Serving Canada's Home Improvement Industry

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


July 19, 2019

Steep Slowdown Projected In U.S. Home Improvements

Growth in U.S. residential remodeling spend is expected to slow considerably by the middle of next year, says the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) by the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. The LIRA projects that annual gains in homeowner expenditures for improvements and repairs will shrink from 6.3 per cent in the current quarter to just 0.4 per cent by the second quarter of 2020. The decrease in spend will be caused by declining home sales and homebuilding activity.

Metro Vancouver Housing Pre-Sales Drop 47 Per Cent

The severely depressed nature of British Columbia's Lower Mainland housing market throughout the first half of 2019 is prompting more developers to hold back on their approved projects, says MLA Canada in its mid-year market update report. Approximately 4,100 new homes within multi-family developments were introduced into the pre-sale market during the first six months, but this accounts for a staggering 47 per cent decrease in the total amount of pre-sale inventory released during the same period in 2018. Despite the falling supply, BC is still projected to see 55,000 new residents from migration this year, with the vast majority moving to Metro Vancouver. For the remainder of the year, analysts expect just 27 project launches in Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley with over 3,500 new condominiums combined. Richmond will be the most active submarket for the second half of 2019, with about five project launches creating over 700 units. As well, with rising inventory levels and projects taking far longer to sell, many projects ‒ even those that have received all necessary permits to proceed with construction ‒ will likely hold their sales launch until 2020 or until more favourable conditions.

Canada Invests In Automation Of Cedar Shingle Factory

Canada's ministry of natural resources is investing $2.4 million to help build a fully-automated cedar shingle facility. Waska, located in Clair, NB, will use the funding to build an automated plant that will employ lasers, sensors, and advanced algorithms, which are a set of computer-generated instructions typically used to perform problem-solving operations in production. The improved and highly digitalized automation process will significantly increase production, result in higher precision rates, lower production costs, reduce energy usage, and enhance efficiency. The investment is provided through Natural Resources Canada's ‘Investments in Forest Industry Transformation (IFIT)’ program. Through 'Budget 2019,' the government proposes an additional $82.9 million over three years, starting in 2020-21, for the IFIT program. Waska is a division of Clair Industrial Development Corporation Ltd., has been in operation for 50 years and focuses on manufacturing a variety of shingles and fences.

Economy Provides Opportunities For Refinishers

The current slowed state of housing and slack economy provide opportunities for professional kitchen and bath refinishers, says NAPCO, Ltd., a producer of refinishing products and bathtub and kitchen refinishing training company. As well, "bathtub and kitchen refinishers are not being impacted to the same extent as remodelers or builders have been by tariffs on supplies such as steel, timber, and aluminum," says Dani Nichols, president of NAPCO. "Refinishing a kitchen or bathroom reuses existing materials by repairing and applying specialty coatings to the surfaces for lasting improvement. By educating homeowners about this option, home improvements are within reach. The price tag of a bathroom remodel can drop from $8,000 to $12,000 to $1,500." NAPCO says bathtub refinishers can expand their skill set to include kitchen refinishing and offer affordable home improvements.

Canfor Further Reduces Capacity

Canfor Corporation will further reduce capacity at two of its British Columbia sawmills with an indefinite curtailment at its Mackenzie sawmill and the permanent elimination of one shift at its Isle Pierre sawmill. The indefinite curtailment at Mackenzie, which is effective immediately, is due to the high cost of fibre, continued poor lumber markets, and challenging operating conditions that have combined to make the mill uneconomic under these conditions. The Isle Pierre sawmill capacity reduction is due to insufficient timber supply as a result of the mountain pine beetle epidemic and associated decline in the annual allowable cut. The reduction will enable the mill to better align its production capacity with the sustainable fibre supply in the region.

Barton Named Marketing Director

Mitch Barton is marketing director of global press connection with RIDGID. He brings several decades of marketing and product development experience to the role and served most recently as director, global project management for performance health, at Akron.

Curtailments Affect West Fraser Earnings

West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. had sales of $1,317 million in the second quarter of 2019, a decrease over sales of $2,558 million in the second quarter of 2018. Adjusted EBITDA was $56 million for the quarter compared to $166 million in the year-ago period. The company had a loss of $58 million compared to a loss of $63 million last year. Permanent and temporary curtailments resulted in 250 MMfbm (million board feet) of reduced lumber production during the first half of 2019.

July 18, 2019

Home Hardware Named 'Elite' In Customer Experience

Home Hardware Stores Limited has made the 'elite brand list' and ranked fourth in Forrester's 'Canada 2019 Customer Experience Index.' The index says only one in four brands' scores rose while one per cent declined. Fifty per cent of the industry averages increased, with luxury auto manufacturers, mass-market auto manufacturers, and multi-channel banks as the top performing industries. As an elite brand, Home Hardware is in the top five per cent of customer experience quality across industries in its region. The index says that while customer experience quality in Canada is slowly improving, brands are still struggling. No brand has risen to the top of the index rankings and continued to rise. Brands that wish to break out from their competition must focus on emotion as the survey reveals that emotion has the largest impact on brand loyalty in every industry.

Miller's Country Store Hangs Ace Banner

Miller's Country Store has joined Ace Canada, a Lowe's Canada affiliated network. The 5,000-square-foot store in Exeter, ON, has been serving the community since 2010. It is owned by Doug and Barry Eidt, who also own an Ace store in Mitchell, ON. They acquired the store in May and are in the process of converting it to the Ace banner to bring more choices to local customers. Upon completion of the conversion, the store will be renamed Miller's Ace Country & Garden. It will stock some of the same items originally carried by the store, such as farm products, pet food, and work wear, and will offer more categories and approximately 100 news items, including CRAFTSMAN tools. The store will also feature an appliance showroom and a dedicated seasonal section.

Amazon Prime Day Sales Soar

Sales over Amazon's Prime Days ‒ July 15 and 16 ‒ surpassed the previous Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined worldwide. Prime members purchased more than 175 million items throughout the event and spent more than $2 billion on products from independent small- and medium-sized businesses which are third-party sellers on Amazon. Members in 18 countries shopped – double the number since the first Prime Day five years ago. Canada's top sellers were PlayStation 4 Slim with Spiderman and Horizon Zero Dawn, LifeStraw Personal Water Filter, and 23andMe Health + Ancestry kits.

U.S. Retail Sales Up 0.6 Per Cent

U.S. retail sales were up 0.6 per cent in June seasonally adjusted from May and up 2.3 per cent unadjusted year-over-year, says the National Retail Federation (NRF). The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations, and restaurants. As of June, the three-month moving average was up 3.7 per cent over the same period a year ago, compared with 3.3 per cent in May. June’s results build on gains of 0.4 per cent month-over-month and 2.9 per cent year-over-year seen in May. Building materials and garden supply stores were down 4.7 per cent year-over-year but up 0.5 per cent month-over-month seasonally adjusted, while electronics and appliance stores were down 5.8 per cent year-over-year and 0.3 per cent month-over-month. Online and other non-store sales were up 11.6 per cent compared to last year and up 1.7 per cent compared to last month seasonally adjusted.

Good Growth For ASSA ABLOY

ASSA ABLOY had net sales of SEK23,544 million for the second quarter of 2019, an increase of 11 per cent compared to net sales of SEK21,140 million in the second quarter of 2018. The company had strong growth in the Americas and global technologies and good growth in entrance systems. Operating income (EBIT) was SEK3,733 million for the quarter, up 28 per cent over operating income of SEK2,911 million. Net income was SEK2,562 million, up 25 per cent over SEK2,049 million in the year-ago period.

July 17, 2019

Retail Sales Rise In First Quarter

Retail sales in Canada reached $131.1 billion in the first quarter, up 1.8 per cent from the same quarter of 2018. Sales were up in 13 commodity groupings for the first quarter of 2019, says Statistics Canada. Sales of food posted the largest increase, rising 3.6 per cent, while sales of automotive fuels and household fuels posted the largest decrease at 7.6 per cent. Sales of hardware, tools, renovation, and lawn and garden products reached $7.5 billion, up 1.5 per cent over the same period a year ago. Receipts from home furniture, furnishings, housewares, appliances, and electronics fell 0.9 per cent, led by home electronics which dropped 10.8 per cent. Higher sales in indoor home furniture which rose 5.7 per cent and housewares at 4.2 per cent moderated the decline.

Companies Missing Growth Opportunities In Supply Chain

In today’s era of ever-growing focus on the customer, only a small number of forward-thinking companies are realizing the unique opportunity their supply chains offer to better meet customer needs, fuel competitiveness, and uncover growth, says a report from Accenture. In fact, more than three-quarters of companies are missing opportunities to leverage the power of the supply chain as a driver of revenue growth. The remaining 22 per cent of companies are making smart moves in three areas ‒ digital investments, customer-centricity, and ecosystems. This is enabling them to shift their supply chain strategy from driving cost efficiencies to powering growth opportunities and achieving competitive agility. Those falling behind need to quickly transform their supply chain and operations function into a collaborative engine of growth and innovation or else they risk their future success, says the report.

Employees See Benefits Of Personalized Wellness Programs

The majority of working Canadians (80 per cent) say their overall wellbeing would improve if their employer were to offer a personalized wellness program that is customized to an individual's specific wellness and health related interests and goals, says a survey by RBC Insurance. On top of that, nine in 10 working Canadians (94 per cent) are more likely to work for an employer that cares about their overall health and wellbeing. When it comes to group benefits overall, flexibility and customization are important. Nine in 10 workers value choice in their group benefits plan, with 84 per cent more likely to participate in a workplace wellness program that is customized to their specific wellness goals. The survey says there is a relationship between working Canadians' overall wellbeing and those who have group benefits or private coverage. While 70 per cent of working Canadians with group or private insurance rate their wellbeing as excellent or good, that figure falls to 59 per cent for those without any type of insurance coverage at all.

Outdoor Living Drives Landscaping Products Sales

Consumers are crazy about outdoor living, and it's positively impacting demand for higher value hardscape products and outdoor heating implements, says the Freedonia Group. Outdoor living includes lounging, cooking and dining, entertaining, gardening and landscaping, and tailgating. As consumers seek to expand the square footage of their homes by creating more elaborate 'outdoor rooms' that emulate the comfort and aesthetics of indoor living areas, they'll increasingly invest in more expensive hardscape products. Demand for hardscape products is expected to increase 5.4 per cent per year through 2023, driven by interest in higher value products such as stamped concrete plank pavers that resemble wood, natural stone products, porcelain pavers, and permeable pavers that can help prevent issues with water runoff and flooding.

July 16, 2019

June Home Sales Flat

Following a string of monthly gains, national home sales were little changed in June from the previous month, says the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). Although running close to its 10-year average and up nearly 10 per cent from the six-year low reached in February, activity remains well below levels recorded over much of 2015, 2016 and 2017. The nearly unchanged national tally was the result of an even split between the number of local markets where sales were up and those where they were down. Larger monthly gains were generally focused in the province of Quebec and in southern Ontario. Those gains were offset by declines in a diverse mix of markets across Canada, including the Greater Vancouver, BC, Area (GVA); Calgary, AB; Halifax-Dartmouth, NS; and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Actual (not seasonally adjusted) sales activity edged up 0.3 per cent compared to June 2018, with gains in the Greater Toronto, ON, Area (GTA) and Montreal, QC, offsetting declines in B.C. The number of newly-listed homes edged up 0.8 per cent in June.

Demographics Different Than Behaviour

Consumer demographics are different from, but affect, consumer behaviour, says Ken Jenkins, president of Castle Building Centres Group. Writing on his blog, 'Insights,' he says demographics segment customers based on age, ethnicity, gender, income, schooling, occupation, and marital status are an integral part of understanding them and their perceived needs. However, it's important to have knowledge of both customer demographics and consumer behaviour. Demographic segmentation ‒ like age ‒ will give some insight into customers' needs and expectations and is an important piece in their behaviour and buying habits. But retailers will need to dig deeper and understand consumer behaviour and the diversity that motivates each generation. Jenkins says a conversation with your customers is a good place to start. "Make the investment to understand what's important to them, what motivates them. It's a huge task to be sure, but like the proverbial elephant, make a plan to learn about your customers in bite-size chunks."

Amazon To Provide Training To 100,000 Employees

Amazon will invest over $700 million to provide upskilling training programs for roughly 100,000 employees ‒ one-third of its workforce ‒ across the U.S. Programs will provide training to move into highly skilled technical and non-technical roles across the company's corporate offices, tech hubs, fulfillment centres, retail stores, and transportation network. Based on a review of the its jobs and analysis of hiring data from its U.S. workforce, Amazon's fastest growing highly skilled jobs over the last five years are data mapping specialist (832 per cent growth), data scientist (505 per cent), solutions architect (454 per cent), security engineer (229 per cent), and business analyst (160 per cent). Within customer fulfillment, highly skilled roles have increased over 400 per cent, including jobs like logistics co-ordinator, process improvement manager, and transportation specialist within its customer fulfillment network.

Offering Personalized Experience Benefits Retailers

Retailers that deliver best-in-class personalized experience are achieving an increase of 10 to 20 per cent in the value of the average order and in purchasing frequency, says research from Boston Consulting Group (BCG). Unfortunately, most retailers are nowhere close to delivering the personalized experiences that their customers expect. All retailers should make advancing to the next personalization maturity level a strategic priority, says BCG, as it can result in significant benefits. For example, when the shopping experience was highly personalized, customers indicated that they were 110 per cent more likely to add additional items to their baskets and 40 per cent more likely to spend more than they had planned. Moreover, when asked to rate a particular retailer, customers who experienced a high level of personalization provided net promoter scores that were 20 per cent higher than those of customers who experienced a low level of personalization. Some ways retailers can increase their customer experience level include partnering more effectively; boosting targeted advertising; improving use of data to make real-time customer recommendations; using mobile, paid display, and paid search marketing to activate more channels more frequently; and utilizing personalization tactics such as personalized merchandising and loyalty and reward programs.

July 15, 2019

Retailers Missing Opportunities With In-store Technologies

While 75 per cent of U.S. consumers are aware of at least one retail technology, only 33 per cent have experienced any, says a survey by A.T. Kearney. The '2019 Consumer Retail Technology Survey' says that when it comes to in-store technologies, most retailers are lagging behind consumer awareness of them in terms of providing an experience involving one or more. Consumers have different expectations for different types of stores. However, with 45 per cent visiting a big box store because of a technological aspect of the shopping experience compared to 24 per cent who visit a specialty store because of its technology. Technologies most likely to influence shopping choices include limited interaction and time-saving technologies. Five key emerging technologies that will impact the retail environment in-store include augmented reality (AR), mobile point-of-sale, cashierless checkout, interactive screens, and 3D printing.

Canada Launches Energy Efficiency Program

The government of Canada has launched the Energy Manager Program, which will provide $3.1 million to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), municipalities, universities, schools, hospitals, and not-for-profit organizations in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and New Brunswick ‒ provinces where the federal carbon pricing backstop applies. The program will help identify and adopt energy efficiency solutions that reduce energy use, operating costs, and greenhouse gas emissions by offering funding to hire energy managers and undergo energy assessments for buildings, industrial facilities, and fleets. The program will be funded from the proceeds of the federal carbon pollution pricing system. This program complements other energy efficiency, clean energy, and innovation programs.

Most Americans Will Procrastinate Paint Projects

Roughly 84 million Americans intend to paint a room in their homes in the next year. The key word here is 'intend.' A majority of those surveyed agree that painting is easy, yet a quarter of respondents admit they’ll procrastinate anyway. In fact, Americans are more likely to procrastinate on home maintenance than any other aspect of their lives, says a survey commissioned by GLIDDEN. In the next year, 41 per cent of Millennials plan to do a home paint project. That’s approximately 30 million Americans born between 1981 and 1996. However, Millennials are 13 per cent more likely than other generations to procrastinate on smaller tasks like painting a room or fixing things around the house. Yet, they are less likely than other generations to procrastinate on larger, more expensive home improvement projects. When they have free time, only three per cent of Millennials will prioritize home improvement, favouring time with friends and acts of self-care. If less prep were required, 76 million Americans would be more likely to start a paint project. The most enjoyable part of the job is selecting the paint colour. The top-ranked motivator to stop procrastinating is visualizing the end result.

Mastercard Launches B2B Virtual Card Receivables Service

Mastercard has partnered with VersaPay to launch its Virtual Card Receivables Service, a way to digitize the reconciliation of virtual card payments for businesses of all sizes. The service will aggregate information from Mastercard issuers related to virtual card payments by their corporate customers and compile it into one comprehensive file, available in a digital format including Microsoft Excel and CSV. This creates a digital data source that suppliers can more easily integrate into ERP systems or use for cash flow forecasting. Traditionally, a virtual card number used for the payment is eMailed or faxed to a supplier. Without standard, digital formats for receiving payments, buyers resort to more analogue delivery methods and suppliers are forced to manually reconcile information for each invoice. The service streamlines the payment approach and allows businesses to benefit from the security and valuable data such as invoice numbers and SKU information afforded by virtual card numbers.

Strong Sales Forecast For Smart Thermostat Market

The smart thermostat market was valued at US$689.8 million in 2018 and is expected to reach a value of $2,322.2 million by 2024, at a compound annual growth rate of 23.1 per cent from 2019 to 2024, says research from Reportbuyer. The main factors driving the need for smart thermostat are the convenience, energy conservation, energy tracking, and need for an increase in potential savings. Increasing internet penetration, coupled with the increased usage of smartphones and other mobile devices, has resulted in an increased spread of connectivity. Due to this, smart thermostats are increasingly being adopted. Additionally, with a Wi-Fi connection and smart thermostats, virtual assistants, like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, are increasingly being used to control and monitor the home temperature, program schedules, or crank up the A/C.

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