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News

December 6, 2018

SMBs Struggle To Fill Jobs

Labour shortages continue to trouble small- and medium-sized businesses in the third quarter of 2018, with the job vacancy rate rising to 3.3 per cent, says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business' (CFIB) latest 'Help Wanted' report. In total, roughly 430,000 private sector openings remained unfilled for at least four months because employers were unable to find qualified candidates. Employers with at least one vacant post experienced more pressure to increase wages, expecting to push average organization-wide wage levels up by 2.6 per cent, compared to an average 1.7 per cent gain planned by businesses without any job openings. Quebec continues to lead the country with the tightest labour market, at a 4.1 per cent vacancy rate. British Columbia maintained its 3.7 per cent vacancy rate, while Ontario experienced a slight increase to 3.3 per cent. Vacancy rates advanced in professional services, construction, agriculture, and oil and gas, but remained unchanged in other sectors. Personal services maintained the highest vacancy rate at 4.8 per cent, followed by construction (4.4 per cent) and professional services (3.8 per cent). These sectors also tend to have smaller businesses on average which tend to experience higher vacancy rates than large firms.


IKEA Shares Profit

IKEA will pay $154.8 million into Canadian co-worker retirement programs for their loyalty and contribution. Through ‘Tack!,’ the Inkga Group loyalty program, every full-time co-worker in Canada who has worked at IKEA for a full fiscal year, will receive $1,498, regardless of their position or salary level. Eligible part-time co-workers will also receive a proportional amount in relation to hours worked. In Canada, the Tack! loyalty program operates as a deferred profit sharing program. As part of the program, IKEA Group co-workers annually receive an extra pay-out in addition to existing RRSP contribution programs. Tack! is part of its total rewards package for co-workers, which also includes a performance-driven bonus program, subsidized meals, a co-worker discount, and a group RRSP. It was launched in 2013 by IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad to share the success of IKEA with all co-workers around the world. Since then the Ingka Group has paid out €612 million globally.


UK Travis Perkins Implements Streamlining Strategies

UK building materials distributor Travis Perkins plc is implementing a business strategy to simplify its operations and improve returns. The plan will focus on trade customers and drive returns from its advantaged trade businesses. As well, the company plans to simplify the group and streamline the cost base to drive strong cash flow and earnings momentum. It plans to divest its plumbing and heating division and improve the performance of Wickes ‒ a home improvement retail business ‒ to create options to maximize value over the medium term. “We have developed a clear plan to focus on delivering best-in-class service to our trade customers and to simplify the group to reduce complexity, speed up decision-making, and reduce costs," says John Carter, chief executive officer. "Our trade businesses hold strong positions in attractive markets and these initiatives will enable us to concentrate our management time and capital in the highest returning areas."


Walmart Rolls Out Autonomous Floor Cleaners

Walmart has rolled out autonomous floor cleaners in 78 U.S. stores. Instead of an associate sitting on a floor scrubbing machine for two hours a day, the Auto-C ‒ Autonomous Cleaner will do the work. Much like a self-driving car, this machine uses assisted autonomy technology to clean and polish floors, freeing up associates to take care of other tasks. Auto-C is just one piece of technology that Walmart has implemented to become more efficient. Others include the Auto-S scanning machine that scans shelves autonomously; the Alphabot that automatically brings items from storage to associates who are consolidating online orders; and pickup towers where customers can pick up items they have pre-ordered. The retailer plans to roll out the Auto-C to 360 stores in the near future.


HBC Revenue Up, Earnings Down

HBC had revenue of $2,187 million for the third quarter of 2018, an increase of 5.6 per cent over revenue in the third quarter of 2017. Overall comparable sales increased 2.9 per cent with total comparable digital sales increasing eight per cent year-over-year. Gross profit for the company as a percentage of revenue was 39.4 per cent for the quarter, an improvement of 10 basis points. Adjusted EBITDA was $63 million, an increase of $23 million from the year-ago period. Net loss from continuing operations was $124 million compared to a net loss of $116 million last year.


December 5, 2018

Castle Launches Revamped Website

Castle Building Centres Group Ltd. has launched its revamped website ‒ Castle.ca. The site has a contemporary design and technologically advanced features and is fully responsive on both desktop and mobile. It offers an optimized store locator with customizable features and a quick share feature to share store locations. The site also includes an advanced search function and comprehensive products section. The products section includes over 30,000 LBM products plus the entire Orgill Canada product catalogue. As well, the site features a 'Learn' section, which was designed to be a destination for contractors and DIYers where they can watch video tutorials, instructional videos, and download installation guidelines.


Consumer Digital Habits Driving Change In Retail

Widespread disruption from technology, shifting consumer behaviours and preferences across demographic groups, and changing economic impact continue to radically transform retail in Canada, says KPMG's Willy Kruh, consumer and retail national leader, high growth markets, at KPMG in Canada and global chair for consumer markets. "Technological disruption has fundamentally changed the retail experience, but many Canadian retailers are still playing catch up. Retailers today not only have to compete with fierce eCommerce competitors, including large global platform companies, but also respond to rapidly shifting shopping expectations driven by new technologies and demographic changes. Recognition is only halfway to doing something and too many Canadian retailers are not keeping pace with the fact that consumers and their shopping habits are undergoing a sea-change." An increasing number of Canadian shoppers are turning to online channels, led by the fast-growing Gen Y and Z demographics. While eCommerce adoption in Canada lags other developed countries, Canadians' buying habits are evolving and they are gradually migrating online, driven by the growing need for convenience and personalization. Kruh says retailers need to be relevant or go out of business as pressure mounts in the face of innovative online, omni-channel, and specialty competitors. "Canadian retailers who fail to respond to this rapidly changing environment are likely to face dire choices, including store closures."


Healthy Spend Anticipated For Holidays

Almost a quarter of global consumers plan to spend more than last Christmas, while 43 per cent plan to spend as much as last year, finds a survey by Ferratum Oyj. Its 'Christmas Barometer' shows Canadians continue to enjoy Christmas and everything surrounding the holiday. A healthy 22 per cent of Canadians monthly income is dedicated to holiday expenses including gifts and winter activities. Spending time with family and loved ones is what 69 per cent of the respondents say is most important to them. Another 18 per cent appreciate the Christmas celebration and spirit more than receiving gifts or doing winter sports. Of those that go shopping for gifts, approximately 22 per cent say they were planning on shopping online for products and services.


West Fraser To Implement Production Curtailments

West Fraser will implement temporary production curtailments over the holiday period at four of its British Columbia sawmills. Operations in Chasm, 100 Mile House, Williams Lake, and Chetwynd are affected by the decision. The company says challenging lumber markets and high log costs coupled with log supply constraints have necessitated the decision. The curtailments are expected to reduce SPF lumber production by approximately 25 million board feet in 2018.


RH Has Strong Quarter

Luxury home goods retailer RH had adjusted net income of $46.8 million for the third quarter of 2018, a 92 per cent increase over adjusted net income in the third quarter of 2017. GAAP net income increased 70 per cent to $22.4 million. Adjusted net revenues for the quarter increased eight per cent to $638.5 million year-over-year. Comparable brand revenues increased four per cent. Since the previous quarter, the company has completed a redesign of the organization as a luxury brand, closed an additional 500,000 square foot distribution centre, and continued to reduce capital requirements by improving deal economics and lowering construction costs.


December 4, 2018

Canadians Believe In Brick-and-mortar

The majority (71 per cent) of Canadian consumers believe that brick-and-mortar stores will not disappear. KPMG's ‘Me, My Life, My Wallet’ report shows half of consumers surveyed in Canada across four demographic groups do a mix of online and brick-and-mortar shopping and most still have a positive view of traditional malls and grocery stores, in particular. Food, clothing, and household goods, for example, were noted as items that consumers prefer to purchase in-store, as well as those purchased most frequently. "Many retailers will have to right-size their portfolio of stores, but they are also planning new business models or re-evaluating the in-store experience to offer hybrid experiences for customers," says Willy Kruh, consumer and retail national leader, high growth markets, at KPMG in Canada and global chair for consumer markets. "Retailers must have a clear understanding of where and how they're investing so they can fully benefit from the connected-customer approach. Only then will they be able to deliver what consumers want." A number of companies that started solely online are now beginning to introduce physical ‘showrooms’ to offer virtual/physical experiences for customers. "Amid disruption from the Amazons of the world, retailers should focus on creating value and innovating on the links between online and physical shopping," says Kruh. "Every business needs to think hard about how to cater to what customers find relevant and enhance their overall experience. Today, consumers are most keen on digital experiences that improve and complement the physical environment around them."


Business Transfers To Skyrocket Over Next Decade

Over $1.5 trillion in business assets will be in play over the next decade as nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of small business owners intend to exit their business, says a survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). The vast majority of business owners (81 per cent) intend to sell or transfer their business to retire, although only a fraction of them have started planning for their departure. In fact, 51 per cent have no plan at all, while a mere eight per cent of owners have a formal written plan and 41 per cent have an informal plan. Nearly half of business owners (48 per cent) plan to sell to third parties, while others prefer to pass their business on to one or more family members, whether through a sale (25 per cent) or a transfer (21 per cent) such as an inheritance. Finding a suitable successor or buyer is the main hurdle to succession cited by survey respondents (56 per cent). With this in mind, CFIB recommends that small business owners start planning for their succession early on and prepare for the unexpected by working out several potential exit strategies.


IPEX HomeRite Launches Updated Website

IPEX HomeRite Products, a supplier of pipe and fittings to home improvement retailers for plumbing, irrigation, electrical, and HVAC applications, has remodelled its website at ipexhomerite.com. The site is now optimized for use on mobile devices. Visitors have better mobile web performance because the site will reformat itself for different devices. The update features a product catalogue with wider search capability and a full line of product photos. This allows IPEX HomeRite Products to provide up-to-date product information to its customers, including specific SKU image, part weight, and dimensional information. The resource centre includes popular DIY projects often undertaken using IPEX products and the hobby section shows viewers a variety of projects they can make using IPEX pipe and fittings and offers the opportunity to share their projects with other viewers.


U.S. Holiday Consumers Interested In Convenience

U.S. consumers shopping for the holidays say they want convenience, says mobile commerce engagement platform GPShopper. Its research shows 62 per cent of American shoppers will not wait in an hour-long line to purchase a gift and a majority (67 per cent) of those interested in using tech in-store are interested in buying online and picking-up in-store to ease their experience this year. Among those that experience stress during holiday shopping, a majority (53 per cent) identify waiting in lines and crowds of people as one of the most stressful factors of holiday shopping; while 47 per cent say not being able to find the product they want/need and a quarter (25 per cent) say gifts arriving late causes them the most stress. To avoid any last-minute rush and escape the stress of holiday shopping, almost half of holiday shoppers say they’ll purchase gifts at least a month in advance to avoid any issues, compared to a slim three per cent that say they’ll pay up to $50 more for rush shipping. As well, 40 per cent of holiday shoppers will give a gift card instead of purchasing gifts. Thirteen per cent of shoppers will buy online at a more expensive price because a gift is not available in-store.


Canadian eCommerce Catching Up To U.S.

Business-to-consumer (B2C) eCommerce in North America will continue double-digit growth for at least the next three years, says a report by ResearchAndMarkets. And, while the sales volume in the larger population of the U.S. far exceeds online sales in Canada, the eCommerce penetration rate of Canada is expected to equal that of the U.S. by 2021. Growth in both nations is enhanced by adoption of new technologies such as mobile shopping, omnichannel commerce, and voice purchases. The ubiquity of smartphones in North America is one factor affecting the continued growth of online commerce. Mobile device owners not only use them to make purchases through merchant websites or apps, the devices also facilitate omnichannel shopping as smartphones are used to read reviews or find prices from other outlets while in a store or to research at home followed by a purchase in-store. As well, the practice of webrooming and showrooming blurs the lines between online and traditional retail. Another new technology affecting eCommerce is the use of smart speakers to make online purchases. The report projects sales volume through voice command in 2021 will be 20 times higher than the level of such purchases 2017.


Malone Has New Role

Nick Malone is vice-president of merchandising for the Lowe’s banner at Lowe's Canada. Previously, he was senior director, central merchandising


December 3, 2018

Business Confidence Slump Continues

Small business confidence rose 0.7 points to 61.2 in November, performing below expectations, says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) in its 'Business Barometer' index. Forty-two per cent of owners report their business is in good shape this month, compared to 11 per cent who say they are in bad shape. Hiring intentions are back to normal seasonal levels, with 18 per cent planning to hire additional full-time staff in the next few months versus 14 per cent who plan to cut back. An index level between 65 and 70 normally indicates that the economy is growing at its potential and a majority of owners expect their business performance to be stronger in the next year. Confidence fell in seven out of 13 sectors and gains in the remaining six were generally modest. Retail experienced the greatest loss (5.7), even with the holidays approaching. Construction also posted low results at 55, while the wholesale sector was optimistic.


Western To Acquire Columbia Vista

British Columbia-based Western Forest Products Inc. plans to acquire the assets of Columbia Vista Corporation and certain related entities. Columbia Vista is located in Vancouver, WA, and is a lumber manufacturer that focuses production on Douglas Fir specialty products for the Japanese and U.S. markets. It operates a sawmill business in Washington State and has been in business for over 60 years. Western says bringing the companies together will provide an opportunity to expand its Douglas Fir specialty product offerings. The acquisition is expected to close in the first quarter of 2019.


Mohawk CFO Boykin To Retire

After 25 years with the company, Frank H. Boykin, chief financial officer of Mohawk Industries, Inc., is retiring. Boykin joined the company in 1993, moving up through various financial roles prior to his appointment as CFO in 2005. Mohawk has launched a comprehensive search for Boykin's successor. After his successor is selected, Boykin will facilitate the transition in a senior consultant role.


Pray To Lead Columbia Forest Products

Greg Pray is president and chief executive officer at Columbia Forest Products, effective January 1. He joined the company in 2006, serving most recently as executive vice-president of U.S. operations in the plywood division. He succeeds Brad Thompson, who will remain with the company as an advisor to Pray through the first quarter of 2019.


Baeumler Takes Main Stage

HGTV Canada’s Bryan Baeumler will take the main stage for the 2019 ‘Calgary Renovation Show.’ It will feature more than 200 home improvement companies with everything needed to make home goals happen. It takes place January 11 to 13 in Calgary, AB. For information, visit calgaryrenovationshow.com


November 30, 2018

GTA Home Market Active In October

In October, the Greater Toronto, ON, Area new home market saw a relatively active month for new condominium apartment and single-family home sales and openings, says the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD). There were 2,805 condominium apartments in low-, medium-, and high-rise buildings, stacked townhouses, and loft units sold in October, down 44 per cent from October 2017, but only one per cent less than the 10-year average. Single-family home sales, with 491 detached, linked, and semi-detached houses and townhouses (excluding stacked townhouses) sold, were even with last October and down 64 per cent from the 10-year average. The new home market’s gradual return to more typical activity levels is an encouraging sign, says David Wilkes, president and CEO of BILD. “It's clear that when we are able to bring on more supply and give new home buyers more product to choose from, they get excited and motivated about making that choice. That's why we are especially heartened by the new provincial government's commitment to increasing housing supply through its ‘Housing Supply Action Plan’.”


Organizational Culture Make-or-break Factor

Creating a positive corporate culture is top of mind for employers looking to recruit and retain talent, finds a study from global staffing firm Robert Half. ‘Organizational Culture: The Make-or-Break Factor in Hiring and Retention’ shows two in five workers in Canada (40 per cent) won't accept a job that is a perfect match if the corporate culture clashes. As well, 90 per cent of managers say a candidate's fit with the organizational culture is equal to or more important than their skills and experience. While workers say their ideal corporate culture is supportive or team-oriented, most describe their company as traditional. “Today's professionals are looking to do more with their careers than satisfy a job description; they want to be part of an organization whose values align with their own and feel inspired with a sense of purpose in the workplace,” says Greg Scileppi, president of Robert Half, international staffing operations. “For companies, this means evaluating more than a candidate's skills or qualifications to find the right fit for their business. There has to be a focus on identifying individual motivations and promoting the type of work environment that puts employee engagement and success at the heart of the corporate culture.”


Government Releases NECB 2017

The National Research Council of Canada and Natural Resources Canada are providing Canadians with free online access to the 2017 edition of the 'National Energy Code of Canada for Buildings' (NECB 2017). The NECB 2017 builds on Canada's commitment to work closely with the provinces and territories on the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change to meet emissions reduction targets, grow the economy, and build resilience to a changing climate. Provinces and territories may adopt the NECB 2017 or adapt it to create a regulation that meets their specific regional needs. This pilot project marks the first time that a national building code has been made freely accessible and will provide the government of Canada with the opportunity to evaluate the benefits of moving towards such a model. Improving the energy efficiency of buildings is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce a carbon footprint. At the same time, providing free codes to the construction industry has been linked to strong gains in productivity and the economy in other countries.


RPM Launches Improvement Plan

RPM International Inc. has implemented an operating improvement plan called 'MAP to Growth' which includes initiatives designed to drive greater efficiency to accelerate growth and increase value from the unique entrepreneurial culture and leading brands that have been the foundation of its success for decades. The plan includes realignment of the company's six business groups into four with presidents appointed for each. They are Dave Dennsteadt for performance coatings, Paul Hoogenboom for construction products, Terry Horan for consumer products, and John McLaughlin for specialty products. Each of these group leaders has decades of experience at RPM and within the industry. The company says reorganizing into these four groups will enable it to better manage its assets and improve synergies across the enterprise. The plan will also maintain the company's entrepreneurial growth culture by keeping key customer-focused functions that make it unique, such as technical support, sales, marketing, and R&D at the business level. The company has begun instituting numerous changes, including establishing an operating improvement committee, appointing two new members to the board of directors, and engaging a top consulting firm to support execution.


Ace Hardware Revenues Rise

Ace Hardware Corporation had revenues of $1.43 billion in the third quarter of 2018, an increase of 6.3 per cent over revenues in the third quarter of 2017. Wholesale revenues were up five per cent, with increases across all departments. Paint, electrical, and holiday decor showed the largest gains. The company’s Ace Hardware International Holdings, Ltd. subsidiary had a $4 million decline in wholesale revenue from the prior year. Total retail revenues were $85.9 million, up 31.1 per cent year-over-year. Net income was $36.3 million for the quarter, a decrease of $17.5 million from 2017. Wholesale gross profit decreased while retail gross profit increased. There was a three per cent increase in the average ticket year-over-year.


Saint-Gobain Makes Executive Changes

Pierre-André de Chalendar is chief executive officer of Compagnie de Saint-Gobain, effective January. As well, Benoit Bazin is chief operating officer; Armand Ajdari is vice-president, research and development; Julie Bonamy is vice-president strategy; Patrick Dupin is senior vice-president, CEO northern Europe region; Javier Gimeno is senior vice-president, CEO Asia-Pacific region; Laurent Guillot is senior vice-president, CEO high performance solutions; Benoit d’Iribarne is vice-president technology and industrial performance; Thomas Kinisky is senior vice-president, innovation and chairman North America; Claire Pedini is senior vice-president, human resources and digital transformation; Laurence Pernot is vice-president communications; Sreedhar N. is chief financial officer; Guillaume Texier is senior vice-president, CEO southern Europe, Middle East, and Africa region; and Antoine Vignial is corporate secretary, in charge of corporate social responsibility.


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