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

News

December 22, 2011

Retail Increases For Third Month

Retail sales rose one per cent to $38.6 billion in October, a third consecutive monthly increase, says Statistics Canada. Gains were reported in seven of 11 subsectors, representing 76 per cent of retail sales. In volume terms, sales were also up for a third month in a row, rising 0.6 per cent in October. Sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealerswere down -0.4 per cent September to October 2011, but up 2.9 per cent October 2010 to October 2011.

Builders Optimistic Despite Market Challenges

Forty-one point six per cent of U.S. home builders anticipate higher revenue in 2012, says Professional Builder’s ‘2012 Market Outlook Survey.’ Twenty-two per cent expect revenue to drop coming off a year when only 21 per cent of the builders had revenue growth and nearly half (48.1 per cent) experienced a drop. Moreover, slightly more than a quarter of builders surveyed (27.4 per cent) expect to build more homes in 2012 than in 2011, while 24 per cent anticipate building fewer homes. Heading into 2012, housing starts are off 69 per cent since the market peak in 2005 and average U.S. home prices continue to hover at mid-2003 levels.

Housing Starts Highest Since 2010

Housing starts in the U.S. were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 685,000 in November, 9.3 per cent higher than the revised October estimate of 627,000, says the Commerce Department. It's also the highest level of starts since April 2010. Compared with last year's near-record low, total housing starts were up 24.3 per cent. Single-family housing starts were up a modest 2.3 per cent, coming in at a pace of 447,000. Building permits also showed strong improvement with a rate of 681,000, up 5.7 per cent from October and 20.7 per cent from a year ago.

Downturn Worse Than Reported

Estimates of existing homes sold in the U.S. over the past five years may have been overblown, says the National Association of Realtors (NAR). It plans to downwardly revise sales of previously owned homes going back to 2007 when it releases its monthly home sales report. Characterizing the adjustment of previously released numbers as “a year-long re-benchmarking process,” chief economist Lawrence Yun says a series of errors ‒ including relying on data from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and outdated 2000 U.S. census numbers ‒ may have led the NAR to over-count home sales. NAR hasn't revealed exactly how big the revision will be.

Simpson Acquires Automatic Stamping 

Simpson Manufacturing Co. subsidiary Simpson Strong-Tie will acquire all of the assets of Automatic Stamping. Automatic Stamping manufactures and sells a line of high-quality truss-connector plates primarily in the United States. The transaction is expected to close either this month or next. Simpson Strong-Tie designs, engineers, and manufacturers wood-to-wood, wood-to-concrete, and wood-to-masonry connectors and fastening systems, stainless steel fasteners, and pre-fabricated shear walls.

Book Examines Home Building Performance

American home builders were immensely profitable during the housing boom, but did little to improve the efficiency of their operations, says a book from researchers at Harvard University. ‘Bigger Isn’t Necessarily Better: Lessons from the Harvard Home Builder Study’ (Lexington Books) examines the performance and operation of the U.S. home building sector based on a detailed survey of large home builders during the housing boom of the 2000s. Though numerous studies have focused on the financial side of the housing sector prior to the Great Recession, the book examines the building side of the industry and what did and did not happen during the period of unprecedented growth from 1999 to 2004. It provides insight into how American home builders might better cope with operational challenges going forward.

PWBank Appoints Managers

Pacific & Western Credit Corp. has announced several key appointments at its wholly-owned subsidiary, Pacific & Western Bank of Canada (PWBank) in support of the upcoming launch of the Home Credit Card on January 2, 2012, with its partner, Home Hardware Stores Limited. Peter Lee is senior manager, credit risk. He has more than 34 years of experience creating risk models and managing credit risk for a number of large Canadian and international banks in the retail credit card industry. Robin Redden is credit card marketing manager. He has 18 years of experience in banking and financial services relationship management.

ICSC Conference Highlights Technology Trends

The International Council of Shopping Centers’ ‘2012 Whistler Conference’ will put the spotlight on the latest technological trends and how retailers are bridging the gap between their brick and mortar locations and their online websites. The conference will take place January 23 to 24 at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, Whistler, BC. Keynote speaker Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer, Inc., will address the role of technology in today’s society and how to utilize the latest innovations to add to the success of a business. For more information, visit www.icsc.org

December 22 Product Spotlight

The Ladies Garden Comfort Clogs from Midwest Glove & Gear are designed to keep feet dry and comfortable while gardening. The lightweight design includes removable insoles for added comfort. They are made with EVA material.
• BOSCH’s BSH180 Band Saw is designed to replace traditional hacksaws and reciprocating saws used by plumbers and electricians. The cordless saw can precisely cut materials such as metal, copper pipe, and electrical cables even in tight spaces.
The Bellagio Patio Torch is approved for use on wooden decks, stone or brick patios, and concrete. It delivers 16,000 to 31,000 BTU.
• 3M’s TEKK Sanding/Fiberglass Cool Flow respirators protect lungs during sanding, sawing, grinding, and insulating projects with a filter that provides at least 95 per cent efficiency in removing particles.
Black & Decker’s 36-volt Self-Propelled Rechargeable Mower can deliver enough run time from a single charge to cut up to one-third of an acre. It features one-touch height adjustment, a fold-up frame, and a lightweight polymer cutting deck.
The Versa Kitchen Aerator from Ecofitt delivers a splash-free stream that adds force for cleaning. It is available in white, chrome, and nickel and includes dual threads for easy installation.

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December 21, 2011

CFIB Against CPP Doubling

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is urging many governments to drop their calls for an increase to Canada Pension Plan (CPP) premiums. "With ongoing hikes in employment insurance premiums and many workers' compensation levies as well as provincial minimum wages, small employers cannot afford another increase in mandatory payroll taxes," says Dan Kelly, CFIB's senior vice-president of legislative affairs. Its research shows that the Canadian Labour Congress proposal to double CPP benefits would kill 1.2 million person years of employment in the short term. To address the need for additional retirement savings options for small business owners, the self-employed and their employees, CFIB supports federal legislation for Pooled Registered Pension Plans (PRPPs). "This new vehicle should be allowed to work before any contemplation is given to other costly approaches," Kelly says.

Online Holiday Shopping To Top $18.5 Billion

Almost half of Canadians surveyed (46 per cent) said they will shop online for the holidays this year, says the ‘BMO 2011 Holiday Study.’ Although Canada has been slow to embrace e-commerce, the study indicates 2011 will be strong for online spending. It is predicted there will be a 12 per cent increase in online sales this holiday season, topping $18.5 billion. Slight more men (42 per cent) than women (37 per cent) are shopping online in Canada, with 84 per cent making direct payments through their credit cards. Travel-related purchases top the list of items shopped for online (49 per cent), followed by entertainment (40 per cent), reading material (35 per cent), and apparel and jewelry (33 per cent). 

Line Meets Specifications 

CertainTeed Gypsum is broadening its AirRenew indoor air quality (IAQ) gypsum board product line with the addition of AirRenew Extreme Impact and AirRenew Extreme Abuse. They are the first abuse-resistant gypsum boards that actively improve indoor air quality.  They handle the same as regular gypsum boards and do not require special tools to install or finish.  Both products feature M2Tech technology, which consists of 100 per cent recycled paper that is treated to protect against mould growth.


Ace Appoints COO

John Venhuizen is chief operating officer of Ace Hardware Corporation. He has spent nearly two decades with Ace and most recently served as executive vice-president of supply chain, information technology (IT), and international. In this position, he was instrumental both in significantly growing the number of Ace stores around the world and in creating a variety of successful support and incentive programs for retailers.

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December 20, 2011

Canadians Cautiously Shopping For Holidays

The high cost of living and economic uncertainties have led to watchful holiday spending this year, says the ‘2011 Annual Holiday Survey’ from Deloitte. Forty-eight per cent of Canadians surveyed said they were planning on spending the same amount this year, while 42 per cent said they were going to be spending less, and 10 per cent said they planned on spending more. Those who said their spending would be lower cited higher food and gas prices (63 per cent and 60 per cent respectively) as their main reasons, followed by economy concerns (54 per cent), household finances (52 per cent), and high energy costs (49 per cent). Forty-four per cent of consumers said they have a specific budget for their holiday purchases. The number of gift purchases has also been on the decline since 2006 from an average of 22 gift purchases to 14.7 for 2011.

Incandescent Phase Out Delayed

The enforcement of new energy-efficiency standards for light bulbs is being delayed by the budget bill drawn up to avert a federal shutdown in the United States, says the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. Under the new bill, which is expected to be signed into law this week, enforcement of the phase out of incandescent light bulbs will be delayed until at least October 1, 2012. The phase-out of 100-watt incandescent bulbs was originally expected to kick in January 1, 2012. In 2007, then-President George Bush signed the law that called for a phase-out of certain incandescent bulbs.

Black Friday Still Questionable For Canadians

Canadian consumers are still bewildered when it comes to Black Friday, says the Retail Council of Canada. At the Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity’s ‘Retail Futures: What’s in Store’ panel, research consultant Peter Woolford said 35 of the 57 retailers which responded to the council’s survey said they did not participate in Black Friday promotions at their Canadian stores. Most retailers who participate are in the electronics and apparel category, but large retailers and consumers are still testing the waters for this shopping event in Canada, he said. Most retailers recognize if American Black Friday shopping deals are going to take off in Canada, aggressive pricing and promotions will be important factors in success.

WSIB Imposing Higher Taxes

The government of Ontario’s decision to give the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) the go-ahead to impose higher payroll taxes will hurt small businesses in the construction sector, says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).The WSIB will register independent operators and small business owners in construction with payment of taxes due in 2013. Affected businesses have reported the additional tax will force them to raise their prices (70 per cent), cut employee wages (25 per cent), or force them out of business (19 per cent). CFIB hopes the government will reconsider its decision to bailout the executives at the WSIB.

Consumers Focused on Quality

Consumers consistently prioritize quality over all other attributes when shopping for items, says a report by Leger Marketing. In ‘The New Retail Shopper 2011,’ 81 per cent of consumers said they are looking for quality when shopping for home and garden products. Fifty per cent said customer service is of most importance to them, while 40 per cent said retail location. Fifteen per cent cited the store environment as the most important attribute and 14 per cent said the brand.

Lowe’s Helps Parents Cover Tuition

Lowe’s Home Improvement has joined the Mission Tuition merchant coalition, says Cardiff International Inc. The home improvement retailer will be featured as one of the leading merchants on the Cardiff missiontuition.com site. The Mission Tuition Educational Rewards Program was launched earlier this year to help parents save for their children's future educational needs without putting a strain on their income.

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December 19, 2011

Early Days Of Holiday Shopping See Confidence

Retailers are reporting a 55 per cent increase in store sales in early December 2011 from 2010, says the Retail Council of Canada. Peter Woolford, an RCC research consultant, says members are reporting that customers have been marginally more confident in the last two weeks than the early shopping days in December 2010, while 25 per cent of them reported lower store sales than early December 2010, and 21 per cent said it was on par. At the Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity’s (CSCA) ‘Retail Futures: What’s in Store’ panel, Woolford also said retailers believe the extra holiday shopping day on Saturday, December 24, will help with sales this year.

Timber Agreement Could Be Extended

U.S. and Canada are prepared to extend a shaky softwood lumber trade agreement put in place seven years ago to benefit local mills, says the U.S. Lumber Coalition. If approved, both sides will revisit the contract in 2015. The deal is designed to give U.S. manufacturers a level playing field with subsidized Canadian timber. In 2006, the United States and Canada signed the seven-year Softwood Lumber Agreement. The agreement imposed a five per cent tariff on Canadian lumber producers who limit production within a quota. A 15 per cent tariff is imposed on the rest of Canadian lumber. A decision is expected next spring or summer.

New Meaning Of Value To Consumers

For today’s post-recession consumers, durability, reliability, and cost-effectiveness are top of mind when making purchases, says Leger Marketing. In ‘The New Retail Shopper 2011’ survey, the firm reports that 41 per cent of respondents say value is ‘the biggest bang for the buck/What I get for the money I spend.’ Thirty-seven per cent say it means ‘higher quality for the same price,’ while 15 per cent say it means ‘discounted prices on regular purchases.’ Four per cent say it was ‘the lowest price’ and two per cent say it is ‘a good brand.’

Toxic Drywall Case Settled

A settlement has been reached in the case involving Chinese imported drywall that homeowners claimed created a toxic atmosphere in their homes. The Plaintiffs' Steering Committee (PSC) and Knauf Plasterboard Tianjin (KPT) jointly agreed on terms that will put an end to all future litigation against Knauf and its subsidiaries. The settlement is intended to cover all plaintiffs in the drywall litigations in both federal and state court whose homes or businesses have KPT drywall. Approximately 5,200 plaintiffs have specifically alleged that their homes contain KPT drywall. Of these, approximately 2,700 have submitted some evidence of the presence of KPT drywall. Plaintiffs include homeowners, commercial owners and tenants, multi-unit properties owners, and prior owners of foreclosed properties or those who have engaged in short sales due to the presence of KPT drywall. The settlement is subject to final approval by the United States District Court in New Orleans, LA. Judge Fallon, pending a hearing scheduled in 2012.

Products Company Acquires Forestland

The Timber Products Company has acquired sole ownership of 114,000 acres of timberlands in Northern California. The land has been used to source material for the company’s sustainable wood products mills.  The company says the acquisition will secure long-term supplies for mills in California and Southern Oregon. The company stewards its timberlands under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) program and was the first hardwood plywood manufacturer in the world to carry the SFI label.


Expo At Stiles Machinery

Stiles Machinery will host a Stiles Expo highlighting solid wood, sanding, and finishing applications January 25 and 26 at its High Point, NC, facility. The show will be a platform for seminars and machine demonstrations, and displays will include ripping, cross-cutting, sanding, and finishing technologies. For more information, visit www.stilesmachinery.com/events


RONA PRO Customer Wins Sports Trip

RONA PRO customer and owner of Neil Carter Contracting, Neil Carter, was recently awarded a dream sports trip worth $10,000 in the ‘Pick Your Prize’ contest, which ran in Ontario from May to October of this year. PRO customers were eligible to participate in the contest by either receiving a ballot for every purchase of $500 or more or by receiving a ballot if they went out to meet the RONA PRO Squad at on-site locations. They then had the option of dropping their ballot into the box of the prize they wanted to win ‒ a GMC Pickup, Ultimate Sports Trip, or an array of prizes including sports tickets, sports jerseys, and gift certificates.

Home Heating And Grilling Solutions Showcased

The Heart, Patio & Barbecue Expo will attract more than 250 manufacturers and suppliers showcasing the latest trends in home heating and grilling solutions March 1 to 3 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, GA. Items include fully-equipped outdoor kitchens, grilling accessories, all-weather entertainment products, and landscape features. Visit hpba.org/media/expo for more information.

Roy Sales Manager At SCM

Claude Roy is sales manager for SCM Group Industrial Division for Quebec and the Maritime provinces.  He has more than 25 years experience promoting and selling high technology machinery as well as automated finishing lines. Over the last six years, he represented SCM Group for stone and glass CNC machines across Canada.

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December 16, 2011

RONA Selling Prefabricated Homes

RONA is launching a prefabricated home program called Fabrica, set to be available in participating stores this spring. Through the program, customers and contractors will be able to order full home packages that will be constructed and delivered by a modular homebuilder. Homebuilders and contractors will be able to order pre-constructed components such as walls and roofs ready for installation and finishing. Through the program RONA hopes to make prefabricated homes more accessible to consumers across Canada.

Community Initiatives Make Good Business Sense

Organizations need to look at corporate social responsibility and corporate volunteering as activities that make good business sense, says Randstad Canada. The company’s president, Jan Hein Bax, says adopting corporate responsibility programs and policies will go a long way towards enhancing an employees' engagement level with their company as well as build a good reputation in the marketplace. The ‘2007 Canada Survey of Business Contributions to Community (CSBCC)’ found 82 per cent of respondents reported that they support employee volunteering programs.

National Housing Activity Up

National resale housing activity rose slightly in November 2011 from the previous month, says The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). Sales activity recorded through the MLS Systems of real estate boards and associations across Canada edged upward by one-half of a percentage point, marking the third straight month in which national activity was up from the previous month's levels. Activity rose in about 60 per cent of all local markets with a record November in the Halifax-Dartmouth region, offsetting a dip in sales in Toronto. A total of 432,048 homes have traded hands via Canadian MLS Systems so far this year, up 2.1 per cent from levels in the first 11 months of 2010. The year-to-date sales figure remains broadly in line with the average for that period from 2001 to 2010.

Frugal Shopping In UK, Canada, U.S.

British, Canadian, and American shoppers are expected to be quite frugal this holiday season due to their financial outlook, says an Angus Reid poll. Half of Britons (49 per cent) and two-in-five Canadians and Americans (41 per cent and 40 per cent respectively) say they will spend less this year on gifts than they did in 2010. One-in-10 Americans (11 per cent) say they will spend more than they did last year. The survey found one-in-five Canadians (21 per cent) say they are better off financially than they were last year, compared to 16 per cent of Americans and eight per cent of Britons. Conversely, more than half of respondents in Britain (55 per cent) say they are worse off in 2011, along with two-in-five Americans (39 per cent) and three-in-10 Canadians (28 per cent).

Epicor Appoints LBM Leaders

Epicor Software Corp. has appointed two new leaders to its lumber and building materials (LBM) segment. Cary Anderson, currently director of the Epicor lumber software development team, will manage LBM operations, which include product development, professional services, and support. Bob Chamberlain, formerly of Hope Lumber & Supply, will run the Epicor LBM sales organization.

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December 15, 2011

Aging Brings Workforce Challenges

Companies will need to manage the effects global aging patterns will have on their workforce and customers, says The Boston Consulting Group.  The report, ‘Global Aging: How Companies Can Adapt to the New Reality,’ states that organization which manage their aging workforce will stay competitive in the coming decades. Global aging will affect companies along four core dimensions: labour, growth, capital, and consumer needs. Globally, the dependency ratio, which measures the number of people age 65 and older for every 100 people of workforce age, rose from about eight in 1950 to 12 in 2010, and will rise to an estimated 25 by 2050.

Americans Most Open To Gift Cards

The concept of gift cards is most popular in North American, with 67 per cent of Americans and Canadians saying they received at least one gift card during the holidays or on their last birthday, compared to 40 per cent of Britons, says an Angus Reid poll. While large proportions of respondents in the three countries like the fact that they can pick out the perfect gift for themselves when they receive a gift card, Britons (44 per cent) and Canadians (38 per cent) are more likely to deem gift cards as “an impersonal and lazy way” to give presents. Only one-in-five Americans (25 per cent) agree with this notion. Americans are definitely more open to the concept of gift cards, with three-in-five respondents (62 per cent) saying they actually prefer to receive one than an actual item for the holidays. Conversely, most Britons (58 per cent) and Canadians (53 per cent) say they would rather receive an actual item than a gift card.

Index Shows Economy Improvement

The composite leading index had its highest increased in five months, rising 0.8 per cent in November, says Statistics Canada. Manufacturing posted broad gains after slowing in recent months, household spending was mixed, while the stock market continued to decline. All three manufacturing components increased. New orders for durable goods recovered 4.1 per cent from a 5.8 per cent decline the month before. Some of the pick-up in manufacturing reflects signs of improvement in the United States economy. Its leading indicator rose 0.5 per cent, led by building permits and a recovery of consumer confidence.

Moulding Earns Innovation Award

Woodgrain Millwork, Inc. is a ‘Top Ten Finalist’ for the Home Depot ‘2011 Innovation Award’ in recognition for its latest moulding and trim product, Finished Elegance. The product is an architectural moulding with a smooth, finished surface that eliminates the need to paint. It is currently available in Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and other eastern U.S. stores of The Home Depot.

ALI Releases Safety Training Module

The American Ladder Institute (ALI) has released the Mobile Ladder Stands/Platforms safety-training module. It is the fourth in a series from the trade association representing the North American ladder industry and is free to use individually or in a group setting. A certificate of completion is available once the post-training test has been completed and passed. Professionals can visit www.laddersafetytraining.org to use the resource.

PRO Customer Awarded Truck

RONA Inc. recently awarded one of its PRO customers a brand new GMC pickup truck worth $30,000 in its ‘Pick Your Prize’ contest. Tony Fantanzzi, of Colfan Corporation in Woodbridge, ON, won the prize from the campaign, which ran from May through October 2011. More than 15,000 contractor customers participated in the contest at 72 corporate RONA stores in Ontario.

House Pros Built At Show

This year’s National Home Show line-up includes The House The Pros Built, a fully sustainable Dream Home R-House designed by PROBUILT by Michael Upshall. Other highlights include expert advice from contractors and builder at Destination Renovation by BILD and the Urban Sanctuary designed by Jackie Morra for ideas on how to make outdoor living spaces feel like home. The show runs March 16 to 25, 2012, at the Direct Energy Centre in Toronto, ON. Visit www.nationalhomeshow.com for details. 

December 15 Product Spotlight

The Garden365 Mobile Garden is an indoor and outdoor portable gardening solution offering a 23.5″ wide planting area. The lightweight design can be rolled indoors and out depending on the season.
• Atlas Roofing Corporation’s Gorilla Guard shingle underlayment is for steep roof applications. It is made from organic felt and designed to lie flat. It is resistant to wrinkling and high-winds.
The digital carbon monoxide alarm from Kiddle Canada features a patented Nighthawk electrochemical carbon monoxide sensor.
• Dimplex’s Linear Proportional Convector Series of electric heaters have been developed to be less obtrusive, heat faster, and install more quickly than traditional baseboard heaters. It is available in a variety of sizes from a 20″ 500W model to a 2,500W 60″ unit.
• Touch ‘n Seal’s EPA Zero VOC PolyurethaneFoam Cleaner is designed to clean wet foam from hands, tools, and foam applicator guns without environmental impact.
The 36″ Electric Cooktop from Fisher & Paykel comes with two dual elements for cooking flexibility, and precise temperature controls for a rapid boil to an extremely low simmer.
The TL1-3025 Fixed Loop Tether and TL1-4025 Fixed Loop Tether from Hammerhead Industries are rated at 15 and 25 pounds respectively to keep drills, power drivers, electronic meters, and other heavy tools and instruments safely tethered to avoid injury to the worker or the work site. The ‘fixed loop’ attachment feature of these new models also permits tethering of tools that have no other attachment point, for example, when a larger loop is required to go around a large handle like a chain saw, the worker would just slip knot the ‘fixed loop’ over the handle.
• Ecofitt’s EarthBrite Flood Lamps can be used in residential, commercial, and industrial locations, and save up to 70 per cent on energy. Bulbs can last up to 8,000 hours, and are available in 9W, 15W, and 23W models.

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December 14, 2011

Retail Industry Looks Ahead To 2012

Format innovation, curated merchandising, customer experience, and social media are the four most important areas retailers should focus on for 2012, says Booz & Company. The consulting firm's annual ‘Retail Industry Perspective’ report predicts that it will be critical for retailers to continue to explore store formats that will enable them to enhance their appeal and grow in online channels. Placing the right products in the right stores will also be essential for fuelling top-line growth and tailoring stock to customer preferences. Furthermore, forward-thinking retailers will be focusing on social media as the next generation of e-commerce engines, and a powerful new sales channel. The report is at: http://hirmagazine.com/reports/2012Perspective.html

Pension Fund Adds To RONA Holdings

The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec has acquired ownership and control of more than two million common shares of RONA inc. This represents approximately 1.53 per cent of RONA's currently outstanding common shares. Prior to this acquisition, the Caisse held 11.3 million common shares of RONA. Following the acquisition, the number of common shares held by the Caisse will be 13.3 million or 10.17 per cent of the common shares outstanding.

Ontario Introduces Caregiver Leave

The Ontario government has introduced Bill 30, the ‘Family Caregiver Leave Act’ (Employment Standards Amendment), 2011. A McCarthy Tetrault ‘e-Alert’ says, if passed, the bill would amend the ‘Employment Standards Act, 2000’to permit employees to take an unpaid leave of absence of up to eight weeks in order to provide care or support to a sick family member. The proposed family caregiver leave is drafted in very similar language to other unpaid leaves of absence recently passed by the government.

Collaborative Trade Enjoying Momentum

Trade Promotion Optimization (TPO) is rapidly growing among North American manufacturers and retailers, says the Promotion Optimization Institute. Michael Kantor, CEO of the trade marketing and merchandising institute, says the growth is attributed to the early adoptees who have used it as a means to increase mutual profitability. TPO is defined as "planning and executing promotional activities that are mutually beneficial to manufacturer and retailer organizations to better understand how success can best be achieved." The institute brings together manufacturers, retailers, solution providers, analysts, academics, and other industry leaders to share cross-functional best practices in both structured and informal settings.

Holiday Sales Shifting Online

Through more optimistic than last year, the National Retail Federation is forecasting a mild holiday season in the U.S. with same-store sales growth of 2.8 per cent. It says higher-income consumers who are still buying are shifting to online channels which will lead to lower traffic, revenue, and profits in bricks-and-mortar stores. As a result, all retailers will have to continue to be aggressive in seeking opportunities for top-line growth, while maintaining the strength of the bottom line by driving operational efficiencies.

Materials And Equipment See Declines

Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers took a step backward in November, says the U.S. Census Bureau. Advance estimates showed a 0.3 per cent decline in November sales compared with October. The same classification showed a 6.2 per cent increase over November 2010.

BW Creative Wood Acquires Railing Business

BW Creative Wood Industries Ltd. has acquired Probuilt DIY from Alco Ventures Inc. Rob Mitchell, president and CEO, says the interior and exterior railing system company has been looking for growth opportunities and the acquisition of the aluminum railing business will help its dealers gain access to a full line of products. BW Creative Wood Industries Ltd. was established in 1974.

Saint-Gobain Launches Competition

Saint-Gobain has launched its fourth global Innovation Competition organized by its NOVA External Venturing team. The competition rewards start-up businesses from around the world offering innovations in sustainable construction products, cash prizes, and access to partnership opportunities with Saint-Gobain. NOVA External Venturing, an international team of Saint-Gobain representatives that identify and evaluate start-up companies for strategic partnerships with all Saint-Gobain businesses, will award a first place winner with $50,000, and second and third place winners with $25,000 and $10,000 respectively. Winners will also work with NOVA to explore a variety of working partnerships with Saint-Gobain such as licencing, manufacturing, or commercial agreements, equity investment, or joint ventures. Entries are due in June 2012.

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December 13, 2011

Advertising Decision Sparks Controversy

A decision by Lowe’s Home Improvement to pull its ads from a TLC reality TV show has sparked criticism and calls for a boycott against the chain. The retailer removed its advertising on ‘All-American Muslim’ after an evangelical Christian group, the Florida Family Association, complained the show about American Muslims presented a danger to American liberties and traditional values. However, Democratic Senator Ted Lieu from Southern California called the Lowe's decision "un-American" and "naked religious bigotry. He said he was considering calling for a boycott of the company. Lowe’s issued a statement apologizing for having "managed to make some people very unhappy," but has yet to say whether it would reinstate advertising on the show. The show chronicles the lives of five families from Dearborn, MI, a Detroit suburb with a large Muslim and Arab-American population.

Hand Tool Most Popular Gift Item

The screwdriver is the top selling home improvement item purchased as a gift in the 12 months ending October 2011, says NPD Group’s ‘Consumer Tracking Service.’ The finding was included in the research firm’s list of ‘What you didn't know about home improvement.’ It also found there has been a 16 per cent year-to-year increase in online dollar sales for hardware, a 30 per cent increase in garage door opener year-to-year sales, and a six per cent increase in home improvement spending by consumers 55 and older as compared with a 25 per cent increase in 2009.  The category is defined as hand tools, power tools, outdoor power equipment, storage and organization, faucets and shower heads, lighting and electrical, fans, and caulk/glue/adhesives.

Businesses Find Skilled Worker Void

Canadian small business owners are confident in their ability to attract and keep good employees (69 per cent). However, when hiring, one in 10 (11 per cent) of SBOs reported never finding the right person, says the American Express ‘Small Business Monitor.’ A recent survey revealed 28 per cent of SBOs had the job open for up to three months before finding the appropriate candidate and that almost three-quarters (74 per cent) believe it is getting harder to find good employees. The majority (84 per cent) of small business owners do believe they keep their best and brightest employees, but fewer (64 per cent) say they consistently hire the best and brightest in their industry. Only 11 per cent of respondents strongly agreed that they were able to do so. With much of the Baby Boomer generation set to retire, nearly half (46 per cent) of Canada's small business owners anticipate a shortage of qualified job applicants in the coming years. A further 32 per cent are concerned about the impact this will have on their operations and 23 per cent expect to replace a significant proportion of their employees during this time frame.

Architects Keep Busy With Infill

New home construction continues to lag, however, residential in-fill development and home remodeling projects are keeping architects busy, says the American Institute of Architects. The report notes that infill projects are getting a boost from steep foreclosure rates, low levels of suburban development and the popularity of urban living, and owners deciding to remodel their current home rather than sell. Additionally, improvements to distressed properties to prepare them for sale, or to fix them up after a sale, are creating opportunities across the country.

Home Hardware Makes Appointments

John Dyksterhuis is vice-president, distribution, and Darrin Noble is vice-president and general manager, Burford Paint and home products, for Home Hardware Stores Limited. Replacing Dyksterhuis as the hardlines product manager of building products and heating is Brian Straus. Replacing Straus in the paint and paint sundries category is Jason Schierholtz. His previous interim responsibility for household cleaning supplies will be combined with commercial maintenance under one product manager, Jason Hamburger.

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December 12, 2011

Internal Investigation At Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart has opened an internal investigation to determine whether its overseas operations have complied with U.S. federal laws on permitting, licensing, and inspections. The discount retailer opened the investigation with the Securities and Exchange Commission after reviewing policies, procedures, and internal controls tied to its global anti-corruption program. It says it is taking "appropriate remedial measures" and looking into policies and procedures in compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act. All companies doing business overseas must comply with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which broadly deals with bribery and accounting rules.

Toro Expands Golf Business Products

The Toro Co. has acquired the Graden greens roller product line from Graden USA Inc. for an undisclosed sum. The products, which are used at golf courses to provide a smooth finish on the grass, will be a new product category for Toro. The landscape equipment company says it will fill a gap in its golf business product line.

Third Quarter Illustrates Credit Problem 

Hart Stores Inc.’s third quarter sales were $31.2 million, representing a 24.8 per cent decrease from last year's $41.5 million. The company reported a net loss of $12 million, compared to $877,000 in 2010. For the period ended October 30, 2011, sales reached $99.6 million, representing a decrease of 18.7 per cent from last year's $122.5 million. In August the retailer was granted two additional extensions of the stay period from the court, and granted protection from its creditors until January 18, 2012.

Expert Advice And Paint Giveaway

Beginning in January, PARA Paints is giving Canadians a chance to win one of 15 prize packages containing paint and a complimentary online room colour consultation by a PARA Canadian Trend Designer of their choice. Consumer must enter on the paint brands’ Facebook page, Facebook.com/parapaints

Creative Design Items At Spring Show

The Canadian Gift and Tableware Association’s ‘Spring 2012 Toronto Gift Show,’ January 29 to February 2, 2012, is the largest Canadian gift trade show offering buyers access to more than 1,000 exhibitors. Categories include tabletop, housewares, gourmet food, garden accessories, collectables, and home décor. It takes place at the Toronto International Centre and the Toronto Congress Centre in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit http://www.cgta.org/

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December 9, 2011

Quarter Of Canadians Financially Optimistic

Canadian consumer confidence fell in the fourth quarter, largely due to concerns about the long-term health of the economy. However, despite the decline, Canadian consumers remain more confident than in the United States. The Harris/Decima ‒ Investors Group ‘Consumer Confidence Index’ stands at 72.6, down from 77.5 in August. Twenty-five per cent of Canadians believe they will be better off financially a year from now, while 14 per cent feel they will be worse off. Just over four in 10 (42 per cent) believe there will be good times financially for the Canadian economy in the next five years, while 46 per cent believe there will be unemployment and recession over this period. This represents a shift from August when 49 per cent foresaw good times, while 37 per cent saw bad times ahead.

Lowe’s Builds Customer Support Centre

Home improvement retailer Lowe's Cos. Inc. is opening a new customer support centre in Albuquerque, NM, by the end of 2013. The retailer plans to invest more than $15 million to renovate leased space in a 65,000-square-foot building that will house the centre. It will complement another customer support operation in Wilkesboro, NC.

Margins Sacrificed For Market Share

Costco Wholesale Corp. profits rose 2.6 per cent for the period, despite significantly stronger revenue gains, as it kept prices low on gas, food, and other products to gain market share at the sacrifice of its margins. The wholesale club has performed better than many retailers during the down economy as consumers turned to its clubs for deals on everyday necessities. Net income was $320 million for the quarter that ended November 20, up from $312 million last year. Revenue at stores open at least a year rose 10 per cent.

HD Supply Growth Continues

HD Supply had $2.1 billion in net sales for its third fiscal quarter, a 10.7 per cent increase over sales of $1.87 billion during the same quarter of 2010. Net loss for the quarter, which ended October 30, was $105 million, compared with a loss of $99 million in the corresponding quarter of 2010. CEO Joe DeAngelo says this mark the company’s sixth consecutive year-over-year sales growth. Transactions during the third quarter included the opening of a new distribution centre and the launch of its locations web application.

Palette Reveals Colour Trends

Canadian paint brand Beauti-Tone’s new colour palette identifies the top choices for the home. The collection includes a variety of shades from the most popular colour choices for the home – red, pink, orange, yellow, blue, green, purple, grey, and brown.

PARA Experts Set For Show  

PARA Paints Canadian trend designers will reveal their 2012 Colour and Trend palettes at an installation during the Interior Design Show, January 26 to 29, 2012, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, in Toronto, ON. They will offer ideas and answering questions related to decorating and home improvement projects. For more information, visit http://www.interiordesignshow.com

RONA Board Names Vice-president

Robert Paré is vice-president of the executive board at RONA inc. He is a lawyer and business partner of Fasken Martineau Dumoulin LLP and has been a director and member of RONA nominating and governance since April 2009. Chairman of the board of directors, Jean Gaulin, says his expertise in business law and securities makes him an ideal candidate for the position. 

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December 8, 2011

Little Change In Business Confidence

The Business Barometer index for small business confidence saw little change in November at 63.7, virtually identical to October's 63.6 reading, says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. The index has recovered two of the 6.6 points lost in August when the Euro currency and U.S. fiscal policy crises hit world financial markets, suggesting the Canadian economy is performing at a slower pace, but has not dipped into recession. Retailers are almost a point above the national average, while the outlook among manufacturing, construction, and transport businesses remain on the weaker side. Provincially speaking, business owners in Saskatchewan are the most optimistic in Canada with an index level of just above 74. Optimism in Alberta slipped a little, but still remains at a healthy 71.7, while businesses in British Columbia and Manitoba also register above-average index scores. The lowest levels of optimism came from New Brunswick (59.1), Ontario (58.9), and Nova Scotia (54.9), suggesting only marginal economic growth in those regions.

Hardlines Distributor Uses New Software  

Canadian IT supplier OGC has integrated a module to communicate with Orgill into its OGC-Plus business management solution. This option lets OGC-Plus communicate directly with the Orgill hardlines distributing buying group in the United States so that the system can receive and transmit stock management data (price changes, new products, etc.) and other information. Merchants can also automatically send purchase orders to the buying group and receive communications from Orgill as a means to manage their business data.

Resolute Acquiring Fibrek

Resolute Forest Products intends to acquire all the issued and outstanding common shares of Fibrek Inc. CEO Richard Garneau said the acquisition is consistent with the company’s strategy to continue growth in the global pulp markets. Fibrek is a producer and marketer of high-quality virgin and recycled kraft pulp with mills located in Saint-Félicien, QC; Fairmont, WV; and Menominee, MI. Resolute owns or operates 18 pulp and paper mills and 23 wood product facilities in the United States, Canada, and South Korea. The offer will expire on or before December 31.

Dollar Store Sees Gains

Dollarama Inc. had a sales increase of 12.5 per cent for the third quarter ended October 30, 2011. Comparable stores sales grew 5.1 per cent, and operating income grew 21.8 per cent to $63.4 million. Ten new stores were opened during the quarter, bringing the total number of stores this year to 38.

Building Up From 2010

Toll Brothers Inc. had a 2011 fourth-quarter net income of $15 million, compared to $50.5 million last year. The luxury home builder reported fourth-quarter income of $15.3 million, compared to 2010's fourth-quarter loss of $9.5 million. Revenues and home building deliveries of $427.8 million and 757 units increased six per cent in dollars and eight per cent in units, compared to 2010 totals of $402.6 million and 700 units.

Furniture Show In 40th Year

The Canadian Home Furnishings Market will showcase more than 325 furniture manufacturers and distributors at its 40th annual event, January 14 to 17, 2012 at the International Centre in Toronto, ON. It is the only tradeshow of its kind in Canada for retailers, designers, decorators, suppliers and, other furniture industry professionals. For more details, visit http://www.tchfm.com/

Napoleon Celebrates Safety Milestone

Napoleon Appliance Corporation, manufacturers of Napoleon Gourmet Grills, is celebrating three years since an injury in the workplace has caused any loss of work time. November 21, the company celebrated the 748,000 hours free from injuries.


December 8 Product Spotlight

Rainforest Ecological Sprinklers from Pacific Sprinklers Ltd. are designed to reduce water use. They break-up water droplets to improve delivery of water to the root-zone and prevent water from pooling and running off.  The heart-shaped sprinklers provide even coverage to an area of up to 2,000 square feet and will operate at low water pressures.
• Lythic Solutions’ Duet Colours are water-based non-flammable dyes available in 25 shades, specially formulated for more effective bonding of concrete. They can be used to colour any concrete and add a durable finish.
The Slide-N-Pump makes short work of pumping or siphoning water anywhere, all without the need of or danger associated with electricity and water. Attach to a standard garden hose to both ends, insert the open hose-end into any volume of water or other liquid, and it will start it flowing. It is available in Canada is through Lee Valley Tools.
• Cavet Technologies’ LumiSmart ILC reduces power consumption by existing and installed fluorescent lighting systems without impact on occupant comfort. It can be used in commercial and industrial settings to reduce consumption at the source, erasing pressure on the electrical grid and cutting carbon emissions.
• Stanley’s Sweetheart socket chisels are machined from high carbon steel and retain a razor-sharp edge over long periods of use. Narrow side bevels provide for easier working in tight corners and the hornbeam handles provide comfort.
• Dewalt’s Heavy Duty Miter Saw Stand weighs 35 pounds and has a capacity of 500 pounds. Its 5.5-foot main bean with extensions can support up to 16 feet of material and extension lock levers allow for easy and secure locking of support extensions.
The Granton Edge Santoku Knife is made by Victorinox Swiss Army. It combines features of a cleaver and a chef’s knife. The ice-tempered, high-carbon stainless steel blade retains sharpness and carries a lifetime warranty against defects.

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December 7, 2011

Building Permit Decline Over

Building permits issued by Canadian municipalities rose 11.9 per cent to $6.3 billion in October, after a three-month decline says Statistics Canada. The increase came from the non-residential sector, particularly in Ontario which rose 32.8 per cent to $2.7 billion. The increase in construction intentions in October was attributable to six provinces, led by Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Alberta posted the largest decline and its second straight monthly decrease. In the residential sector, the value of permits edged down 0.1 per cent to $3.6 billion in October, the component's third straight monthly decline. The decrease in October was primarily the result of lower construction intentions for both multi-family and single-family dwellings in Alberta and for multi-family dwellings in Nova Scotia.

Lowe’s Works On Transformation

Lowe's is in the process of transforming from a home improvement retailer to a home improvement company committed to delivering better customer experiences, the company said at its annual conference this week. The retailer says enhancing its customer experience will drive long-term sales growth, increase profitability, and enhance shareholder value. Lowe's also revealed its fiscal year 2011 guidance, which calls for total sales to increase two to three per cent, comparable-store sales to decline about one per cent, and store openings totaling about 25 stores in 2011.

Enterprises Lack Fraud Response Plans  

Workplace fraud in Canada costs small and medium enterprises billions of dollars each year, says research from the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada. Collective losses are conservatively estimated at $3.2 billion for 2010, says the ‘Does Canada Have a Problem with Occupations Fraud?’ report. About 290,000 Canadian enterprises were victims of one or more instances of workplace fraud in the past year. The most common forms of fraud were misappropriation of inventory or assets and misappropriation of cash. Despite this, 74 per cent of respondents believe their exposure to occupational fraud is low, with 80 per cent having no response plan in place and 59 per cent undertaking no form of periodic risk assessment.

Home Sales Moderate In November

November home sales reported by 10 regional real estate boards show a 5.6 per cent increase from a year earlier, says data by Bloomberg News, the slowest annual pace for this group since May. The 10 markets recorded an 11 per cent annual gain in October. Home sales in Toronto, ON, rose 11 per cent in November from a year earlier after growing at an 18 per cent pace a month earlier. Vancouver, BC, recorded a 5.9 per cent drop in purchases from a year earlier.

Toro Has Record Sales For 2011

Toro Co. had record sales in 2011, including a 5.8 per cent sales gain in the company's residential segment. For the year, the company's total earnings were up 26.3 per cent to $117.7 million and net sales were up 11.5 per cent to $1.884 billion. In the fourth quarter, net earnings increased from $3.2 million to $5 million, as net sales increased 9.1 per cent to $337.3 million. Residential segment net sales for fiscal 2011 totaled $623.9 million, up 5.8 per cent over last year. For the year, sales of riding products increased on demand for Toro’s new line of zero-turn mowers, the company says.

BrassCraft Appoints Vice-president Of Retail Sales

George Werner is vice president of retail sales for BrassCraft Manufacturing Company. He will direct retail sales strategies and initiatives in support of business goals and sales targets of the retail and wholesale segments of business for BrassCraft Service Parts and Cobra Products. He began his career with the Masco Corporation family of companies in 1994 as sales manager at Alsons Corporation and joined BrassCraft in July 2005 as retail sales manager. 

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December 6, 2011

Black Friday, Cyber Monday Successful For Merchants

Canadian consumer spending on Black Friday and Cyber Monday grew 8.29 per cent and 15.38 per cent in dollar terms respectively compared to last year, says Moneris Solutions. Black Friday is the day after American Thanksgiving and traditionally the start of the holiday shopping season. Cyber Monday is the first Monday after Black Friday when retailers post deals for online shoppers. On Black Friday, the largest growth in spending was seen in consumer electronics, which increased substantially to 18.48 per cent of spending. Department stores were also successful in gaining a larger share of the consumer’s wallet, with an 18.14 per cent increase in spending on Black Friday compared to 2010. Cyber Monday continues to gain acceptance in Canada were consumer electronics again led the growth in online spending, with 131.54 per cent increase compared to 2010.

Railroad Shutdown Would Cost Billions 

The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) is calling on the U.S. Congress to step in to avert a work stoppage that would disrupt retail supply chains during the holiday shopping season and well into 2012. A breakdown in negotiations between the National Railway Labor Conference and railroad negotiators could lead to a nationwide shutdown. One option, says RILA, is for Congress to impose the terms recommended by the Obama Administration’s Presidential Emergency Board on both rail management and labour. Estimates suggest that a national railroad work stoppage would cost the U.S. economy $2 billion per day.

E-Commerce Big Part Of Holiday Sales

Retailers are gearing up for an e-Commerce battle this holiday season after discount giant Wal-Mart Canada launched its new shopping website. Wal-Mart’s move online is part of a wider strategic effort by U.S. parent Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to become a heavyweight in cyber space, pitting it against Amazon.com. Wal-Mart is wooing holiday shoppers with an e-Commerce focus on two major gift-giving areas: toys ‒ which Amazon.ca does not carry in Canada ‒ and electronics. In the next year, Wal-Mart says it will rev up its e-Commerce offerings in home furnishings, hardware, sporting and seasonal goods, and apparel. The growing number of chains putting an emphasis on Internet sales adds to the pressure on merchants to get e-Commerce right. By year’s end, Canadians will have spent $18.5 billion in retail e-Commerce, up 12 per cent from last year.

Hillman Acquires Micasa Assets

The Hillman Companies has purchased assets of Micasa Trading Corp., a producer of the OOK brand of picture hangers and related products. Established in 1964, Micasa serves home centres and hardware retailers, as well as art galleries and the professional market. Annual revenues of Micasa for 2010 exceeded $15 million. Hillman sells to hardware stores, home centres, pet suppliers, mass merchants, and other retail outlets principally in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and South America.

TSE Accepts Richelieu Bid

The Toronto Stock Exchange has accepted Richelieu Hardware Ltd.’s notice of intention to make a normal course issuer bid to purchase up to 1,042,335 of its common shares, representing five per cent of the 20.8 million outstanding common shares as at November 30, 2011. The hardware company can only buy a maximum of 2,423 shares on a daily basis. The purchase period will begin December 7, 2011, and end on December 6, 2012.

RONA Appoints Retail Vice-president

Luc Rodier is executive vice-president, retail, at RONA inc. In this new role, he will lead the company’s overall retail activities under the new regionalized structure put in place earlier in the year. He has been with RONA since 2005 and will oversee the retail operations of its 682 affiliated dealers and 269 corporate and franchise stores in Canada.

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December 5, 2011

Morrison Sells To Expand Market Presence

Morrison Supply Co. has sold a majority share to private equity firm Advent International. The plumbing and HVAC supply company has 77 branches and showrooms in the United States. It intends to use the new funding to expand its presence in the plumbing and HVAC supply market, particularly in its current market. Chip Hornsby, former CEO of Wolseley, will join the company as CEO and will lead Morrison in the next phase of its expansion.

Home Depot Expands Rental Offerings

Equipment rental company Terex has extended its partnership with Home Depot by adding PT-30 and PT-50 compact track loaders, TSR50 skid-steer loaders, and TC16 compact excavators to its centres in 280 select locations. The partnership between the two firms, formed earlier this year, placed Terex equipment in the Compact Power Equipment Centers found in the Tool Rental section in 170 Home Depot locations in the United States. Terex Corp. is a diversified global manufacturer operating in four business segments: Terex Aerial Work Platforms, Terex Construction, Terex Cranes, and Terex Materials Processing.

Outdoor Product Brand Acquired

Sure Fit Inc. has acquired the assets of the Patio Armor brand of covers for patio furniture, barbecue grills, and other outdoor products from Trilink Global. Sure Fit’s product line includes ready-made slipcovers for sofas, loveseats, chairs, wing chairs, dining room chairs, recliners, ottomans, futons, and folding chairs as well as furniture throws.

Canadian Operations Diminish Income

Big Lots Inc.’s third-quarter net income fell 76 per cent due to a loss related to its newly acquired Canadian operations, Liquidation World, and a lower gross margin. The retailer, which buys overstocked items ranging from food to housewares from manufacturers and sells them at a discount, says net income totaled $4.2 million in the August-October period, from $17.7 million a year ago. Revenue rose eight per cent to $1.14 billion from $1.06 billion last year.

Masco Promotes Sales Vice-president

Delta Faucet Co., a division of Masco Corp., has promoted Richard O'Reagan, vice-president of sales, to company president. He replaces Keith Allman, who was promoted to group president for Masco. O'Reagan will be responsible for leading the development of new products and overseeing manufacturing and marketing for the Delta, Brizo, and Peerless brands.

Part Two of Energy Conservation Report Coming

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario will release Volume Two of the 2010 energy conservation report, ‘Managing a Complex Energy System – Results’ on December 7.  The report summarizes the province's progress in meeting electricity conservation targets and reviews the performance of provincial programs to conserve energy. The conference, taking place at Queen’s Park in Toronto, will be available at http://www.eco.on.ca/

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December 2, 2011

Recommendations Coming For Canadian Import Duties

The Retail Council of Canada is applauding a plan to eliminate a number of tariffs on goods used in manufacturing. Retailers in Canada pay import duties on consumer products of 18 per cent ‒ much higher than those paid by their American competitors. The Senate Standing Committee on Finance has been studying the price gap between U.S. and Canadian retailers. The RCC will be presenting before the Senate Committee and will provide recommendations on what government can do to benefit the economy and Canadian consumers.


Renovation Mall Coming to Ontario

Plans are underway to build a home renovation mall near Toronto, ON, with more than 400 businesses. Called ‘Improve,’ the mall is set to open in Vaughan, ON, in 2013 as a one-of-a-kind destination for consumers to purchase everything from blinds to flooring and kitchen sinks under one roof.  Similar shopping centres exist in Europe and Asia, but not in Canada. Customers are expected to be DIY homeowners as well as companies and consultants.

Court Upholds Anti-fraud Measures

Leon's Furniture stores in Alberta can continue to record driver's licence and car licence plate numbers as a fraud prevention measure after the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal by the Alberta Information & Privacy Commissioner to uphold his original ruling that forbade the practice. This dispute between Leon's and the privacy commissioner began when a customer took offence to the store’s request in 2006. At the time, Leon's told the commissioner the information was needed to prevent theft and fraud, adding that it was kept secure and only forwarded to authorities if a complaint was made. An investigator from the privacy commissioner decided in 2008 that Leon’s policy violated the act, but a court reversed the commissioner’s ruling. The commissioner disagreed with the court and said its ruling created a dangerous precedent because it allows a business to decide for itself what information it can collect from a customer.

Contech Acquires Sprinklers Line

Contech Enterprises has acquired the Rainforest Ecological Sprinklers product line from Pacific Sprinklers Ltd.  The deal will see the Rainforest Ecological Sprinklers immediately available to Contech distributors, retailers, and customers. Designed to reduce water use, the sprinklers break-up water droplets to improve delivery of water to the root-zone and prevent water from pooling and running off.  With the acquisition, Contech expands its existing line of innovative lawn and garden product offerings. 

One Weekend Boosts November Revenue

U.S. shoppers taking advantage of big discounts and earlier store hours during the start of the holiday shopping season last weekend helped boost retailers' revenue for the entire month of November. The overall tally for the 21 retailers that reported revenue for November rose 3.2 per cent, says the International Council of Shopping Centers. November's results were boosted by the four-day weekend start on Thanksgiving Day, the traditional kickoff the shopping season. Americans spent $52.4 billion over the weekend, the highest total ever recorded during that time, says the National Retail Federation.

Retailers Must Adhere To Privacy Laws

As more businesses continue to utilize online and mobile platforms to connect with consumers, the risk of data breaches can increase, says Robin Gould-Soil, director of PIPEDA at the Office of Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Speaking at the ‘Current Privacy Issues for Canadian Retailers’ session held by Hicks Morley, Gould-Soil said the over collection of sensitive customer information can pose costly and reputation-diminishing security risks for an organization. Ongoing education and training is important to keep employees informed on how to safely manage data, and strategies should be passed on to consumers to highlight how the company plans to protect data access.

Napoleon Offers Online Course

Napoleon is offering an accredited continuing education course aiming to help architects and designers better understand gas hearth appliances. The online course, ‘Gas Hearth Appliances: Enhancing Living Environments,’ can now be found live through AEC Daily’s Online Learning Centre at www.aecdaily.com/sponsor/napoleon. Participants in the course will get an overview of a variety of gas hearth appliances – such as gas logs, gas stoves, gas inserts, gas fireplaces, and outdoor gas fireplace – as well as the principal types of venting systems that are currently available. The course covers the installation of gas hearth appliances and related safety issues, including minimum clearances to combustibles, vent pipe clearances, finishing materials, and placement of the appliances.

Hardware Co-op Announces Retirements 

Do it Best Corp. has announced the retirement of two longtime executives, effective June 30. Dave Haist, executive vice-president and COO, and Dave Dietz, vice-president, finance, will be replaced by Dan Starr and Doug Roth; Starr as executive vice-president and COO and Roth as vice-president, finance. Currently, Starr is vice-president, human resources, while Roth is director of financial reporting.

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December 1, 2011

Sears Canada Cuts Staff

Sears Canada Inc. has laid off about 70 employees at its head office. The job losses affect middle and senior management. In total, the company has more than 30,000 employees of which about a third are full-time staff. The job cuts are an attempt to make up for lagging sales and prepare for increased competition as Target Corp. comes into the Canadian marketplace. Other changes are in the works including changing the appearance of the department stores including a concerted effort to make them less cluttered. Sears Canada posted a net loss of $46.6 million in the three months ended October 30, down from a profit of $20.8 million a year ago. The company, which is 92 per cent owned by U.S. retail giant Sears Holdings Corp., has 196 corporate stores, 280 hometown dealer stores, and 1,700 catalogue merchandise pick-up locations across Canada.

Union Wants Target Declared ‘Successor’

A union representing employees at a Zellers outlet in Burnaby, BC, has applied to the B.C. Labour Relations Board to declare Target as the ‘successor employer’ to Zellers. Target plans to convert about 135 Zellers stores to the Target name by 2013. It was going to replace those employees and hire new staff, thereby removing the union. About 15 Zellers stores are unionized. However, now it faces a principle in Canadian labour law that calls for a successor company in a takeover to maintain a union if the firm is operating in the same area. However, Target’s position is that it is acquiring only the leases for the Zellers stores, not the business, technology, or employees.

Unimat Opens Renovation Centre

Unimat home renovation has opened its first store. Located in Thetford Mines, QC, the store has a retail area of more than 32,000 square feet. It brings together nine product categories including plumbing, electrical, hardware, building materials, and paint and decorating as well agricultural items, maple syrup, and garden products. It also features a decoration centre. Unimat was launched in 2004 by Quebec agricultural producers and entrepreneurs. Since then, it has grown to 177 stores in Quebec, New Brunswick, and Ontario.

Regulatory Change Spurs HVAC Demand

Demand in the U.S. for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment is projected to increase 5.1 per cent annually to $16.8 billion in 2015, says a study by The Freedonia Group. Rising interest in more energy-efficient HVAC systems, in part spurred by regulatory changes, will also support increased demand. Systems using less environmentally harmful refrigerants will be popular, despite their premium price. Public and private incentives will encourage owners to upgrade to models with efficiency ratings that are at or above Energy Star levels. Environmental concerns will provide a special boost to cooling equipment, especially central and room air conditioners. Demand for these will increase at an above-average pace, benefiting from the continuing development of higher-efficiency models and from gains in the share of homes with central air conditioning.


Beacon Profit Jumps

Beacon Roofing Supply Inc.’s fiscal fourth-quarter profit jumped 85 per cent, boosted by a double-digit sales jump and a one-time tax benefit. For the quarter ended September 30, Beacon earned $31.3 million, up from $16.9 million for the same quarter last year. Sales rose 19 per cent to $575.6 million from $482.6 million on higher sales volumes partially stemming from hail storms in some parts of the country and an increase in average selling prices. For the full fiscal year, Beacon earned $59.2 million, up from $34.5 million the year before. Sales rose to $1.82 billion from $1.61 billion. Beacon operates 194 locations in the U.S. and Canada.

Hubbell Canada Sells Energy Saver

Cavet Technologies Inc. has formed a strategic agreement with Hubbell Canada LP to sell the LumiSmart ILC energy saving device. Developed for the commercial and industrial markets, it reduces power consumption by existing and installed fluorescent lighting systems without impact on occupant comfort. Hubbell says the product compliments its green business strategy and sustainable lighting solutions offered through its GreenWise program, and is ideally suited for office buildings, industrial spaces, healthcare facilities, and retail locations.

Project Management Essential For Business Success

Finding the time to work ‘on’ the business rather than ‘in’ the business is the struggle facing many small and medium-sized custom home and renovation companies, says Tom Stephenson, construction and engineering professor at George Brown College. Presenting the ‘Project Management Techniques for Home Builders and Renovators’ seminar at the ‘Home Builder & Renovator Expo,’ he said being able to track the start-to-finish activity, resources, budget, and results of any project with the help of a software tool will help contractors more effectively manage their businesses.  Small improvements to scheduling and tracking will help companies ensure their clients and staff stay informed on project statuses and lead to more satisfied clients, referrals, and a stronger business reputation.

December 1 Product Spotlight

• MasonryWorx hybrid masonry products offer the look of stone mixed with the ease of installation of brick. New products include slate-finished Renaissance Unites which mirror natural stone, the Elegante burned clay product in five colours, and the Cinco Brick available in five sizes and nine colours for total customization.
• Napoleon Gourmet Grills has made some new additions to the Prestige 500 Series line of barbeques for 2012. The series consists of two editions, the Prestige I and the PRO models available in stainless steel or a black porcelain.
• IRWIN Tools’ 4-Point Snap Blade snaps on the score to create four cutting points, doubling the number of cuts made by standard carbon blades. Combining the toughness of a traditional utility blade with the versatility of a snap blade, it gives tradesmen instant access to a sharp new point without the hassle of having to constantly change blades.
• Phifer’s PetScreen is a heavy-duty pet-resistant insect screening. It contains Microban anti-microbial protection that inhibits the growth of stain and odour-causing bacteria, mold, and mildew.
• Moen’s Twist Handheld Shower allows users to easily switch between the handheld shower's four spray patterns with one hand. The showerhead simply swivels around the handle with the push of a thumb pad to change modes.
•Furniture Foam Inc’s Stepahead sustainable carpet cushions are made from 90 per cent pre-manufactured shoe scraps from Nike. They meet low VOC emission criteria and are supported by a lifetime warranty.
DAP Products’ DAPtex Plus Multi-Purpose Foam Sealant offers easy application and excellence insulation performance to weatherproof and save energy and money. It features latex technology which allows for all around easier use for the consumer and doesn’t over-expand and it remains flexible when dry.

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