Serving Canada's Home Improvement Industry

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


September 27, 2018

WSIB Premiums Falling

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) has eliminated its unfunded liability (UFL) almost 10 years ahead of its legislated schedule, achieving a historic financial milestone. It also means the 2019 average premium rate will decrease by 29.8 per cent from $2.35 to $1.65. The UFL – the shortfall between the money needed to pay future benefits and the money in the insurance fund – existed for decades and reached a high of $14.2 billion in 2011. In 2009, the Auditor General of Ontario warned that the UFL put the WSIB at risk of not being able to meet its obligations to people. “This achievement safeguards Ontario’s workplace health and safety system,” says Elizabeth Witmer, chair of the WSIB. “People who are hurt or become ill as a result of their work can have confidence we will be here to help them now and always.” Ontario businesses, which played an important role in paying down the UFL, will now see a significant reduction to the average premium rate, leaving more money in the economy. “Today’s premium rate announcement leaves $1.45 billion in the economy every year that businesses can invest in new jobs, new technology, and health and safety improvements,” says Witmer.

GTA Buyers Wait On Sidelines

It was a quiet month for Ontario’s GTA new home market in August, as buyers waited on the sidelines, says the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD). There were 974 total new home sales in August with 171 detached, linked, and semi-detached houses and townhouses (excluding stacked townhouses) sold, up 50 per cent from last August, but down 80 per cent from the 10-year average. Condominium apartments in low, medium, and high-rise buildings; stacked townhouses; and loft units accounted for 803 new home sales, down one per cent from August 2017 and down 28 per cent from the 10-year average. Many potential new home buyers are taking a wait-and-see approach due to the effects of government interventions to cool the housing market and concerns about the future direction of the economy, says David Wilkes, BILD president and CEO. "Once the market adjusts and more people start looking for homes, our region's short supply of housing will mean that affordability will continue to be a challenge for many new home buyers," he says.

U.S. Non-residential Building Slides As Housing Retreats

The value of new construction starts in the U.S. in August decreased nine per cent from the previous month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $741.9 billion, says Dodge Data & Analytics. The August downturn for total construction starts matched the nine per cent decline reported for July, as activity in the latest two months pulled back after the sharp increases in May (up 14 per cent) and June (up 10 per cent). By major sector, weaker activity was reported in August for non-residential building, down 19 per cent, and residential building, down seven per cent. On the plus side, non-building construction in August advanced six per cent, reflecting a steady performance by public works as well as improvement for electric utilities following depressed activity earlier this year. During the first eight months of 2018, total construction starts on an unadjusted basis were $540 billion, up one per cent from a year ago. The August data produced a reading of 157 for the Dodge Index, down from 173 in July. During the previous seven months the index averaged 170, with this year’s high of 190 reached in June while the low of 152 took place in April.

Wolseley Canada Opens Ottawa Branch

Wolseley Canada has opened an Ottawa, ON, branch. The 11,000-square-foot facility includes both plumbing and HVAC/R inventory. The branch is part of the company’s ongoing focus to revitalize its facilities through renovations and open new locations in order to enhance the customer branch experience and deliver exceptional customer value. Since the initiative began in 2016, Wolseley has opened new locations in Kitchener, Oshawa, and Concord, ON; Antigonish, NS; and Lachine and Laval, QC. It also expanded its Windsor and Orangeville, ON, locations.

Lee Valley Opens Laval Store

Lee Valley’s 20th location will open October 3 in Laval, QC. The 25,000-square-foot store will carry products in the woodworking, gardening, hobby, hardware, gift, and seasonal categories. The Ottawa, ON-based chain also owns the Veritas Tools brand. The company was founded by Leonard Lee in 1978.

Hurricane Ties Prevent Roof Uplift

There have been an increasing number of tornadoes hitting Canadian communities in the last few years, causing roofs to be ripped from homes and resulting in total losses, says the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR). Research by the organization has found that a few low-cost measures can protect homes from extreme wind events, including tornadoes rated as high as EF2. These include use of hurricane ties – inexpensive metal fittings that connect roof trusses to walls. Roof loss increases the chance that walls will collapse on people, injuring or killing them, allows large debris to enter the wind field causing more damage downstream (as well as deaths and injuries), and opens the home to water damage. Hurricane ties provide a better connection between roof joists and a home's walls. They cost anywhere from about 60 cents to $2 each, depending on the model chosen. With the average home requiring about 50 to 70 ties and one labourer about two hours to install, the total cost can come in below $150 for a home (including ties, fasteners, and labour). To that end, ICLR has made formal submissions to both the national and Ontario building codes to make hurricane ties mandatory in all new builds.

Government Solicits SME Innovation Input

As the single-largest purchaser of goods and services, the federal government is using procurement in a new way to help Canadian small business owners commercialize their ideas and solve complex government challenges. Through the Innovative Solutions Canada program, government departments are inviting small businesses to come up with innovative solutions in response to specific challenges they face. Winning small businesses may receive up to $150,000 to refine their research and development and, if accepted into Phase 2, receive up to $1 million to develop a working prototype. The government may then act as a first customer, helping these small businesses commercialize their innovations, scale up their business, and create jobs. The government has set up several challenges for SMEs to address including plastic waste, recycling, construction waste, and bioplastics. For more information, visit Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.

Akiri Leads Component Business

Chet Akiri is senior vice-president and business leader of the components business at Masonite International Corporation, effective October 8. He has over 20 years of general management, corporate development, and consulting experience, most recently as chief operating officer and chief commercial officer for Bristow Group.

BB&B Earnings Slide

Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. had net earnings of $48.6 million for the second quarter of 2018, a decrease over net earnings of $94.2 million for the second quarter of 2017. Net sales for the quarter were approximately $2.9 billion, flat to the prior-year quarter. Comparable sales decreased by approximately 0.6 per cent, and included strong sales growth from the company's customer-facing digital channels. Gross profit was $989 million, down from $1 billion in the year-ago period.

September 26, 2018

RCC Wants Bill 148 Repealed

The Retail Council of Canada (RCC) believes that many of the Bill 148 changes were ill-considered and are harmful to business and to employment prospects for Ontarians. In a letter to the Ontario ministry of labour, it says it wants the changes to the Employment Standards Act (ESA)and the Labour Relations Act (LRA) repealed asthe sheer number of problems with Bill 148’s changes fundamentally compromises the ESAand LRAregimes. If desired, it says more balanced legislation could be introduced, but only after a proper period of consultation and weighing different potential impacts. Bill 148’s biggest single cost to businesses is the increase in the minimum wage, which rises to $15/hour January 1, 2019, a 29.3 per cent over a 12-month period. Another area of great lies with the so-called ‘pay equity’ provisions in section 42.1 of the ESAthat seek to preclude wage distinctions between full-time and part-time employees. While this sounds fine in theory, these provisions have thrown off numerous issues, it says. The first of these is that there are very significant cost implications for retailers. As well, the criteria for determining equivalency are ill-defined and, in some cases, counter-intuitive. It also has concerns about personal emergency leave provisions and public holiday pay entitlements. There are aspects of Bill 148 that RCC can support ‒ the increase in annual vacation to three weeks seeks to promote better work-life balance, banning any requirement for medical notes, and the extension of the ‘three-hour rule’ to shift cancellations on less than 48-hours notice.

TIMBER MART Expands Distribution Network

TIMBER MART is expanding its lumber and building material (LBM) distribution centre network into Ontario with the addition of a five-acre property in Mount Forest. The facility is located within a six-hour radius of a multitude of TIMBER MART member locations and will offer a wide selection of LBM products, weekly deliveries, cross-docking/furtherance service, and easy access for dealers looking to pick up their orders. This will be the third facility the buying group operates and will represent a significant expansion of its current distribution centre network which consists of facilities in Langley, BC, and another in St-Nicolas, QC. “Our new distribution centre in Ontario will offer our members all of the conveniences that our existing facilities provide and that our members in British Columbia, Quebec, and New Brunswick currently enjoy,” says Bernie Owens, president of TIMBER MART. “We look forward to opening the new facility in January of 2019 and providing our dealers with a great source of LBM products and competitive advantage in their local markets.”

Wholesale Sales Increase

Wholesale sales rose for the third time in five months, up 1.5 per cent to $63.9 billion in July, more than offsetting the 0.9 per cent decline in June, says Statistics Canada. Sales were up in four of seven subsectors, representing approximately 66 per cent of total wholesale sales. The personal and household goods; food, beverage and tobacco; and motor vehicle and parts subsectors led the gains in July, while the miscellaneous subsector posted the largest decline. In volume terms, wholesale sales increased 1.2 per cent. Sales increased in six provinces in July, which together represented 97 per cent of total wholesale sales in Canada. Quebec and Ontario accounted for most of the gain. In dollar terms, the Atlantic provinces reported the largest decline in July. Wholesale inventories increased for the fifth time in seven months, up 1.4 per cent to $87.1 billion in July. Gains were recorded in six of seven subsectors, representing 86 per cent of total wholesale inventories.

Entrepreneurs Confident Despite Trade Turbulence

Despite all the turbulence, business owners remain in a confident state of mind, says a survey by BDC. Close to 80 per cent of owners of small- and medium-sized businesses saw stable or increasing sales over the past 12 months, even after considerable growth in the first half of 2017. As well, the majority of respondents expect sales to improve further over the next 12 months. Business investment for the first half of 2018 was up 7.6 per cent compared to the same period in 2017. As well, notwithstanding rising interest rates, two-thirds of business owners see stable financing conditions. However, when asked about their perception of conditions for their competitors, their region, and the Canadian economy generally, business owners were a little less optimistic. This could be due, in part, by current news about NAFTA and U.S. imposed tariffs. BDC says Canadian companies can weather this storm by continuing to focus on existing customers while seeking out new markets. Another study by the firm finds that diversification correlates strongly with financial success. Investing in innovation to develop new products or processes will improve a business’ competitive position, but it’s always a good idea to keep a tight grip on costs.

Generac To Distribute Transfer Switch In Canada

Generac will distribute its cUL-approved, service-rated switch in Canada soon, the company says. The transfer switch will be available in 100- and 200-amp versions, which can be mounted indoors or outdoors for installation flexibility. The unit is equipped with load shedding, a feature that will benefit homeowners by allowing them to get whole-house backup with a smaller generator. The switch’s load shedding functionality, which is typically an optional accessory, has now been integrated into the switch and monitors the home’s consumption of generator power. If there comes a time in which electrical demand exceeds the generator’s capacity, the load shedding system will automatically disconnect the most power-hungry loads – in this case air conditioning ‒ until the generator has enough capacity to bring them back online. This built-in functionality allows the transfer switch to manage up to four individual HVAC loads without any extra hardware.

Tariffs To Affect Demand For U.S. Hand Tools

U.S. demand for hand tools is projected to rise 1.4 per cent annually to $5.7 billion in 2022, says a report by the Freedonia Group. Growth will be sustained by rising homeownership rates among Millennials and women, who represent new sales opportunities for hand tool manufacturers, as well as a growing interest in DIY activities among consumers. However, U.S.-imposed duties on imports of foreign steel and aluminum, as well as other products, will limit gains. While eCommerce represents the fastest-growing distribution channel for hand tools, home centres are expected to overtake direct sales/distributors as the leading sales channel by 2022. Due to the convenience and wide product selection available online, both professional and consumer tool users are increasingly turning to eCommerce for their hand tool needs. As a result, more professional hand tool sales will be made through eCommerce platforms, which will correspond with gains for home centres and declines for direct sales and distributors through the forecast period. Continued strength in building construction and healthy increases in home improvements will support hand tool demand across all segments, particularly hand saws, which is expected to be the fastest growing product segment through 2022. Dollar gains in all product categories will be supported by increased demand for value-added features that improve durability, ease-of-use, and ergonomics.

Kiepp Named Huttig CFO

Philip W. Keipp is vice-president - chief financial officer at Huttig Building Products. He has been with the company since 2009 and most recently served as senior financial consultant.

Technology Focus Of BDC Small Business Week 2018

This year, ‘BDC Small Business Week 2018’ (SBW) will focus on the importance for Canada's small and medium enterprises (SMEs) of adopting new technologies and implementing digital change to boost growth. Entrepreneurs will receive advice and tools during this year's edition, which runs October 14 to 20. Under the theme ‘Digitize now: Transform your business,’ the nationwide event will invite Canadian entrepreneurs to learn about the benefits of new technologies and to take rapid action to measure digital performance for commercial success. For more information, visit BDC

September 25, 2018

Apartments Drive New Housing Construction Growth

Investment in new housing construction increased 1.7 per cent year-over-year to $5 billion in July. The growth was driven solely by investment in apartment building construction, as construction of single, double, and row houses all declined compared with July 2017. Spending was up in four provinces, led by Quebec and British Columbia and, to a lesser extent, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. The growth in Quebec and British Columbia resulted from investment in apartment building construction, while in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, the increase was mainly attributable to investment in single home construction. Spending on apartment building construction was up 29.1 per cent in July. Investment was up in every province, led by Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. Spending on row unit construction was down 4.8 per cent, marking the first year-over-year decrease since July 2013. The largest drop in spending was in Ontario.

U.S. Building Permits Decline

Privately-owned housing units authorized by building permits in the U.S. in August decreased 5.7 per cent from July and 5.5 per cent from August 2017, says the U.S. Census Bureau. Single-family authorizations decreased 6.1 per cent compared to July. Privately-owned housing starts in August increased 9.2 per cent versus July and 9.4 per cent versus August 2017. Single-family housing starts in August increased 1.9 per cent over July. Privately-owned housing completions in August increased 2.5 per cent compared to July and 11.2 per cent compared to August 2017. Single-family housing completions in August increased 11.6 per cent versus July.

Hurricane Causes LP To Shut Down NC Operations

Louisiana-Pacific Corporation temporarily shut down its Wilmington, NC, engineered wood operations due to Hurricane Florence. The Wilmington mill suffered damage in the storm and an LP response team has begun assessing the extent of the damage. LP has inventory at the mill that was not damaged and plans to continue servicing customers for the near term from inventory on hand at the Wilmington facility. The company's operations in Roaring River and Roxboro were not impacted by the storm.

Icynene-Lapolla Expands Product Line In Canada

Icynene-Lapolla, a global supplier and manufacturer of high performance, energy efficient building envelope solutions, will expand distribution of the its Lapolla building materials line in Canada. As part of the effort, a suite of Lapolla's standout spray polyurethane foam insulation, roofing, and coating solutions will be made readily available to Canadian customers. To better enable the distribution of Lapolla's insulation materials in Canada, Icynene-Lapolla recently completed an improvement to its Mississauga, ON, manufacturing facility. The retrofit effort focused on increasing manufacturing capacity and product output as well as enhancing product distribution speed and efficiencies.

Lowe's Canada Supports Véro & Louis Foundation

Lowe's Canada will continue its support for the Véro & Louis Foundation as presenting partner of the third 'Artists' Garage Sale' to raise money for the Foundation. The event was held September 22 on the Place Charles-LeMoyne esplanade at the metro station in Longueuil, QC. The foundation will be building its first home for young adults living with autism spectrum disorder on the south shore of Montreal, QC. The support is in addition to Lowe's Canada's commitment to donate $1.5 million to the foundation. As well, the retailer ‒ through its RONA and Reno-Depot banners ‒ contributed to the foundation's virtual auction by offering a suite of kitchen appliances (courtesy of GE), a wine cooler, and a tool cabinet.

September 24, 2018

Retail Sales Up In Eight Sectors

Retail sales rose 0.3 per cent to $50.9 billion in July on higher sales at food and beverage stores and gasoline stations, says Statistics Canada. Excluding the lower sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers, retail sales increased 0.9 per cent. Sales were up in eight of 11 subsectors, representing 54.8 per cent of total retail sales. After removing the effects of price changes, retail sales in volume terms decreased 0.1 per cent. Sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers were up 0.3 per cent over June and 5.3 per cent compared to July 2017. Retail sales increased in eight provinces in July. Quebec was up 0.4 per cent and posted the largest increase in dollar terms. Retail sales in Alberta, up 0.6 per cent, rose for the sixth time in seven months. Sales in British Columbia, down 0.5 per cent, declined for the third consecutive month. On an unadjusted basis, retail eCommerce sales totalled $1.3 billion, representing 2.5 per cent of total retail trade. On a year-over-year basis, retail eCommerce rose 9.4 per cent, while total unadjusted retail sales increased 3.8 per cent.

Retailer Face Cannabis Issues

Legalization of the recreational use of cannabis is less than a month away ‒ October 17 ‒ and retailers have a whole bunch of issues to deal with, says Dan Demers, senior manager of strategic business development at CannAmm. Speaking at the Retail Council of Canada’s ‘Cannabis in Retail Forum 2018’ on ‘A Delicate Balance: Legal Cannabis and Workplace Harmony,’ he said the industry really needs to understand there is a lot that is still unknown. For example, the method of ingestion ‒ such as smoking/vaporization, oral preparations, trans-dermal, or eye drops ‒ impacts the onset of the feeling of being high and the duration of the high. Another element is the potency of the THC today. The World Health Organization says plants and resins are now up to 16 per cent more potent. Employers will also need addiction programs as one in 10 adults and one is six adolescents will become addicted. And it is important that employers stop comparing cannabis to alcohol. That is like “comparing an apple to a hub cap,” he says, as when alcohol is eliminated, cells return to normal. It can take a one time user up to 24 hours to get over the neurological cognitive lag and frequent users can take over 20 days. Lingering effects can include a lack of alertness, divided attention, and a decline in complex reasoning and memory as well as an impaired ability to judge distance, time, and speed. In fact, he cited tests which showed in simulated landings, no pilot could land safely 24 hours after using cannabis and only one decided they were unfit to fly. “These things matter,” he said, “maybe not for all roles, but for some.”

CertainTeed Loses Fight For Tariffs

CertainTeed Gypsum Canada has lost its fight to have tariffs imposed on 54-inch drywall boards allegedly being dumped into western Canada, which it says is distorting the drywall market in the region. The company is still reviewing the decision made by the Canadian International Trade Tribunal (CITT) and is waiting for the reasons. In August, the CITT ruled that evidence presented at a preliminary injury inquiry did not prove that dumping of the drywall boards into British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the Yukon and Northwest territories injured the domestic drywall industry. CertainTeed Canada is the only producer of gypsum board products in western Canada and would like to expand, but the current situation prevents that, says Richard Juggery, chief executive officer. “We continue to believe we have a strong case that will restore free and fair trade and create and maintain jobs in western Canada. CertainTeed will weigh its options pending the release of CITT reasoning.”

U.S. Spending On Home Improvements To Rise

U.S. homeowners are expected to increase spending on improvements across 50 of the country’s largest metropolitan areas in 2018, says the ‘Metro Area Home Improvement Projections’ by the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. Spending by homeowners will increase by at least five per cent in 41 of the 50 metros tracked and by 10 per cent or more in 11 of these. None of the 50 major metro areas tracked are projected to see spending decline in 2018. Average growth for the south, west, and midwest is forecast at 7.4 per cent, and growth in the northeast is forecast at 5.6 per cent.

New Duty To Accommodate Created

The legalization of marijuana will create a new duty to accommodate employees in the workplace, says Stuart Ducoffe, founder of e2r Solutions. In the session ‘Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace: Preparing Your Workplace for the Legalization of Marijauna,’ he said, first, employees do not have the right to be impaired at work. However, there is an issue of accommodation, a human rights concept, and employers have to accommodate up to undue hardship. And just as regular drinkers who feel their jobs are in jeopardy will claim addiction and the need for treatment and accommodation, he said regular cannabis users will make the same claim. Most medical uses will qualify for a duty to accommodate. And this is growing. The number of client registration increased from 174,503 in the first quarter to 269,502 in third quarter of fiscal year 2017/2018. However, impairment in the workplace is not a new issue and not limited to cannabis. He advised against zero tolerance policies as they can run afoul of an employer’s duty to accommodate and should only be enacted where the employer can demonstrate a 100 per cent need for sobriety. However, employers should have a clear requirement regarding disclosure of addiction/dependency issues, especially in safety sensitive environments.

Lowe’s, Fenplast To Sponsor Cycling Event

Lowe’s Canada joined Fenplast as co-presenting partner for the second edition of the ‘Bonneville 808 Challenge.’ The cycling fundraiser for the Fondation de l’athlète d’excellence took place in Mont Tremblant, QC, on September 22 and 23. In addition to sponsoring the event, a Lowe’s Canada cycling team participated in the 125 kilometre course. As part of the partnership, Fondation de l’athlète d’excellence will award Lowe’s Canada bursaries to student athletes later this year.

Two Move Up At Masco

Jai Shah is group president at Masco Corporation. In this position, he will have responsibility for Behr Paint Company, Milgard Windows & Doors, the UK Window Group, and Watkins Wellness. He joined Masco in 2013 and served most recently as president of Delta Faucet Company. Ken Roberts has been promoted to president of the Delta Faucet Company. He was previously president of Masco Canada and has been a member of the Delta team for over 22 years.

September 21, 2018

Discussion Of Racial Bias Needed

Retailers need to being willing to have the uncomfortable conversation about racial bias in their stores, says Hamlin Grange, senior consultant, diversity, equity and inclusion, at Harmony@Work. Talking on ‘Racial Bias: What You Need to Know to Protect your Organization’ at the Retail Council of Canada’s ‘Retail Secure 2018,’ he said one area where they need to focus is loss prevention where some practices can be construed as racism with certain ethnic and cultural groups targeted. Bias can be found in people of all income levels and education and may not even be conscious of their bias. He said “social mindbugs” are partly to blame. These are ingrained habits of thought that lead to errors in “how we perceive, remember, reason, and make decisions about people” although they may not even aware of why they made a decision. In fact, he said racial bias in retailing is more pervasive than realized and even worse than the racial bias reported among police officers, according to the Human Rights Commission. It found over 50 per cent of black people and one in three indigenous people reported being followed while in stores, asked to leave their bags at the counter, were extensively questioned about returns, and, in some cases, asked to leave a store. This kind of racial bias can impact a retailer’s bottom line and have a negative impact on attitudes towards their brand. Some jurisdictions have taken steps to eliminate it. The Nova Scotia human rights commission launched an awareness of racial bias in retail program and New York State has a customer bill of rights which says racial profiling is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. It requires that all shoppers and guests to be treated with respect and dignity. Employees who do not abide by this can be fired and it may be time for Canadian retailers to do something similar, he said.

Lowe’s Opens Second Calgary Store

Lowe’s Canada has opened its second store in the Greater Calgary, AB, area, featuring the new model of stores which offers an enhanced shopping experience. The store was converted from a former RONA Home and Garden. It was designed by taking the best of Lowe’s and RONA’s offerings to create the new model. The store underwent an extensive 16-week physical transformation which involved construction, departmental sequencing of new racking and re-merchandising, branding, and IT conversion as well as a significant investment in training focused on new product knowledge and customer service. The enhanced retail experience includes 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 private labels and brands such as John Deere, Husqvarna, and Cub Cadet; and 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. It also offers an enhanced shopping experience for pros and commercial customers, including 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; charge accounts that allow commercial customers to shop at any RONA corporate store and new model Lowe’s store in Canada and receive a single monthly invoice; and the introduction of corporately owned and operated delivery trucks to provide a more personalized level of service for deliveries to contractors. The new store is the company’s 66th store in Canada under the Lowe’s banner.

Blockchain Becoming Part Of Every Business

Blockchain will become a part of every business where there is a need to track and trace digital information, says David Rodgerson, retail industry lead at Microsoft. In the ‘Blockchain for Retail: No IT Professionals Allowed’ session at the Retail Council of Canada’s ‘Retail Secure 2018,’ he said blockchain takes physical and digital entities and attaches a value to them. This information can’t be edited or deleted and is visible to everyone involved in a transaction. For retail, it means everything tracked through blockchain will result in better trust, transparency, and collaboration across shareholders; bringing value to vendors, retailers, and consumers. It also enable consumers and retailers to control who uses and how data is used, also making it more secure. His key takeaway was that blockchain projects can have an impact on organizations in merchandising, marketing, and operations.

Amazon Launches SMB Storefront

Amazon has launched ‘Amazon Storefronts,’ a store for customers to shop exclusively from U.S. small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) selling on Amazon. With Storefronts, customers can shop at nearly 20,000 U.S. SMBs and learn more about profiled businesses through featured videos and stories. Storefronts features 25 product categories including home, kitchen, pet supplies, back-to-school, Halloween, and books. Amazon first allowed SMBs to sell on its channel nearly 20 years ago and today they are a vital part of the online retailer’s selection.

Associates Help Prevent Theft

Retailers need to find ways to keep associates on the floor as a way to deter theft, says Scott Adel, vice-president of retail excellence at Tulip Retail. Speaking on ‘Customer Experience & Security: The Challenge of Frictionless Retail’ at the Retail Council of Canada’s ‘Retail Secure 2018,’ he said as retail changes, inventory control becomes more critical. Today, the bricks and mortar store has become more than a place to carry out transactions. Instead, it has become an access point where, in some cases, they are just showcases where customers go in, select the products they want, and they arrive a day or two later. James Connell, vice-president of eCommerce and customer experience at Roots, said some retailers are starting to look at artificial intelligence to check the availability of stock in the back room. This way, the associates just have to ask if a product is available and, if it is, someone brings it to the associate on the floor. It means the associate does not have to leave he sale floor and mitigates the distraction tactic some thieves use to divert the attention of associates. For Melissa Austria, founder of Gotstyle, engaging customers as they come into stores can help deter theft. However, she warned that in many cases these professional thieves are turning out to be very engaging.

IRWIN Holds Contest For Tradespeople

Hand and power tools accessory manufacturer IRWIN has kicked-off its eighth annual ‘National Tradesman Day’ program. “The program celebrates the dedicated Canadian men and women who help build our country and keep it running,” says the company in a news release. Celebrated on the third Friday of September, this year’s event will take place on September 21. This year, IRWIN is also awarding a VIP Football Experience to two tradespeople. The winner and guest will each receive round-trip flights to Toronto, ON, two nights stay, a VIP experience at a Toronto Argonauts game on October 20, a personalized jersey, and $250 for food. The total prize value is $5,000. Secondary prizes include IRWIN tools and IRWIN branded products. The contest runs until October 10.

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