, says a study by Payments Canada and Ernst and Young LLP (EY Canada). It shows that delays in payments processing and a lack of data and transparency in payment messaging create a number of inefficiencies for small, medium, and large enterprises. Current processes are labour intensive and provide poor visibility into supply chain and collections. They offer a limited predictability of cash inflows and outflows and cause difficulty in tracking cross-border payments. The report says the small businesses have a continued reliance on manual processes and legacy technology. The introduction of new systems, rules, and standards as part of Payments Canada's modernization program will foster a faster, safer, and more data-rich payments environment. Besides the introduction of new systems for high-value, batch retail, and real-time payments – which will operate under an enhanced risk, regulatory, and rules framework – the primary efficiency enhancement for businesses is anticipated to come from adopting the ISO 20022 data standard. The standard enables the transfer of rich data with payments, a change that has the potential to improve automation and efficiency, reducing many of the pain points in accounts payable and receivable, particularly for those organizations processing large volumes of payments. The full study is available here

Home Sales Strong In Montreal

A total of 2,598 residential sales were concluded in January in the Montreal census metropolitan area (CMA), an increase of 13 per cent over January 2017, says the Greater Montreal Real Estate Board (GMREB). This was the best January sales result in eight years. All six main areas of the Montréal CMA registered an increase in sales in January, with Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (80 sales) and the South Shore (628 sales) leading the way with respective sales increases of 31 and 22 per cent. Laval and the Island of Montréal went head-to-head, as both of these areas registered an 11 per cent rise in sales. On the North Shore and in Vaudreuil-Soulanges sales were up by nine per cent and seven per cent, respectively. For a fourth consecutive quarter, condominiums registered the largest increase in sales, this time jumping by 19 per cent. Plexes and single-family homes weren't far behind, with respective increases of 15 and 10 per cent.

BMR Renovation Centre Celebrates Grand Re-opening

La Coop Unicoop held a grand re-opening for its BMR renovation centre in Saint-Joseph-de-Beauce, QC. The store underwent a $150,000 renovation to optimize the layout and modernize the facility. The store, which is also celebrating its 10th anniversary, now meets BMR standards. The retail and energy division of Unicoop operates 10 renovation centres and hardware stores in the Beauce, Bellechasse, Montmagny, and Orleans regions in Quebec.

Molson Speaks For CTEQ

Andrew Molson, a seventh generation of the Molson family, has been appointed as the spokesperson for Le Centre de transfert d'entreprise du Québec (CTEQ), an organization that supports entrepreneurs with a comprehensive approach to business transition. His mission will be to raise business succession planning awareness amongst owner-managers/entrepreneurs in Quebec. “All over Quebec, there are men and women at retirement age who are still passionate about the companies they run,” says Molson. “However, they have to learn how to step aside for the good of all they have created over the years. As spokesperson, I hope to get entrepreneurs thinking about succession, particularly those who care deeply about the future of the businesses they have invested so much time and effort in.”

Beacon Sales Up 12 Per Cent

Beacon Roofing Supply, Inc. sales were $1.12 billion in the first quarter of 2018, an increase of 12 per cent over sales of $1 billion in the first quarter of 2017. Residential roofing product sales increased 11.1 per cent, non-residential roofing product sales increased 5.4 per cent, and complementary product sales increased 27.5 per cent over the prior year. Adjusted EBITDA grew 7.4 per cent to $86 million versus $80 million in the prior year. Net income for the quarter was $67.6 million, compared to $20.4 million in 2017. Adjusted net income was $46.7 million compared to $34.4 million a year ago.

Simpson Has Double Digit Increase

Simpson Manufacturing Co., Inc. had consolidated net sales of $231.7 million for the fourth quarter of 2017, an increase of 16 per cent compared to consolidated net sales of $200.2 million for the fourth quarter of 2016. North America net sales of $190.9 million increased 10 per cent compared to $172.8 million. Gross profit for the quarter was $102.7 million, an increase of eight per cent compared to gross profit of $95 million in the year-ago period. Income from operations was $24.7 million, a decrease of five per cent compared to income of $26.1 million a year ago. Consolidated net income was $13.1 million compared to net income of $17.4 million.

Home Show Features Outdoor Trends

Livable outdoor spaces with specific purposes, cozy fire and water elements, and simplicity and low maintenance are just some of the outdoor trends for 2018 from HGTV’s ‘Curb Appeal.’ More from Curb Appeal and other home and garden specialists, including designers, celebrities, top retailers will be featured at the ‘2018 National Home Show’ presented by RE/MAX and co-located with Canada Blooms. It takes place March 9 to 18 at the Enercare Centre, Exhibition Place, in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit

February 9, 2018

January Canadian Housing Starts Trend Stable

The trend in housing starts was stable at 224,865 units in January 2018 compared to 226,346 units in December 2017, says the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). This trend measure is a six-month moving average of the monthly seasonally adjusted annual rates (SAAR) of housing starts. Steady for the third consecutive month, the trend reflects higher starts of multi-unit dwellings in urban centres, which has offset lower starts of single detached homes. The standalone monthly SAAR of housing starts for all areas in Canada was 216,210 units in January, essentially unchanged from 216,275 units in December. The SAAR of urban starts increased slightly by 0.2 per cent in January to 198,400 units. Multiple urban starts essentially held steady at 134,685 units in January while single-detached urban starts increased by 0.6 per cent to 63,715 units. Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 17,810 units.

NRF Forecasts Retail Sales Rise

The National Retail Federation forecasts that U.S. retail industry sales will grow between 3.8 and 4.4 per cent over 2017. Online and other non-store sales, which are included in the overall number, are expected to increase between 10 and 12 per cent. The numbers exclude automobiles, gasoline stations, and restaurants. U.S. retail sales grew 3.9 per cent in 2017 over 2016 to $3.53 trillion, which exceeded NRF’s forecast for growth between 3.2 and 3.8 per cent. “Despite headlines to the contrary, the retail industry is strong, growing, and meeting consumer demand with the products they want at the prices they expect and the shopping experience they want to have, online or in store,” says Matthew Shay, president and CEO of NRF. “With consumer confidence high, unemployment low, and wages growing, there is every reason to believe that retail sales will be robust throughout the year.”

Many Shoppers Overspent Over Holidays

Forty-two per cent of Canadians admit they overspent on their holiday budgets, spending on average $530 beyond what they intended, finds a poll by RBC. The ‘2018 Holiday Spending & Saving Insights Poll’ shows that shoppers in Saskatchewan and Manitoba (48 per cent) and Ontario (45 per cent) led the country in overspending their holiday budgets. The amount of money overspent varied widely, from an average of $652 in Ontario to an average of $363 in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Shoppers aged 18 to 34 made up the largest group of overspenders (55 per cent), compared to shoppers aged 35 to 54 (43 per cent) and 55+ (29 per cent). As well, while more women than men overspent this past holiday season (45 per cent women; 38 per cent men), women overspenders spent less money than their male counterparts ($485 versus $587). When asked what they would do differently in 2018 to be ready for this year's holiday expenses, overspenders say they would plan to save on a regular basis (43 per cent) and plan ahead for holiday spending by budgeting earlier in the year (36 per cent).

BMO Launches Small Business Credit Cards

BMO Bank of Montreal has launched four credit cards for small business owners. Rewards include better earn rates on categories preferred by small business owners such as gas and office supply purchases and phone and internet bills. The cards also offer reward options, low interest rates, and competitive annual fees, as well as insurance packages. Users can pool points earned under both the BMO Rewards program and the AIR MILES Rewards Miles program. The cards feature higher available limits with no minimum income requirements.

Anwar Leads Technology

Yasir Anwar is chief technology officer for Williams-Sonoma. He will lead all technology aspects of the company’s digital experience, retail stores, and supply chain, and will oversee its 3-D imaging and augmented reality platform, Outward, which it acquired last year. Previously, he served as executive vice-president and chief technology officer of Macy’s.

Amazon Sales Strong, Inc. had net sales of $60.5 billion for the fourth quarter of 2017, a 38 per cent increase over net sales of $43.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2016. Operating income increased 69 per cent to $2.1 billion in the quarter, compared with operating income of $1.3 billion in the year-ago period. Net income was $1.9 billion compared with net income of $749 million.

Norbord Earnings Climb

Norbord Inc. had adjusted earnings of $123 million for the fourth quarter of 2017 compared to adjusted earnings of $55 million in the fourth quarter of 2016. Adjusted EBITDA was $204 million for the quarter, versus $115 million a year ago. North American OSB shipments for the quarter were up two per cent versus the third quarter and were two per cent lower versus the same quarter last year. In Europe, shipments increased five per cent over the prior year.

February 8, 2018

Multi-family Leads Building Permit Gains

Canadian municipalities issued $8.1 billion in building permits in December, up 4.8 per cent following a 7.3 per cent decline in November, says Statistics Canada. The December increase stemmed from higher construction intentions in the residential sector. Across Canada, all components climbed in 2017, up 10.4 per cent from the previous year, led by the multi-family dwelling component. Construction intentions for single-family homes led the rise in December. Canadian municipalities issued $2.8 billion in permits for single-family dwellings, rising 8.9 per cent from the previous month and the largest month-over-month increase in 2017. Ontario reported the largest gain, up 15.7 per cent from the previous month. The value of permits for multi-family dwellings increased to $2.4 billion in December, up seven per cent from the previous month. Higher construction intentions in British Columbia led to the rise as the province outpaced Ontario and Quebec for the largest contribution to the national total.

Lowe’s Uses Holoroom To Train Employees

Lowe’s Innovation Labs is bringing its augmented and virtual reality experiences from the consumer to its employees. The company introduced a new iteration of ‘Holoroom How To,’ called ‘Holoroom How To: Red Vest’ – an employee training platform that teaches associates how to use specific in-store equipment through virtual reality. This version of the Holoroom was built specifically for Lowe’s associates to provide them with greater project knowledge, more motivation, and increased confidence to help address customers’ window fashion needs. Beyond the educational benefit, the platform projects a life-like simulation that teaches associates every step of the process as they advance through the module. The hands-on practice lets associates learn from potential mistakes without waste of materials or dissatisfied customers. More than 400 associates have tested the experience and over 90 per cent report that virtual reality training helps them to better serve customers.

Home Depot U.S. To Carry Tesla Solar

The Home Depot plans to offer Tesla solar energy services in U.S. stores and online. The company says that customers will have access to Tesla Residential Rooftop Solar along with its rechargeable battery technology known as Powerwall. Tesla will roll out branded selling spaces at 800 of the retailer’s locations and will be staffed by Tesla employees. The products will be featured in high-profile displays with some locations offering visual demonstrations on how the products work.

Sellick Opens Upgraded Factory

Rough-terrain forklift manufacturer Sellick Equipment Limited has opened a $21 million manufacturing facility in Harrow, ON. The 126,000-square-foot factory was designed for product innovation, improvement to quality control, and flexibility in product design. All areas of the manufacturing process were upgraded including a new machining centre consisting of CNC-controlled laser cutting, milling, and turning machines, automated storage and retrieval systems for raw materials and aftermarket parts, and a state-of-the-art metal preparation and paint line. Sellick is a subsidiary of Avis Industrial Corporation.

Johnson Joins Smooth Commerce

Glen Johnson is chief commercial officer with Smooth Commerce. Most recently, he was senior vice-president, football, for the Canadian Football League. He has more than 30 years of experience in technology, financial service, and professional sports.

Earnings Increase For Weyerhaeuser

Weyerhaeuser Company had net earnings of $271 million on net sales of $1.8 billion for the fourth quarter of 2017, an increase over net earning from continuing operations of $62 million on net sales of $1.6 billion for the fourth quarter of 2016. Adjusted EBITDA was $551 million for the quarter compared to $400 million in the year-ago period. The company says that average sales realizations for its wood products increased compared with the third quarter. However, sales volumes declined due to seasonality and weather-related transportation disruptions. Canadian and western log costs increased and raw material costs for oriented strand board and engineered wood products were also higher.

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