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News

May 31, 2011

Housing Starts To Stabilize

Housing starts are forecast to stabilize at levels consistent with demographic fundamentals in 2011 and 2012, says Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) second quarter ‘Housing Market Outlook, Canada Edition.’ Housing starts will be in the range of 166,600 to 192,200 units in 2011, with a point forecast of 179,500 units. In 2012, housing starts will be in the range of 163,200 to 207,000 units, with a point forecast of 185,300 units. “Modest economic growth, in conjunction with relatively low mortgage rates, will continue to support demand for new homes in 2011 and 2012. Nonetheless, we are expecting new and existing housing markets to fall in line with demographic fundamentals, as changes to mortgage rules take hold,” says Bob Dugan, chief economist.

Go Eco Rolled Out In Quebec

Canadian Tire Corporation, Limited is rolling out the Go Eco program province-wide in Quebec. With a focus on auto services to keep vehicles in peak condition and the responsible disposal of automotive waste, Go Eco helps reduce automotive costs and environmental footprints. The program was initially launched in 10 stores in Québec City, Thetford Mines, and Dolbeau. Go Eco aligns with Canadian Tire's business sustainability strategy which aspires to grow the business without contributing to a higher carbon footprint of the economy; eliminate unnecessary packaging and sending zero waste to landfills; and provide innovative products and services that meet customers' needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Sears Canada Bans Incandescents

Sears Canada has banned the sale of incandescent and halogen lighting in its stores nationally. By September 2011, Sears Canada will grow its offering of energy efficient LED (light-emitting diode) and CFL (compact fluorescent) lighting, instead of less efficient options, in its Full-Line and Sears Home stores across the country. Along with its ban of inefficient lighting, Sears Canada is further reducing the environmental impact of its own operations by replacing all spotlights in its Full-Line and Sears Home stores with energy efficient LED lighting.

Lowe’s Appoints Buyer

Carl Rossi is rough plumbing buyer at Lowe’s Canada. He was formerly paint, décor, and seasonal buyer for TIM-BR Marts Ltd.

Novik Appoints Executive

François Giroux is executive vice-president and general manager at Novik Inc. Before joining the Quebec-based supplier of polymer exterior siding and roofs, he was president of the business unit at Haworth Inc.

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May 30, 2011

Report Highlights Lowe’s Initiatives

Lowe’s has launched a series of initiatives to strengthen its workplace, community, and environmental leadership. The company’s Charitable and Educational Foundation has supported more than 3,100 projects throughout North America with $30 million in grants and the Toolbox for Education has given more than $4.2 million to 1,000 U.S. schools. Recycling centres have been installed at 1,700 locations for customers to drop off batteries, cell phones, and plastic bags, and more than one billion pounds of wood pallets and cardboard have been recycled to date. The information was highlighted in the company’s ‘2010 Corporate Social Responsibility’ report. It can be viewed at Lowes.com/SocialResponsibility

Consumer Spending Barely Budges

Consumer spending in the U.S. rose 0.4 per cent in April, mostly due to higher food and energy prices. After discounting for the jump in prices, spending rose 0.1 per cent, the Commerce Department reported. Incomes rose 0.4 per cent, but after-tax incomes adjusted for inflation were flat for a second straight month. Many economists are forecasting that overall economic growth will rebound to around 2.5 per cent in the current April to June quarter with enough strengthening in the second half of the year for the economy to turn in growth of around three per cent for all of 2011, little changed from the 2.9 per cent increase in 2010.

New Legislation Will Protect Consumers

Health Canada is launching the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act this June to protect consumers from unsafe products. More complex materials, increased global trade, and other market changes make updated and consolidated regulations essential, especially since existing legislations are more than 40 years old. The act includes several new provisions ranging from product recall powers for the federal government to a requirement that industry report serious incident or death related to a consumer product. Children's toys, jewelry, and equipment, including car booster seats, textiles and children's sleepwear; household products, including glass doors and enclosures; and sporting goods such as hockey helmets are all covered in the new act. Natural health products, food, cosmetics, and drugs were left out. In 2009, there were roughly 300 voluntary recalls of consumer products in Canada, one-third of which were children's products.

Zero Employment Growth In Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia’s economic performance is experiencing zero employment growth, which has slowed consumer spending, says the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council. It says generally flat employment growth province-wide has seriously curtailed consumer spending, which is also flat. The province’s retail sales growth figure of 0.8 per cent in the first two months of 2011 is another reflection of the careful mood the recession has created in the business community.

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May 27, 2011

Canadian Locations Revealed

Target has announced 105 locations of stores across all 10 provinces of Canada. The company has secured construction and renovation approval, and stores are set to begin opening in 2013. Target analyzed data on Canadian retail performance, demographics, competition, and market potential to identify trade areas which would be well-served by a Target store. Each selected site is sub-leased to Zellers and will continue to operate as a Zellers store for the time being. Six to nine months prior to opening as Target stores, the majority of stores will be closed for significant remodeling. About $10 million will be invested in remodelling each location. It has identified 15 locations in British Columbia, 13 in Alberta, two in Saskatchewan, five in Manitoba, 45 in Ontario, 19 in Quebec, one in New Brunswick, two in Nova Scotia, one in PEI, and two in Newfoundland and Labrador. A list of the locations is at http://pressroom.target.com

Big Lots Buys Liquidation World

Liquidation World Inc. is being acquired by U.S. retailer Big Lots Inc., the operation it had hoped to emulate. Big Lots will acquire its 92 stores and stock. Big Lots, with 1,405 stores in 48 U.S. states, says it has “diligently studied and analyzed a number of opportunities or paths to enter Canada over the last couple of years” before deciding on Liquidation World. Big Lots obtains closeout, liquidated, and overstock inventory from wholesalers and manufacturers and sells it to customers in a modern retail setting, with a week-to-week consistency about the kinds of products it stocks. Liquidation World was started 25 years ago in Calgary, AB, and has tried recently to follow the Big Lots model by remodelling or relocating stores and rebranding them as ‘LW – Everybody’s Outlet Store.’

Global Economy Affecting Canadian Housing

Canada's housing market faces a risk of sliding prices from the current global economic rebound. A report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said the world economy is in an uneven recovery and confronting far more "downside" than "upside" risks, including the possibility of an inflationary rise in oil and other commodity prices, a deeper slowdown in China's economy, continued deficit problems and housing market weakness in the United States and Japan, and mounting sovereign debt problems facing in. Canada’s rebound over the winter is expected to moderate due to the impact on global trade of the Japanese disaster, combined with reduced spending from heavily indebted households dealing with softening housing markets. The report said the high Canadian dollar and Canada's ongoing "sluggish" labour productivity are negative factors.

Toll Brothers Slowly Rising

Toll Brothers had a net loss of $20.8 million for its second fiscal quarter ending April 30, compared with losses of $40.4 million a year ago. Revenues for the home builder were $319.7 million, a three per cent rise compared with the previous year. Home building deliveries rose nine per cent to 591 units. It ended the quarter with 203 selling communities compared with 190 last year.

Outdoor Entertainment Popular

More than 75 per cent of home entertainers prefer the more laid back approach and spacious feeling they get from entertaining in the great outdoors. Items such as outdoor furniture, gas barbecue grills, plastic non-disposable tableware, and outdoor lighting are the most popular outdoor entertainment items being purchased by consumers for home use. The findings are from the ‘Outdoor Entertaining Trends 2010: Consumers Bring the Indoors Out’ report by NPD Group.

Epicor Adds Executives

Pervez Qureshi is CEO of business enterprise solutions company Epicor Software Corp. Qureshi has served in the role of president and CEO at Activant Solutions Inc. since 2006. He has also held senior positions at Harvest Software, Metaphor Computer Systems, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM. Kathy Crusco is executive vice-president and CFO and brings more than 20 years of experience serving in a variety of financial roles at Documentum Inc., Adaptec, and Price Waterhouse LLP.

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May 26, 2011

Bay Getting Retail Facelift

The Bay is renovating 80 of its 91 stores across Canada to further improve the shopping experience for Canadians. The multi-million dollar investment comes after the announcement of a partnership with Compass Group Canada and Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants for all restaurants and food services, as well as the franchise rights for UK-based retailers Topshop and Topman. A majority of the renovations will be completed by August 2011 and the company will be conducting renovation sales across Canada in the meantime.

Sears.ca Joins E-Commerce Retailers

Sears Canada has joined Mediative’s network of e-commerce retailer websites. Advertisers are now able to leverage the Sears.ca website to reach principle household decision-makers and influence buying. The partnership allows advertisers to target shoppers by geographic location and key category, as well as through sponsorship opportunities. Other retailers ‒ such as Walmart, Future Shop, Toys R Us, and Martha Stewart ‒ are already with the company.

Chinese Market Difficult For European Business

European companies in China increasingly believe the government is treating them unfairly. A survey by the European Chamber of Commerce in China found 43 per cent of the 598 companies that responded see Beijing discriminating against foreign businesses, up from 33 per cent last year, and 46 per cent expect the problem to get worse in the next two years, up from 36 per cent last year. The world’s second largest economy has pledged to treat foreign and domestic companies equally, but Chinese producers in computers, clean energy, and other fields receive subsidies, preferential treatment in government purchasing, and other favours. As a result, 20 per cent of companies said they were considering responding to discriminatory treatment by suspending or reducing planned investments in China, while 59 per cent see China as a key part of their global plans and will make major investments in the next two years.

Do It Best Heads to Asia

Do it Best Corp. will bring its brand to Indonesia with three stores opening August 2011 in Jakarta. It has partnered with Paulus Ong who helped grow Ace Indonesia from three stores in 1999 to 45 stores in 2011. This expansion brings the company’s international presence to 50 countries. Long-term plans call for the opening of 40 stores over the next five years in three formats: convenience stores, super stores, and hyper stores.

Nordstrom Considering Canadian Expansion

Nordstrom Inc. is looking at expanding into Canada as a way of extending its luxury department stores beyond the U.S. The retailer is scouting a number of sites and feeling out the demand. Canadians now make up the biggest share of the company’s international online customers. Nordstrom would be the latest U.S. retailer to announce plans to enter Canada if it does find locations.

Canadian-U.S. Spending Equal

Retail spending per capita for Canada and the U.S., is now equal. A report by Colliers International says as recently as 2004, Canadians' retail sales per capita was $8,000, while Americans' spending power was 50 per cent higher, at about $12,000 per capita. Operating in Canada has become compelling to U.S. retailers as the stronger Canadian dollar makes it worthwhile to establish Canadian stores rather than to sell only to customers online or on cross-border trips. For some U.S. retailers, Canada is the largest, closest, and/or most similar market to the U.S. and represents a logical next move.

Resale Prices Up

Canadian home resale home prices in March were up for a fourth straight month. The 0.6 per cent increase represents the biggest advancement in nine months, as tracked by the Teranet-National Bank Composite House Price Index. Five of the six metropolitan areas measured showed increases for repeat sales of single-family homes. The largest advance was in Montreal, up 1.2 per cent. Calgary was the exception with a 0.1 per cent decline. Housing has been a resilient sector of the Canadian economy, rebounding quickly after a brief slump early in the financial crisis.

May 26 Product Spotlight

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May 25, 2011

Economic Indicators Decline

Leading economic indicators in the U.S. dropped 0.3 per cent in April, the first decline since June 2010. The Conference Board says last month's 474,000 spike in the number of people filing for unemployment assistance ‒ which many economists viewed as a temporary event ‒ and a troubled housing market weighed on the indicators. Six of the measures used by the group declined in April while four increased. Some economists say the dip in indicators may be temporary due to supply chain disruptions by global natural disasters, while others are lowering their economic growth expectations due to higher oil prices weighing on consumer spending.

Venstar Expands Product Availability

Venstar has expanded Canadian availability of its HVAC systems, including its thermostats and accessories, in a distribution agreement with Trane Canada Co. The company’s commercial and residential HVAC control systems ‒ including touch screen, light activation, and alarm clock and telephone-programmed thermostats ‒ will be available in all Canadian provinces.

Do It Best Launches Recruitment Strategy

Do it Best has created a Best Advantage Program to attract new members in the United States and internationally. The company says it will offer converts a “performance satisfaction guarantee.” If they decide to go back to their former co-op within the first three years, it will help with the conversion and pay out 10 per cent of their average annual warehouse purchase.

National Hardware Show Attendance Grows

Attendance at the 2011 National Hardware Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center grew by four per cent in its 66th year. Exhibitor bookings for the 2012 show have already increased by 16 per cent from last year. The show attracts global manufacturers, associations, organizations, and media to see new products, ideas, and insights to the home improvement market.

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May 24, 2011

Sales Flat In March

Retail sales were flat in March, holding steady at $37.3 billion, says Statistics Canada. After removing the effects of price changes, particularly higher food and gasoline prices, retail sales in volume terms decreased 0.8 per cent. In current dollars, higher sales were reported in four subsectors, representing 50 per cent of total retail sales. However, these gains were offset by declines in the other seven subsectors. Sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers were down 10.1 per cent at $2,233 million from $2,486 million for March 2010. Compared to February 2011, sales slipped 0.8 per cent.

U.S. Demand For Advanced Lighting Increasing

The U.S. demand for advanced lighting is forecast to increase 9.3 per cent per annum through 2015 to more than $11 billion, says the Freedonia Group, Inc. Demand for LEDs will grow the fastest, rising 15 per cent per year to $6.1 billion. A government-mandated phase out of traditional incandescent lamps and an improvement in the cost effectiveness of advanced lighting will drive gains. Starting in 2012, the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA) will limit U.S. lighting sales to products that meet certain energy efficiency standards. 

Lumber Liquidators Arrives In Canadian Market

Lumber Liquidators, a specialty retailer of hardwood flooring in the United States, has expanded into the Canadian market. Four Ontario locations ‒ North Toronto, Scarborough, Brampton, and Barrie ‒ are now open with additional stores planned by the end of 2011. In business for more than 15 years, the company buys directly from the mill to offer discounts to consumers in their showrooms. Flooring options include hardwood, bamboo, laminate, vinyl, and cork. CEO Jeff Griffiths says the company has plans to expand across Canada and eventually into the European market.

House-Hasson Hardware Adds Sales Team

House-Hasson Hardware has added a 10-person sales team, expanding its paint and sundries offerings. The wholesale distributor of products to independent hardware stores and lumberyards has spent $3 million in the last 15 months. As a result of its 2009 acquisition of Moore-Handley, an Alabama-based hardware distributor, it has added warehouse space, new truck bays, racks, conveyor systems, and technology upgrades to its warehouses. The distributor serves nearly 2,000 independent hardware dealers in 17 states and the Caribbean. Annual sales are approximately $200 million.

Toro Earnings Rise

Toro had second-quarter net earnings of $60.3 million, up 32 per cent from $45.7 million last year. Net sales for the quarter ended April 29 were $631.6 million, up 12 per cent from net sales of $562.8 million in 2010. Professional segment earnings for the second quarter were $85.6 million, up 26.6 per cent. Residential segment earnings reached $26.5 million, up 5.7 per cent from the prior-year period.

Online Sales Boost Williams-Sonoma

Williams-Sonoma’s first-quarter net income rose 62 per cent to $31.6 million from $19.5 million, lifted by online sales and a focus on customer service. Revenue rose seven per cent to $770.8 million. CEO Laura Alber says the company's international expansion, including the addition of two franchised stores in Saudi Arabia, also helped results. The company operates 600 stores under its namesake brand as well as Pottery Barn and West Elm.

Tembec Appoints Vice-president

Linda Coates is corporate vice-president, communications and public affairs Tembec. She has more than 25 years’ experience in communications and public relations, having held executive positions in Canada as well as in Europe with companies involved in the mining and metallurgy, cement and related products, and technology manufacturing sectors. The company's principal operations are located in Canada and France.

Canadian Gift And Tableware Shows This August

The Canadian Gift and Tableware Association’s (CGTA) will hold its gift shows in Toronto, ON; Edmonton, AB; and Montreal, QC; this August. The show will be in Toronto August 7 to 10, Edmonton August 14 to 17, and Montreal August 28 to 31. Retail buyers will be introduced to the newest gift items of the season from more than 1,000 exhibitors showcasing international and Canadian products for fall 2011. For more information, visit http://www.cgta.org/

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May 20, 2011

Beacon Acquires Enercon

Beacon Roofing Supply has acquired Enercon Products, a roofing distributor with six locations in Western Canada. Headquartered in Edmonton, AB, Enercon also has branches in Calgary, AB, and Regina and Saskatoon, SK, along with two branches in Vancouver, BC. It generated annual sales of approximately $45 million in 2010.  Beacon operates 185 branches in 37 states and six provinces in Canada. Sales for its 2010 fiscal year were $1.61 billion.

Employees Help Japan

Employees of Johnston Equipment, a national material handling company, have raised funds totalling more than $12,000 in support of the Canadian Red Cross’ Japanese Relief Fund 2011. All 12 Johnston branch locations participated in fund-raising events. Michael Marcotte, its president, noted the company’s strong ties with parent company Toyota Material Handling North America.

KraftMaid Highest In Customer Satisfaction

Kitchen cabinet manufacturer KraftMaid ranked highest in customer satisfaction with a score of 771 on a 1,000-point scale, says the J.D. Power and Associates ‘2011 U.S. Kitchen Cabinet Satisfaction Study.’ Following KraftMaid in the rankings are Thomasville and Merrillat. 

Men Want Brands, Women Want Discounts

Men care more about name brand products than women, says an online shopping consumer survey from behavioural commerce company SteelHouse. It found 25 per cent of men say they would buy premium brand name products compared to 16 per cent of women. The survey also found women feel more strongly about discounts and offers, with one-third of women saying they only buy when there is a discount or free shipping versus less than one-fourth of men. Those in the highest income bracket ($75,000+) look for coupons and require discounts and free shipping the most, with 32 per cent in the group saying they only buy when there’s a discount (compared with 28 per cent overall).

Liquidation World Revenue Slips

Liquidation World Inc.’s revenue in the second quarter was $30 million, compared with $37.9 million in the second quarter of2010, a decline of approximately 21 per cent from the second quarter of 2010. On a year-to-date basis, revenue was $73.4 million compared with $82 million in the first half of 2010. It recorded a net loss of $14 million compared with a net loss of $ 2.9 million in the second quarter of fiscal 2010. On a year-to-date basis, the net loss was $20 million compared with $2.2 million in the first half of 2010.

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May 19, 2011

Disposable Batteries Can Be Recharged

The very first ‘non-rechargeable’ alkaline battery charger certified for use in Canada has arrived at RONA. Available under the RONA ECO brand, it makes it possible to recharge alkaline, or ‘regular disposable,’ batteries. It can recharge four AA or AAA batteries at a time. The recharge time only takes 90 minutes and the charger can recharge the same battery up to 200 times, raising the average life expectancy of a battery from eight hours to 1,600 hours.

Residential Construction Down

Total housing starts in the U.S. for March fell 23.9 per cent from last year, says the Commerce Department. Single-family starts were also down to 30 per cent and building permits showed declines of four per cent from March 2010.

Resale Housing Activity Soft In April

Canadian home sales activity was down 4.4 per cent in April 2011 compared to the previous month, says the CREA. Changes to mortgage regulations and other transitory factors contributed to a broadly based decline in sales activity in April 2011 compared to year-ago levels. The number of newly listed homes edged up 1.3 per cent in April from the previous month on a seasonally adjusted basis, but remained well below levels in January and February, when impending changes to mortgage regulations were announced. The declines were largest in some of Canada's more expensive and active markets, including Toronto, Vancouver, and the Fraser Valley.

2012 Show Extended

The 2012 International Home + Housewares Show has added an extra half day in response to retailers’ requests. Independent retailers and buyers have said more time would give them the ability to visit their current supplier’s booth as well as investigate new relationships with exhibitors. Additionally, being mindful of minimizing incremental costs to exhibitors, the board approved a freeze of booth space fees to remain at 2011 rates. The show will be held at McCormick Place in Chicago, IL, from March 10 to March 13.  For more information, visit www.housewares.org

Moen Canada Adds Managers

John Farina, Tony Hogan, and Ryan Wright are senior territory managers, wholesale, at Moen Canada. In their new roles, they will execute strategies to develop and expand the wholesale plumbing market, as well as build and maintain strong customer relationships with wholesalers, plumbing contractors, builders, retailers, designers, and engineers.

Kitchen Cabinet Satisfaction Improves

Customer satisfaction with cabinet brands increased from 2010, primarily due to improved satisfaction with design, performance and value, says the J.D. Power and Associates ‘2011 U.S. Kitchen Cabinet Satisfaction Study.’ Satisfaction increased from 742 on a 1,000-point scale in 2010 to 754 in 2011. Customers are particularly satisfied with ordering and delivery in 2011, the most influential factor contributing to overall satisfaction. The study measures customer satisfaction with kitchen cabinets with five factors: design features, operational performance, ordering and delivery, price, and warranty.

Merit Files For Bankruptcy

The Merit Group has filed a voluntary petition for Chapter 11 reorganization in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of South Carolina. The Spartanburg, SC-based firm, parent company of Lancaster and Five Star, has obtained a commitment for a $55 million debtor in possession of financing from its senior lender, Regions Bank, so it can continue its paint sundry product operations without interruption during the reorganization process. Its management team and advisors will focus on a potential sale of the business or a strategic investment in the next 90 days.

Deere Earnings Rise

Deere & Company income rose to $904.3 million for the second quarter ending April 30, compared with $547.5 million, for the same period last year. Worldwide net sales and revenues increased 25 per cent, to $8.91 billion, for the second quarter and were up 26 per cent to $15.029 billion for six months. Net sales of the equipment operations were $8.328 billion for the quarter and $13.841 billion for six months, compared with $6.548 billion and $10.785 billion for the corresponding periods last year. Sales of large farm machinery, particularly in the United States, Canada, and Brazil, are continuing to support the company's performance.

Composite Components Increase

The composite leading index rose 0.8 per cent in April, after a 0.6 per cent gain in March, says Statistics Canada. Overall, eight of the 10 components increased in April, two more than the month before. All three manufacturing components advanced, versus only one in March. The components related to household demand in Canada were mixed. The housing index (-0.4 per cent) posted its first decline in six months, as starts slowed while sales increased. Furniture and appliance sales rose 0.4 per cent, but sales of other durable goods fell 0.2 per cent.

May 19 Product Spotlight

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May 18, 2011

Home Hardware Dealer-owners Win Retail Awards

Home Hardware Stores Limited’s dealer-owners are recipients of awards from the North American Retail Hardware Association. Conrad Leblanc, of Tediche Home Hardware Building Centre in Cap-Pele, NB, was recognized as a ‘Young Retailer of the Year.’ Gary, Glen, and Dean Thulin and Alison Kilby, dealer-owners of Pioneer Home Hardware Building Centre in Campbell River, BC, were named ‘Retail Innovator of the Year.’ The 15-year-old awards program highlights young, aspiring hardware retailers and honours achievements of owners and managers of independently owned hardware and building supply stores in the United States and Canada.

Green Building Products Demand Rising

The demand for green building materials is projected to expand 13 per cent annually to $71.1 billion in 2015, says the Freedonia Group, Inc.’s ‘Green Building Materials’ study. The growth is a result of greater availability, environmental concern, and more stringent regulatory or building code standards, coupled with the rebound in the construction market. Among these products are water-efficient plumbing fixtures and fittings, energy-efficient lighting fixtures, permeable pavement, and concrete that features recycled content. The largest source of the demand comes from green floor coverings, accounting for nearly one-quarter of the market in 2010, and projected to increase 11.7 per cent through 2015.

Lowe’s Offers Residential Solar Solutions

Lowe’s will offer consumers residential solar solutions through solar company Sungevity. Through the agreement, the company will provide interactive store displays and installation estimates that utilize satellite images and aerial photography beginning this summer. Additionally, as part of the agreement, Lowe’s has taken an equity position in Sungevity. It believes the agreement will mark a significant step in the mainstream adoption of residential solar.

CertainTeed Offers Gateway  

Exterior and interior building manufacturer CertainTeed has launched an online resource for architects, designers, and contractors to access product information and educational tools. The website ‒ www.certainteed.com/sustainable ‒ links to sustainable material data sheets, a design gallery and case studies, architectural specifications, BIM objects, videos, and CertainTeed products.

Sears Canada Blames Weather

Sears Canada Inc. says colder weather was to blame for part of its $49.5 million loss in its first quarter as sales of its summertime merchandise underwhelmed expectations. Its total revenues were down to $992.5 million, compared to $1 billion during the same time period last year. The store saw a 7.1 per cent decline in first-quarter revenue, as sales at locations open for at least a year dropped 9.2 per cent.

Home Depot Revenue Edges Down

Home Depot’s revenue edged down 0.2 per cent to $16.82 billion for the quarter that ended May 1. Net earnings were $812 million, compared with net earnings of $725 million in the same period of fiscal 2010. Comparable store sales for the first quarter were negative 0.6 per cent. It said the harsh weather conditions that blanketed the U.S. hurt sales of seasonal items including plants, patio furniture, and barbeque grills.

U.S. Same-store Sales Fall

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s U.S. same-store sales have fallen for two straight years as customers struggle with high unemployment and wages that are not keeping up with rising prices for food and other basics. U.S. same-store sales fell 1.1 per cent in the first quarter that ended on April 30. However, strong sales at its warehouse clubs and international stores, cost-cutting, and share repurchases helped it post a better-than-expected 3.8 per cent rise in profit. Wal-Mart earned $3.4 billion, up from $3.3 billion, or 87 cents per share. Sales rose 4.4 per cent to $103.42 billion. International sales soared 11.5 per cent, with strong gains in all countries except Japan.

Sexton Changes Management Team

Dave Leonzio is business development manager for the Prairies ‒ working with members in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Northwestern Ontario ‒ at the Sexton Group. Norm Bougie is marketing manager and Phil Brown is business development manager for Eastern Canada. The Sexton Group has added more than 50 dealer locations in recent years. It currently has 280 member locations.

Fitzgerald Oversees Finance

Thomas J. Fitzgerald is executive vice-president and chief administrative officer at Sears Canada. He will oversee the finance, merchandise procurement, supply chain, store operations, and information technology functions. He was most recently CEO of the Lucky Brand Jeans division with Liz Claiborne Inc.

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May 17, 2011

Americans Remodel Despite Economy  

The U.S. residential remodelling industry continues to strengthen, rising 14 per cent from last March. The ‘Residential BuildFax Remodelling Index (BFRI)’ shows industry activity registered the 17th straight month of year-over-year gains, demonstrating that many Americans are continuing to remodel their current homes, rather than purchasing new homes, even while the economy continues to struggle. This is the highest March number in the index since 2006. The index shows all regions, except the Midwest, posted year-over-year and month-over-month gains.

Retailers Raise Money For Charity With IBM Software

IBM is collaborating with charitable foundation Retail Orphan Initiative to help retailers raise money for charities at the point of sale. Using an auto round-up feature powered by IBM’s SurePOS ACE retail software, shoppers can choose to donate change from their transactions to RetailROI's Round-up for Orphans campaign or other charities supported by their local retail establishments. Retailers simply "round up" transaction totals to the next whole dollar automatically during checkout. The retailer then writes a single cheque on behalf of consumers. Retailers can then choose to match all, or a portion, of the donations provided. The foundation provides funding for orphan care and child rescue from human trafficking. IBM ACE software with Auto RoundUp is installed at more than 90,000 checkout lanes worldwide.

Walmart Canada Wins Environmental Award

Walmart Canada has earned a Corporate Environmental Excellence award for its commitment to sustainable business practices at the GLOBE Awards. The award recognizes Canadian corporations with a proven record of environmental stewardship, whose commitment to environmental excellence has contributed to economic competitiveness in Canada. Since 2005, Walmart Canada has improved its energy efficiency, diverted more than 80 per cent of its waste from landfills, and stocked more than 1,000 environmentally-improved products.

Lowe’s Earnings Down For First Quarter

Lowe's Cos. profit fell six per cent in the first quarter as the bad weather that plagued much of the country kept customers away from their gardens and other outdoor projects. For the three months ended April 29, its net income dropped to $461 million. A year earlier it earned $489 million. Revenue dipped two per cent to $12.19 billion as sales of outdoor items fell.

ACE Revenue Up

Ace Hardware Corporation had total revenues of $854 million, an increase of $23.4 million or 2.8 per cent for the first quarter of 2011. Net income was $6.8 million, a decrease of $5 million, or 42.4 per cent, from $11.8 million in 2010. The drop is said to be primarily due to a planned shift in advertising expenses and higher costs relating to the supply chain initiative. Ace added 38 new stores and cancelled 41 stores in the first quarter and ended the quarter with a total domestic and international store count of 4,444.

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May 16, 2011

Companies Urged To Protect Consumer Data

The Consumers Union has listed a code of conduct they advise companies to follow to be better custodians of sensitive customer data. Suggestions include prompt notification of breaches that pose risks to customer identity or finances and disclosing specifics on what information has been exposed. Companies are encouraged to encrypt sensitive data and ensure their security practices are actively safeguarding private information. They also propose offering free credit monitoring services to customers who have fallen victim due to their neglect.

Large Appliances Arriving At Canadian Tire

Canadian Tire will start selling large appliances and will install interactive auto parts kiosks in its stores. The company wants to sell large appliances such as stoves or dishwashers by the end of next year. The move will put Canadian Tire in competition with retailers including Home Depot, Lowes, and RONA. The company has also been testing new store layouts highlighting its automotive section to launch by the end of the year. It plans to introduce interactive store kiosks that allow customers to type in their car model and see which tires are right for them. Customers will also be able to purchase tires online and have them waiting at the store.

Retail Services Sales Rise

Advanced sales for U.S. building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers were up slightly in April, says the U.S. Census Bureau. They reached $24.496 billion compared to the March figure of $24.461 billion. However, that is down 3.7 per cent from $25.446 billion in the year-ago month. Retail and food services sales for April were $389.4 billion on a seasonally adjusted basis. That's an increase of 0.5 per cent from the previous month and up 7.6 per cent compared with April 2010.

Wal-Mart Buys Stake In Yihaodian

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is buying a minority stake in online company Yihaodian in an effort to tap into online sales in China. Yihaodian sells groceries, consumer electronics, clothing, and other items. It was launched in July 2008. Wal-Mart's overseas business ‒ which includes China, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, and other countries ‒ made up approximately 26 per cent of the company's revenue in fiscal 2011. China, Brazil, and Mexico contributed some of the biggest sales increases for the period.

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May 13, 2011

Sights Set On Canada

American retailers have set their sights on the Canadian market with the Calgary, AB, market viewed as especially fertile ground, says a retail report by Colliers International. It found the strength of the Canadian dollar coupled with an increase in retail spending per capita ‒ which is now equal to the U.S. ‒ make Canada a valuable market for U.S. retailers as economic conditions continue to level off. Consumers can expect to see American retailers ‒ including J.C. Penny, Nordstrom, Topshop, J. Crew, Kohl’s, and Dick’s Sporting Goods ‒ arriving in the near future as retailers target the clothing, accessories, jewelry, and home furnishing markets in Canada. “Larger municipalities with high growth rates ‒ such as Surrey, BC; Brampton, ON; and Calgary ‒ are attractive markets for retailers and developers looking to build new retail in growing communities,” says the report. “These markets are especially attractive for destination retailers that need large trade area populations.

Real Estate Forecast Revised

The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) has revised its forecast for real estate sales activity for 2011 and 2012. National sales activity is now expected to reach 441,100 units in 2011, a decline of 1.3 per cent from 2010, but a slight improvement from the 1.6 per cent decline forecast in February. In 2012, CREA says national sales activity will rebound by 2.6 per cent to 452,500 units. This is little changed from the previous forecast and stands roughly on par with the 10-year average for annual activity. It expects home sales activity to regain traction after dipping in the second quarter as economic recovery and hiring continues.

Homes Arrive In Japan

Viceroy Homes Ltd. has manufactured and shipped the first lot of pre-fabricated temporary housing units ordered by the Japanese government to help house survivors displaced by the earthquake and tsunami that occurred in the northern region of Japan in March. The temporary two-bedroom homes ‒ which include a kitchen, bathroom, and small storage room ‒ were manufactured at its plant in Richmond, B.C. The homes, ordered by the Japanese government through its exclusive Japanese building partner, Selco Homes, are now in Japan and being assembled on land provided by various levels of government for this purpose.

Supercentre Opens In Manitoba

Walmart Canada has opened its first Supercentre in Manitoba. Located in Winnipeg, it is its first foray into the fresh grocery business in the province and is the company's 131st Supercentre. It introduced the format to Canada in late 2006 in Ontario. Supercentres address a consumer preference for one-stop shopping by adding all varieties of food ‒ including fresh produce, meat, baked goods, and prepared meals ‒ to its already broad product offering. It now operates Supercentres in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. This summer, it will open its first Supercentres in Quebec.

Environmental Performance Illustrated

Exterior and interior building products manufactured by CertainTeed have been proven to outperform siding products such as brick and stucco in terms of environmental and economic performance. The findings are based on a life cycle analysis through the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Building for Economic and Environmental Sustainability, an online program which allows building products to be compared on a life cycle basis. The analysis included an evaluation of raw material acquisition, manufacturing, transportation and distribution, installation, maintenance, and end of life disposal. The company ‒ which manufactures roofing, siding, fence, decking, and other building products ‒ is the first vinyl siding manufacturer to publish LCA data through this program.

Royal Opening Quebec Distribution Centre

Royal Building Products is opening a distribution centre in Terrebonne, QC. The centre will cater to the residential market providing low-maintenance building products for new construction and remodeling projects. Adrien Pilon, general manager of distribution, says approximately 25 per cent of its current Montreal, QC, customer base is served from Terrebonne and the area is projected to have a high new construction rate for the next five years. The company plans to open an additional distribution centre during the summer to serve the south shore of the Montreal region.

Power Tool Sales Rise With Baby Boomers

An NPD Group study indicates consumers ages 65 and over accounted for 30 per cent more in power tool sales and 16 per cent more in outdoor power equipment sales in the last 12 months than in the previous year. The next age group, 45 years and up, accounted for 11 per cent more in hand tool purchases in the same 12-month period, ending March 2011, than they did the previous year.

Canadian Tire Profit Jumps

Canadian Tire Corp. had a 13.3 per cent jump in first quarter profits. Total retail sales in the first quarter increased by 3.7 per cent over the prior year. The retail segment net income before taxes increased 16.1 per cent primarily due to higher revenues, higher gross margin dollars, and lower interest costs. The lack of spring weather and the resulting decrease in customer traffic led to a 0.6 per cent decrease in retail sales at Canadian Tire stores in the first quarter of 2011 versus 2010. The cool weather later in the quarter impacted the Living, Fixing and Playing areas of the store, specifically in weather-related categories such as gardening, cycling, and backyard.

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May 12, 2011

Good Customer Service Sells

American Express' Global Customer Service Barometer discovered that seven-out-of-10 Americans are willing to pay an average of 13 per cent more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service. While Americans put a heavy emphasis on good customer service, 60 per cent believe that companies haven't stepped up their game to improve their focus on providing good customer service and, among them, 26 per cent believe companies are paying less attention to their customer service. What's more, 78 per cent said they will bail on a transaction or opt not to make an intended purchase because of a poor service experience. American Express also noted 42 per cent of consumers said companies are helpful, but don't do anything extra to keep their business, while 22 per cent thought companies take their business for granted.

Forest Products Sector To Generate Jobs

In the next 10 years, experts predict that somewhere between 170,000 and 193,000 workers will be in demand for the Canadian forest products sector. A labour market intelligence report released from the Forest Products Sector Council says the transforming $57 billion forest products sector will generate thousands of new ‘green’ jobs.

Snow Blower Sales Up

Unit sales of snow throwers/blowers grew six per cent in the 12 months ending March 2011, compared with the same time last year, says an NPD Group study. Electric staplers grew seven per cent in the last year and sales of wrenches increased seven per cent between April 2010 and March 2011. About 19 per cent of the hand tools sold were purchased in the mass and warehouse club channels, while the specialty channel (which includes lumber/building supply) grew by seven per cent in unit sales during this timeframe.

BrassCraft Wins Environmental Recognition

BrassCraft Manufacturing has been awarded Platinum memberships from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for going beyond regulatory requirements for resource utilization, recycling, and compliance and reporting standards with environmental regulations.  This is the second and highest ‘Clean Texas’ honour the Lancaster, TX, construction and repair product manufacturing facility has received since 2010.

May 12 Product Spotlight

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May 11, 2011

RONA Sales Down In First Quarter

RONA inc.’s total sales decreased four per cent and same-store sales were down 12.6 per cent for the 13-week period ended March 27, 2011 (first quarter 2011). This resulted in a decline in net income of $19.8 million. “Very unfavourable weather conditions, fragile consumer confidence, and a lack of tax-credit-driven market stimulation, items outside of our control, were all factors that significantly impacted our first quarter results,” says Robert Dutton, president and CEO. However, the strong performance of its commercial and professional division as well as recruitment of new dealers and expansion projects completed by its existing affiliated dealers helped it to partially mitigate the negative effects of these elements. Dutton also said the renovation market itself may be changing toward a rate of expansion in line with the general economy, but this means the process of consolidation will speed up and RONA needs to push its national market share beyond the existing 19 per cent.

Housing Starts Down In April

Canadian housing starts fell in April for the first time in three months, led by multiple-unit projects in Ontario and Quebec, says Canada Mortgage & Housing Corp. It says the annual pace of starts was 179,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis, down 3.1 per cent from March’s revised 184,700. In February, it said housing starts will slow to 177,600 units this year from 189,930 units in 2010. By province, the decrease in urban housing starts was led by declines of 9.4 per cent in Quebec and eight per cent in Ontario.

Home & Security Files To Spinoff

Fortune Brands Home & Security has filed with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission for its proposed spinoff from Fortune Brands. The spinoff is part of the company’s proposed plan to separate its three businesses ‒ spinning off Home & Security and its Acushnet golf business, and remaining a pure-play spirits company named Beam. Home & Security will include kitchen and bath cabinetry; plumbing and accessories; advanced material windows and door systems; and security and storage.

Canadians Passionate About Points

Canadians are passionate about their purchasing points, says research from eBay Canada. Nearly three quarters of the population say they like ‒ and, in some cases, love ‒ customer loyalty programs. It says the majority of shoppers (86 per cent) believe they deserve to be rewarded for their loyalty and four-in-10 Canadians belong to four or more programs with some signing up for 10 or more point collecting programs. However, the research also reveals that Canadians are frustrated with rewards programs. Four-in-10 are frustrated with the scarcity of loyalty programs offered by online retailers and some 70 per cent of all points collectors are confused by calculations, finding it easier to understand rewards programs that are calculated in dollars versus points.

Sentiment Drops In U.S.

As rattled consumers face rising gas prices, inflation concerns, and increasing financial woes, consumer sentiment numbers have dropped significantly, says the U.S. ‘Consumer Reports Sentiment Index’ has dropped to 45.7 from 50.2 the prior month. This significant step back returned consumer sentiment to negative territory, leaving it at a level comparable to one year ago. Along with the decline in the consumer sentiment number, consumers are experiencing more financial difficulties than the prior month.

LP Sales Down In First Quarter

Louisiana-Pacific (LP) had net sales of $332 million for the first quarter of 2011, a 12 per cent increase over sales of $297 million in the same period of 2010. Its OSB segment had net sales for the first quarter of $132 million, up 12 per cent compared with $118 million of net sales in last year's first quarter. The siding segment had net sales of $106 million in the first quarter of 2011, up 18 per cent from $90 million in the year-ago first quarter. The Engineered Wood Product segment reported sales in the first quarter of $48 million, about flat compared with the year-ago quarter.

Beacon Sees Sales Rise

Beacon Roofing Supply’s sales were $296.3 million in the second fiscal quarter of 2011, a 3.8 per cent rise from sales of $285.4 million in 2010. Residential roofing sales decreased 11.1 per cent and continued to be especially weak in markets affected by storms in 2009 and were also affected by continued historically low levels of new home construction. The net loss for the second quarter, which ended March 31, was $6.2 million, compared with $6.5 million in 2010, an improvement of 4.3 per cent. Beacon operates 179 branches in 37 states in the United States and in three provinces in Eastern Canada.

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May 10, 2011

RONA Launches Online Magazine 

Canadian hardware, renovation, and garden product retailer RONA has launched an online magazine. Ronamag.ca aims to offer a platform for Canadian consumers to receive expert advice and inspiration for their home renovation and design projects. The magazine is available in both English and French. 

‘Dirty Jobs’ Host Master Lock Spokesman

Creator and host of Discovery Channel’s ‘Dirty Jobs,’ Mike Rowe, has been named the new spokesman for Master Lock. The manufacturer is launching a new line of security products designed to protect tools and equipment in the cargo area of trucks and vans which Rowe will promote.

InSinkErator Names New President

Tim Ferry is president of InSinkErator. He was formerly with Emerson Tool Co. where he spent 22 years, most recently as president.

Canadian Tire To Acquire Forzani Group

Canadian Tire Corporation is acquiring all of the outstanding shares of the Forzani Group Ltd. Forzani s a Canadian sporting goods retailer with brands such as Sport Chek and Sports Experts. The transaction will provide Canadian Tire with more than 1,000 combined retail sports outlets across the country, including mall-based outlets. 

Show Moving To November

The Canadian Home Improvement Show (CHIS) is opening its doors early this year, November 17 and 18 at the Toronto Congress Centre, Toronto, ON, to offer suppliers and retailers a jump start on new year sales. An expanded showcase will include lawn and garden, paint, windows and doors, deck, fence and siding, kitchen and bath, and flooring. The show was moved forward from its former February date.

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May 9, 2011

Onex Acquiring Jeld-Wen Stake

Onex Corp., a Canadian investment group, is acquiring a 39 per cent stake in Jeld-Wen, the window and door manufacturer. Onex made the move in anticipation that Jeld-Wen is positioned well for a global recovery in housing. It will continue to be majority-owned by the trust of Richard Wendt, members of the Wendt family, Jeld-Wen employees, and other existing shareholders. Jeld-Wen had $3 billion in 2010 revenues and operates 123 manufacturing and distribution centres in more than 25 countries across North America, South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. 

U.S. Retail Revenue Surges

Retail revenue in the U.S. surged in April helped by a late Easter holiday, says the International Council of Shopping Centers. The gains build on a trend that began late last year, but higher gas prices threaten to cut into consumers' spending power. Overall, revenue at major retailers was 8.5 per cent higher than last April. The increase is not as robust as it looks because Easter fell on April 24 this year, three weeks later than last year. That inflated the April figure by three to five percentage points and hurt March by the same amount. March revenue rose two per cent.

Solid Co-ReSiding Now In Canada

Royal Building Products is now distributing Solid CoReSiding in the T6, D7, and Board & Batten profiles at its company-owned Boncor Building Products stores throughout Canada and its residential building products stores in Quebec. In February, its parent company – Georgia Gulf Corporation (NYSE: GGC) – acquired Exterior Portfolio from Crane Group, giving its Canadian customers widespread access to a premier line of insulated vinyl siding.

Winter Weather Hurt Canfor

Despite recording group net profits of $32.2 million, a stagnant U.S. housing sector and severe winter weather affected Canfor’s lumber division which posted a loss of $2.3 million. Its lumber production in the quarter was up seven per cent, but shipments of lumber were down three per cent, reflecting the major disruption to transport networks caused by the adverse winter conditions. Total lumber shipments were 806 million board feet, down six per cent on the previous quarter. Strong lumber demand from Asia increased Canfor’s offshore shipments by 50 per cent compared to a year ago, with China the top destination.

Income At Griffon Increases

Griffon Corporation had adjusted income from continuing operations of $6.1 million for its second quarter ended March 31, 2011, compared to $1.4 million in the prior year quarter. Consolidated revenue grew to $476 million, increasing 52 per cent in comparison to the prior year quarter. Growth was driven mainly by the home and building products segment. It consists of Ames True Temper, Inc., a global provider of non-powered lawn and garden tools, wheelbarrows, and other outdoor products to the retail and professional markets ‒ purchased by Griffon in September 2010 ‒ and Clopay Building Products, a manufacturer and marketer of residential garage doors and commercial sectional doors in the United States.

Dow Corning Income Falls

Dow Corning Corp.’s first-quarter net income fell 18 per cent as its materials and energy costs rose significantly and federal solar energy tax credits it enjoyed a year earlier ended. It earned $179 million compared with $218 million a year earlier. Sales rose 17 per cent to $1.58 billion. The company, which gets more than half of its annual sales outside the U.S., says it continues to grow in Asia and Europe, particularly in developing regions.

Batimat Adds ZOOM

This year’s Batimat trade show will feature ZOOM, an area dedicated to outdoor and indoor design. As well, its conferences will highlight themes and issues such as new technics and future trends. It takes place November 7 to 12 in Paris-Porte de Versailles, France. For more information, visit www.batimat.com

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May 6, 2011

Ontario Drives Building Permit Jump

Municipalities issued building permits worth $6.8 billion in March, a 17.2 per cent increase from February and a level not seen since June 2007, says Statistics Canada. The gain was mostly the result of advances in the residential and non-residential sectors in Ontario. After two consecutive monthly decreases, the value of residential permits increased 33.9 per cent to $4 billion, the highest level since March 2010. Ontario posted the largest increase in both single and multi-family permits. In March, six other provinces also recorded gains in the residential sector. In the non-residential sector, the value of permits edged down 0.4 per cent to $2.8 billion, following a 72.7 per cent increase in February.

Wal-Mart Tops Fortune List

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. still sits in the top spot on the Fortune 500 list, despite its struggles to keep its U.S. customers coming in the door. It remained number one mostly as a result of gains at its international stores. Its U.S. division has had seven straight quarters of declines in revenue at stores open at least a year. The top 10 companies also included General Electric Co., Berkshire Hathaway Inc., General Motors Co., Bank of America Corp. and Ford Motor Corp. Target, Wal-Mart’s biggest competitor, ranked 33rd.  Two home improvement retailers cracked the top 50. The Home Depot was in 30th place with Lowe’s landing at 50.

Americans Scale Back Vacation Plans

Half of Americans (47 per cent) say they have already cut back or cancelled vacation plans due to high gas prices and 20 per cent have scaled back their plans because of high air fares, says the ‘RBC Consumer Outlook Index.’ It fell to 42.9 for May, down 1.9 points from April's 44.8 reading. Soaring gas prices have already caused three-in-10 consumers to reduce their discretionary spending. However, Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets, says “what a consumer says can sometimes be at odds with what a consumer does. Confidence fell, but weekly measures of consumer spending remain fairly buoyant and, from our perspective, the second quarter is looking very much like the first quarter. In other words, consumption is not losing momentum."

‘Masters’ Venture Launched

The Lowe’s and Woolworths home improvement store venture in Australia s will be called ‘Masters.’ Plans are to open the first store in Melbourne in September or October. The Masters brand was developed by Australia's brand identity consultancy Hulsbosch. Plans are to have 150 stores open within five years.

Bumpers Certified As Environmental

Boston Retails’ ecoSeries line of flexible bumpers has obtained UL Environment Claims Validation (ECV) certifying the plastic material utilized in their manufacturing contains a minimum of 80 per cent recycled content. “Boston Retail is committed to developing environmentally-preferable systems for multiple markets and industries,” says Russell Rubin, president and CEO. “The latest validation on our ecoSeries line supports our commitment to evolve and innovate our product lines to exceed sustainable building and purchasing guidelines around the globe.”

Green Building Advisory Services Available

Pike Research, a market research and consulting firm focused on global clean technology markets, is now offering two new subscription-based advisory services for the Smart Buildings industry. The Building Systems and Green Buildings advisory services cover emerging technologies and innovative business practices being utilized to improve the energy efficiency, reduce the operating costs, and decrease the environmental impact of commercial, industrial, and residential buildings around the world. Its findings suggest, for example, that the energy efficiency home improvement market, including low-tech weatherization measures as well as advanced energy-efficient appliances and systems, will surpass $50 billion in revenue in the U.S. by 2014.

Tools Get Arthritis Commendation

Some Fiskars craft and garden tools have earned the ‘Ease-of-Use Commendation’ from the U.S. Arthritis Foundation. With arthritis America’s most common cause of disability, resulting in limitations at work and at home for millions, one of the most effective strategies is to reduce the impact of arthritis by limiting repetitive motions and choosing user-friendly tools. Products which earned the commendation  include Squeeze Punches that follow the hand’s natural clenching motion. The innovations allow users to continue to take part in their favourite activities with a minimum of strain.

Lawnmower Demand Expected To Grow

Consumer demand for lawnmowers, trimmers, edgers, rotary tillers, and other outdoor power equipment will grow over the next several years as spending rebounds from the 2007 to 2009 recession, says the Freedonia Group. U.S. demand for power lawn and garden equipment will increase 5.7 per cent yearly to $10.4 billion in 2015. Improvement in U.S. housing activity, including both new construction and the sale of existing homes, will also benefit sales. Although demand will pick up across all categories, the fastest growers will be turf and grounds equipment, garden tractors, and rotary tillers. Lawnmowers come next, with a projected annual growth rate of 6.5 per cent through 2015. 

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May 5, 2011

Totem Commits To Planting Trees

TOTEM Building Supplies is making a multi-year commitment to plant one million trees in Alberta’s boreal forests. This initiative marks the launch of TOTEM’s long-term sustainable development platform to reduce environmental impact and encourage eco-responsibility. “We take our responsibility to the environment seriously,” says Dave Carr, vice-president and general manager. “In addition to providing leadership through our wood products procurement policy, we are committed to improving the quality of Alberta’s air, water, and wildlife habitat for future generations by adhering to high standards of environmental responsibility.” TOTEM has partnered on the tree planting initiative with the Alberta Department of Sustainable Resource Development and with the Alberta Forest Products Association. 

Boise Cascade Suffers Loss

Boise Cascade Holdings, L.L.C. had a $19 million net loss for the quarter ended March 31, 2011. First quarter 2011 revenues and earnings were negatively impacted by depressed demand as U.S. housing starts declined approximately 10 per cent in the first quarter of 2011. Building materials distribution segment sales were $377.8 million, down three per cent from the same quarter a year ago even though prices for the segment were up approximately three per cent. Wood products segment sales were $154.9 million, up about five per cent from the same quarter a year ago. The increase in sales was due primarily to increased plywood prices and volumes.

Panel Segment Breaks Even

West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. had earnings after discontinued operations of $19 million for the first quarter of 2011. The lumber segment recorded operating earnings of $33 million and EBITDA of $55 million in the current quarter. The panel segment ‒ which includes plywood, LVL and MDF ‒ recorded break-even operating earnings and EBITDA of $4 million in the quarter.

Watts Water Sales Increase

Watts Water Technologies, Inc.’s sales for the first quarter of 2011 were $329.9 million, an increase of $10.6 million, or three per cent, compared to the first quarter of 2010. Sales increased organically by two per cent and by contributions from acquisitions of one per cent. North American sales for the first quarter of 2011 increased $3.6 million, or two per cent, to $202.1 million, compared to $198.5 million for the first quarter of 2010. This increase was primarily due to an organic sales increase of $2.5 million, or one per cent, and favourable foreign exchange movements with the strengthening of the Canadian dollar versus the U.S. dollar.

Home Hardware Builds Mexican Schools

More than 100 Home Hardware dealer-owners and 20 vendors have returned from Home Hardware’s Lumber and Building Materials Convention in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The yearly trip brings together Home Dealers and vendors from across Canada to volunteer their time and help build much needed schools for youth in various areas of Mexico. “I’d like to extend a thank you to all of the Home dealers and vendors who contributed not only their time and effort but also their hearts to this great project,” says Paul Straus, president and CEO. “This yearly volunteer trip proves Home’s commitment to community and its charitable spirit is always hard at work – be it in our own communities’ right here in Canada or in other communities in need around the world.”

TruServ Adds To Team

Sandy Goodine, Robert Alberto, and Andrew Barnes have joined the field team at TruServ Canada.  Goodine will represent Atlantic customers. His experience includes the garden supply industry with Raingrow Organic Products and Supplies and the pharmaceutical industry with Nasmark and Trophic Canada. Alberto will cover the Quebec district. He was previously a regional manager with RONA and, prior to that, worked as the general manager of Pascal Hardware stores. Barnes is key account manager, general merchandise, Alberta. His previous experience included Servco Service Group and RONA.

Retail Update Offered

Irene Nattel, managing director, global equity research, at RBC Capital Markets is the featured speaker at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ ‘Canadian Retail Economic Update Breakfast.’ She will provide an economic outlook and perspectives on the coming five years in Canadian retail. It takes place June 7 at the Sutton Place Hotel in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit http://www.icsc.org/index.php

May 5 Product Spotlight

• Arrow Fastener Company, LLC’s T50 Elite professional manual staple gun and 1″ brad nail gun is set to arrive in stores in July. It is one of the first manual tackers on the market capable of firing up to a 1″ brad nail.  As well, the user can set it to staple or nail on virtually any surface. 
• Napoleon’s 9600 Series Two-Stage Variable Speed High Efficient Gas Furnace is built especially for North American winters. Designed and manufactured in Canada, it is a two-stage furnace, which maintains a more consistent, comfortable temperature by reducing temperature swings within a home. It can also be installed in a variety of positions including upflow, horizontal, and downflow.
•Newell Rubbermaid’s Glass with Easy Find Lids food storage containers offer consumers the ability to cook, serve, store, and reheat meals all in one container. The Easy Find Lids system allows lids to snap to bases and they come in graduated sizes to neatly nest within each other to help maximize space and keep cabinets clutter-free and organized.
• Trane’s ComfortLink II Thermostat is a seven-inch interactive high definition color touch screen that serves as an easy-to-use central planning centre. This screen provides an intuitive user interface allowing homeowners to see different room temperatures from one single control, providing home with the ideal temperature and humidity at any given time. 
• Dentec Safety Specialists Slice is a line of cutting tools that uses zirconium oxide, a high-tech ceramic, as material for the blade. The line includes box cutters, letter openers, safety cutters, and precision cutters.
• Wooster’s Chinex FTP brushes were designed for use with low VOCs and faster drying paints. They combine added stiffness with a fuller and softer tip for better results across every aspect of painting.  They are available in angle sash, shortcut, flat sash, angle varnish, varnish, and wall styles. 
• The Neater Feeder is a feeding system for cats and dogs that contains spills and splashes. The two-part container allows food to stay in the top reservoir while water naturally drains into the lower reservoir. It comes in bronze and cranberry finishes.

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May 4, 2011

Consumers Interested In Target

A majority of Canadian shoppers (61 per cent) are ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ interested in shopping at Target stores when they begin opening here in 2013, say early results from KubasPrimedia’s ‘Major Market Retail Report 2011 (MMRR).’ It reveals stronger interest among Canadian consumers in shopping at Target than was the case for Wal-Mart in 1994. Ed Strapagiel, executive vice-president, says “60.8 per cent of respondents said they were ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ interested in shopping at Target, while the comparable MMRR result for Wal-Mart in 1994 was 49.8 per cent. Considering Canadian consumers’ strong interest in Target and Target’s Canadian expansion plans, their arrival could have a tremendous impact on the Canadian retail landscape.” 

Conergy Launching Solar Large Projects Group

Solar energy manufacturer Conergy is introducing it Solar Large Projects Group to the Ontario market this month. The group will bring its experience in developing power plants in countries such as Spain, South Korea, and the United States to meet a continuum of renewable energy objectives.  It provides planning, financing and engineering, procurement, construction, permitting, and maintenance solutions.

Barrette Acquires Satellite

Barrette Outdoor Living, a division of Barrette, Inc., has acquired aluminum manufacturer Satellite Manufacturing. The merger will enhance the outdoor living product portfolio for Barrette.  The company currently produces and markets exterior home products such as wood and vinyl fencing.

Scotts Posts Sales Increase

Lawn and garden care company Scotts Miracle-Gro posted net sales of $1.13 billion for the quarter ending April 2. This is up eight per cent from the same quarter last year. The company says the improvement was due to lower commodity costs as well as supply chain efficiencies and favourable product mix.

Remodelling Hits Highest Level In Four Years

Statistics from the National Association of Home Builders’ Remodeling Market Index suggest the U.S. remodeling market is heading into recovery. The first quarter of 2011 saw an increase of 46.5 from 41.5 in the fourth quarter of 2010. This marks the highest level for the RMI since the fourth quarter of 2006.

Wal-Mart Grows In Brazil

Wal-Mart will invest the equivalent of $755 million to expand its operations in Latin America's biggest country. The money will be used to build 80 new stores, renovate already existing units, and improve logistics. Over the past five years, Wal-Mart has invested $3.8 billion in Brazil to build 177 stores. It has become one of the country's largest retailers after acquiring several local chains such as Big and Bom Preco.

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May 3, 2011

Message Applauded, Content Not

While the Canadian Institute of Forestry – Institut forestier du Canada is applauding RONA for its commercial advocating the use of forest products sourced from forests that are managed sustainably, it is concerned about one message in the commercial. It says the commercial contains a line that says “old growth Douglas-fir is an endangered species in Canada.” It says this is incorrect. “Although old-growth Douglas-fir forests on the coast and in the interior of BC have been reduced over the past century due to logging, agriculture, and settlement development, substantial areas representing Douglas-fir forest types are protected in parks and conservation areas,” writes Wayne Kelly, president of the institute. However, “some old growth Douglas-fir is available in BC’s managed forests and will continue to come to market under sustainable forest management practices. Douglas-fir is not an endangered species.” It asked that airing of the commercial be discontinued or that it be replaced with a version that contains accurate information.

Packaging Earns Award

MSA Safety Works’ Espresso Polarized Safety Glasses packaging has been awarded the ‘2011 Environmental Packaging of the Year Award’ by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA). The award is presented to the company that has made the greatest advancements in the field of environmental packaging.  The packaging for the glasses contains eight per cent less plastic and one-third less cardstock insert material than standard models of eyewear. As well, unlike the largely non-recyclable PVC plastic found in most blister-type packaging, its clamshell packages are made of PETE plastic, the most commonly recycled plastic in North America. 

TD Bank Launches Outreach Campaign

TD Bank has launched its first-ever small business outreach campaign in the U.S. The month-long initiative marks the bank’s largest-ever co-ordinated effort targeting the small business community. Teams of small business lending staff are partnering with banking employees across all lines of business including retail, commercial, cash management, and insurance to deliver full-scale solutions for small business financial management. Its goal is to reach 25,000 companies with its message of small business outreach.

Liquidation World Provides Status Update

Liquidation World Inc., a Canadian operator of closeout discount stores, expects to release financial results for its second fiscal quarter ending March 31, 2011 by May 18, 2011. Estimated revenues are expected to be approximately $30 million. The company previously announced that it has commenced a review of its strategic alternatives with the objective of enhancing shareholder value, and has retained RBC Capital Markets as its financial advisor. In addition to working with RBC Capital Markets, it announced that director Craig Graham has agreed to provide additional management expertise by joining the company as chief operating officer. Chris Rath, former chief financial officer, will serve in the capacity of interim vice president, finance.

Trex Company Acquires Iron Deck

Trex Company, a manufacturer of wood-alternative decking and railing products, has acquired Iron Deck Corporation, a manufacturer of steel deck framing systems.  Iron Deck manufactures steel deck framing systems. Trex will market the product under the brand name Trex Elevations.

Japan Disaster Doesn’t Impact Sales

Stanley Black & Decker President and CEO John Lundgren says any difficulties getting power-tool product from Japan to the United States after the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami would appear in the second quarter. Final finished goods plants have not been impacted in any significant way. However, they are unaware of the extent their supply chain might have been impacted.

Home Outfitters Format Going State-side

Hudson’s Bay Company-owned Home Outfitters with be exported to the U.S. under the name ‘Lord & Taylor Home’ late this summer. An upscale home-goods store based on the Canadian accessories and décor chain will be tested with two locations in New Jersey. If successful, the concept will be taken to other states.

Lowe’s Set To Open In Australia

Lowe’s Companies Inc., through its joint venture with Australian retailer Woolworths, will open its first ‘Masters’ home improvement store in the fall of 2011 in Melbourne, Australia. Masters' range of products, many of which are not currently available in the Australian market, will include lighting, paint, flooring, kitchens, outdoor furniture, appliances, gardens, walls and windows, power tools, storage, plumbing, and bathrooms. The Australian division is headed up by Don Stallings, who was previously head of Lowe's Canada.

Langevin Heads Special Products

Luc Langevin is president and chief operating officer of the Cascades Specialty Products Group. Since 1995, he has occupied management positions within the group, most recently as general manager of the industrial packaging sector which includes 10 plants that specialize in honeycomb, papermill packaging, and uncoated board.

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May 2, 2011

Paints Meet Indoor Standards

Behr Premium Plus and Premium Plus Ultra interior paints, including the Behr Premium Plus interior/exterior high-gloss series, now meet guidelines of the Greenguard Environmental Institute (GEI). Indoor pollution, including chemical emissions from paint, is one of the greatest risks to human health, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the America Lung Association, and the World Health Organization. Behr's certified low-chemical emissions products meet both Greenguard Indoor Air Quality and Greenguard Children & Schools standards.

Lowe’s Offers Credit Card Deal

Lowe’s is now offering its U.S. customers an immediate discount of five per cent on in-stock and special order purchases bought in stores or online at www.lowes.com with its Lowe’s Consumer Credit Card. Customers who spend more than $299 can choose between the discount or special financing. However, the two cannot be combined.  

Simpson Net Sales Increase

Simpson Manufacturing's first-quarter net sales increased seven per cent to $132.5 million compared with the same quarter last year. Net income declined 23.1 per cent to $7.08 million, down from $9.2 million in the same three-month period of 2010. Sales to contractor distributors, dealer distributors, lumber dealers, and home centres increased in the quarter, despite economic conditions it described as "challenging." Sales of anchor products and shearwalls also increased over the same period. Sales increased throughout most of North America and increased significantly in Europe.

Sales Up At Briggs & Stratton

Briggs & Stratton posted net sales of $720.3 million in the third quarter, up 3.7 per cent from the same quarter last year. Regarding the upcoming lawn and garden season, the company remains "cautiously optimistic," despite the challenges posed by slow economic recovery and higher gasoline prices.

Net Income For Newell Rubbermaid Climbs

Newell Rubbermaid Inc.'s net income climbed 30 per cent in the first quarter, benefiting from a lower tax rate, better profit margins, and reduced interest expense. It earned $75.7 million in the quarter compared with $58.4 million a year earlier. Revenue for the period ended March 31 dipped slightly to $1.3 billion from $1.31 billion due to fewer promotions and consumers trading down.

Weyerhaeuser Turns Profit

Weyerhaeuser Co. turned a profit in the first quarter, mostly because it sold acres of timberland in southwest Washington. It had net income of $99 million in the first three months of the year, compared with a loss of $20 million last year. Revenue rose 11 per cent to $1.58 billion.

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April 29, 2011

Canadian Businesses Feel Upbeat

Some 78 per cent of Canadian businesses are feeling more upbeat about their companies' prospects than they were six months ago, says Ernst & Young’s ‘Capital Confidence Barometer.’ This compares to 70 per cent of their global counterparts who feel the same way about their own businesses. But it's not all smooth sailing, the report finds. Tony Ianni, a partner in its advisory services practice, says “that optimism varies among sectors and regions. Companies that weathered the financial storm well are now on the prowl for new acquisitions and opportunities. Businesses that were hardest hit are turning inwards, choosing to focus on operational efficiency, organic growth." He compares booming commodities businesses in Alberta to still-struggling manufacturers in Ontario as a key example. "In many ways, the post-crisis Canadian economy is characterized by 'haves' and 'have nots’,” he says.

Net Sales Increase For Lumber Liquidators

Lumber Liquidators posted first-quarter net sales of $159.7 million, a 5.6 per cent increase from sales of $151.2 million in the first quarter of 2010. Comparable-store sales decreased 4.3 per cent for the quarter, in comparison to an increase of eight per cent for the first quarter of the prior year. The company attributes the drop in same-store sales to “the adverse impact of inconsistent servicing of new demand following the implementation of the company's integrated technology solution in August 2010.” Net income for the quarter, which ended March 31, was $5.8 million, compared to $7 million a year ago, a 17.1 per cent decline.

Sick Workers Still Go To Work

Two-thirds of Canadian workers typically go to work when they are sick, says a CareerBuilder Canada survey. It says workplace pressures and ‘presenteeism’ may be causing workers to go in when they are under the weather, as more than 60 per cent of workers said they feel guilty if they call in sick. With so many workers heading to work ill, they are likely passing their germs on to others. Nearly six-in-10 workers (58 per cent) said they have gotten sick from a co-worker who came to the office sick, while 21 per cent said they picked up a bug from someone who was sick on public transportation. To help encourage a healthy workplace, 12 per cent of employees said their companies provided flu shots at their office. Twenty-eight per cent said they were proactive and got a flu shot this year.

Norbord Reports Loss

Norbord Inc. recorded a loss of $2 million in the first quarter of 2011 compared to $7 million in the same quarter last year and $9 million in the prior quarter. "Our first quarter results improved from a year ago and were better than we expected," says Barrie Shineton, president and CEO. “Our European mills ran at capacity and panel shipments were up by almost 30 per cent. In North America, our sales volume to our core home improvement and industrial customers was strong and we expanded our export order files." He attributed the slow start in North America this year to a 10 per cent drop in housing starts.

BSIABC Show Features Gala

The Spirit of the Westcoast Gala and the Orion Awards will highlight the ‘2011 Westcoast Building & Hardware Show.’ The Building Supply Industry Association of BC event also features a trade show. It takes place May 4 to 6 at the Victoria Conference Centre/Empress Hotel in Victoria, B.C. For more information, visit www.bsiabc.ca

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April 28, 2011

Canadians Feel Better About Economy

Canadians, especially westerners, are feeling better about their economic prospects, says the Conference Board. Its consumer confidence index rose four points to 87.7 this month, largely due to improved job prospects and willingness to make large purchases. However, while an improvement over March, it is still well below pre-recession levels in most of the country. The index stands at 76.2 per cent in Ontario, 81 in Quebec, and 88.1 in Atlantic Canada. It is a different story in the west. In British Columbia, the consumer confidence index surged 17.7 points to 108.9 and in the Prairies it rose 7.1 points to 105.9 per cent.

iQ Now At Wal-Mart, Loblaw

Planet People’s iQ cleaning line is now at Wal-Mart and the Loblaw network of stores. Its REFill (Reduced Environmental Footprint) reduces the plastic waste associated with traditional cleaners by 80 per cent by packing all the non-toxic cleaning concentrate into a small, recyclable cartridge. To make a bottle of cleaner, consumers just fill the re-usable iQ bottle with their own tap water and drop in the cartridge. The majority of household cleaners are comprised of 95 per cent water and only five per cent cleaning solution.

Gas Prices Hurt Customers

Rising gas prices are hurting Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s main customers, who are having an even harder time stretching their dollars to the next payday than they did a year ago, says Mike Duke, its CEO.  He says it is seeing its customers consolidate shopping trips. However, although they're spending more on each excursion, they are cutting back on discretionary items such as clothing. It is also seeing more pronounced drops in buying in the few days before the end of the month when money is tight and then a big spike in spending during the first few days of the month when many shoppers get paychecks or government assistance.

IKEA Opening Store In Colorado

IKEA will open its first store in Colorado this summer. A 415,000 square foot store is being built on 13.5 acres at a Denver area location. In addition to solar panels on the roof, the location will be IKEA’s first store to integrate a geothermal component as part of its heating/cooling system.

Owens Corning Profit Declines

Construction and manufacturing materials maker Owens Corning Inc.’s profit declined by 50 per cent in the first quarter as soft building material sales led to lower revenue. It had net income of $24 million for the three months ended March 31. That compares with net income of $48 million in the same quarter last year. Revenue slipped to $1.24 billion, down from $1.27 billion a year earlier.

Material Costs Concern Whirlpool

Whirlpool Corp.'s first-quarter net income rose three per cent as it sold more appliances even after it raised prices to help combat rising material costs. The company, whose other brands include Maytag and Kitchenaid, is concerned about increasing material costs. Jeff Fettig,
its chairman and CEO, anticipates its raw material costs will range from $400 million to $450 million for the year, up from the $250 million to $300 million projection given in February. For the period ended March 31, its net income rose to $169 million, up from $164 million a year ago.

Tembec Posts Profit

Tembec Inc. posted a second-quarter profit of $7 million after a break-even period a year earlier. Sales declined to $452 million from $476 million. However, operating profit came in at $33 million, up slightly from $32 million a year earlier but up sharply from $11 million in the previous quarter.

Rubin Heads Boston Retail

Russell Rubin is president and CEO of Boston Retail Products, Inc., the U.S.-based manufacturer of retail fixtures, modular power systems, and commercial display and wall protection. Previously, he was managing director of its European division, as well as group marketing and strategy director. Prior to joining Boston Retail, he was a senior manager at Accenture providing strategic consulting services to Fortune 500 companies in Europe, Africa, and the U.S. 

April 28 Product Spotlight

• The Sansin Corporation’s Foundation is a concentrated, penetrating, water-borne primer for both interior and exterior wood surfaces such as timbers, logs, and dimensional lumber. It stabilizes the wood tissue and lignin and keeps wood surfaces from weathering for up to six months during the construction phase. At the building site, it safeguards wood’s natural resistance to moisture and ensures the finishing coats adhere and deeply penetrate for lasting beauty and protection.
• Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet has a new line of hybrid fire grills that cook with three different fuels at once ‒ wood, charcoal, and gas. The custom-cast brass H-burners deliver power and control. The grill comes in four different sizes and 12 models. Built-in or free standing options are available.
• Cascades has three new pieces of recycled plastic outdoor furniture ‒ a garden bench, a patio table, and an Adirondack chair. Made from 100 per cent recycled plastic, the main material is an amalgamation of post-consumer and post-industrial recycled plastic called Ultraplast.
• Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation’s new REDLITHIUM battery technology will provide up to 40 per cent more run-time, 20 per cent more power, and 50 per cent more recharges than standard Lithium products. The battery packs are fully compatible with all M12 and M18 cordless products currently available.

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April 27, 2011

Taxes Take Half Of Income

The average Canadian family spent close to half its income on taxes last year, more than it paid for food, shelter, and clothing combined, says a study from the Fraser Institute. In 2010, a family with an average income of $72,393 spent 41.3 per cent of its income on taxes. Spending on food, clothing, and shelter added up to 34 per cent of the family income. In 1961, the average Canadian family spent 33.5 per cent of its income on taxes and 56.5 per cent on food, clothing, and shelter. The report found that since 1961, the average family's tax bill has gone up by 1,686 per cent.

U.S. Builders Face Tough Conditions

The U.S. homebuilding market faces “tough conditions” and no major improvement over the remainder of the year, says a report from Standard & Poor’s. "U.S. home builders got off to a very slow start in 2011 as winter storms contributed to a record low level of new home sales in February," says James Fielding, a senior director in Standard & Poor's U.S. real estate companies group. "Our baseline scenario for the rest of the year includes a slight warm-up as the spring selling season progresses, but we don't expect to see significant improvement over a very weak 2010." He also noted it will be difficult for builders to keep their liquidity intact if they opt to attain market share via aggressive land purchases.

Turkish Chain Joins EDRA

TEKZEN, the Turkish home improvement chain, has become a member of EDRA's Global Home Improvement Network (GHIN). Founded in 1995 under the title of a Turkish-German partnership GÖTZEN as the pioneer in its industry, TEKZEN continues its activities under the title of TEKZEN and with 100 per cent Turkish capital. The company has expanded rapidly and now operates 47 stores and 11 express stores in 27 cities, including five stores in Romania. TEKZEN is the 11th member of GHIN and brings the total number of EDRA members to 31 representing a total of 91 home centre companies (excluding parent companies) operating in 48 countries.

U.S. Confidence In Economy Grows
Americans' confidence in the economy grew in April as fears about the job market eased, outweighing the pain from rising prices at the gas pump, says the Conference Board. The increase comes after an unexpected drop in March. But the measure had risen for five consecutive months before that to hit a three-year high in February. The index rose to 65.4 from a revised 63.8 in March. The index is still far from the reading of 90 that indicates a healthy economy. It hasn't approached that level since the recession began in December 2007, even though the recession officially ended in June 2009.

Stanley Black & Decker Bounces Back

Stanley Black & Decker Inc. Co. bounced back from a prior-year loss in the first quarter, aided by the acquisition of Black & Decker, which contributed to a near-doubling of revenue. The company reported net income of $158.7 million for the quarter. That compares with a loss of $108.6 million in the prior-year quarter. Revenue surged to $2.4 billion, up from $1.3 billion.

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April 26, 2011

Target Assessing Nova Scotia Locations

It is too early to predict which Zellers Inc. stores in Nova Scotia will become Target outlets, says Michael Francis, its executive vice-president and chief marketing officer. A report in the Nova Scotia newspaper the Chronicle Herald says he and a dozen members of its expansion team were in the province recently assessing its 13 Zeller’s locations. While the typical U.S. stores are bigger than most of the 220 Canadian sites currently operated by Zellers, Target is in the process of launching smaller retail locations in some urban areas of U.S. markets. Some of the new U.S. stores will be in the 60,000 square foot range, less than half the size of a typical 135,000-square-foot store. The change to this smaller model could have implications for some Canadian communities. Word on which Canadian stores will be the first to undergo renovations can be expected later this year.

Dogs No Longer Welcome

Home Depot Canada will ban dogs from entering its stores effective May 16. The move came after a greeter in a store Gloucester, ON, who went to pat a dog in a customer's shopping cart was bitten in the nose. The pet ban will be similar to the policy in the United States where pets are banned, except for certified guide dogs.

Lowe’s Transforming

Lowe’s is beginning to transform from a home improvement retailer to a home improvement company, says Robert Niblock, its chairman and CEO. In a meeting with analysts on its fourth quarter earnings, he said the transformation will involve the introduction of services that go beyond installed sales into areas such as appliance repair and outdoor power equipment servicing. It is also building smaller stores. The new prototype is 103,000 square feet, down from 117,000 square feet, a 10 to 15 per cent reduction. The company also has a 94,000-square-foot store for urban markets, a format it hopes will help grow its sales per square foot to $304 in 2015. Lowe’s goal over the next five years is to improve its inventory turns by 25 per cent. 


Masco Net Sales Decline

Masco Corporation’s net sales for the first quarter ended March 31 decreased four per cent, to $1.8 billion, compared to the first quarter of 2010. North American sales decreased seven per cent and international sales increased four percent. Excluding cabinet products that it is exiting, sales would have been down just one per cent compared to a relatively strong first quarter of 2010, which benefited from the homebuyer tax credit that expired in mid-2010. On that same basis, sales in February and March of 2011 were basically flat with 2010.

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April 25, 2011

RONA Looks For U.S. Acquisitions

RONA Inc may be eyeing a move into the U.S. to take advantage of the Canadian dollar and the weak U.S. economy. Robert Dutton, its chief executive, reportedly told Reuters that it could spend up to $300 million this year on U.S. acquisitions, with a focus on acquiring U.S. distributors and commercial and professional-orientated units, not retail stores. He said that almost 45 per cent of the U.S. distribution market for home improvement products is currently controlled by independents. However, he noted that Canada, not the United States, is still its priority.

Less Than Half Plan Eco-friendly Features

Almost all Canadian homeowners recognize the benefits of energy efficient upgrades. However, only 45 per cent plan to add eco-friendly features to their homes in 2011, meaning a majority (55 per cent) are leaving significant energy-savings on the table heading into the home renovation season, says a BMO survey. It found 90 per cent believe it is important to have an energy efficient home, but only 20 per cent say they are likely to purchase one. Other findings show one in five Canadians (19 per cent) say that improving quality of life is the main reason behind making energy efficient upgrades to their homes and 89 per cent say they would pay more for energy efficient features if there was evidence they would reduce energy costs.

Modest Home Improvement Spending This Year

A still-stalled U.S. housing recovery and concern over the pace of economic growth are likely to generate only modest gains in home improvement spending this year, says the ‘Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA)’ from the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. It projects annual growth slowing throughout the year with spending up only 0.2 per cent in 2011. "Given all the economic uncertainty that we’re seeing nationally, the home improvement recovery is expected to be rocky," says Eric S. Belsky, managing director of the center. "Spending patterns through the remainder of the year are expected to reflect recent volatility in the housing market."

U.S. Economic Indicators Up In March

The U.S. index of leading economic indicators rose 0.4 per cent in March. The index, which is a measure of future economic activity, has increased for nine straight months. However, the Conference Board says rising consumer concerns over rising gas and food prices could drag on the expansion. Growing demand for U.S. manufactured goods and a rebound in requests for building permits helped drive last month's gains. Six of the index's 10 components rose. The leading indicators began moving sharply higher last fall, coinciding with a decline in the unemployment rate and a stock market rally.

Snap-on Net Income Rises

Snap-on Inc.’s first-quarter net income rose 53 per cent as demand for its tools rose in all business segments. Net income increased to $56.2 million from $36.8 million while sales rose 11.6 per cent to $693.7 million from $621.6 million.

Sherwin-Williams Profit Doubles

The Sherwin-Williams Co.’s profit more than doubled in the first quarter as higher paint prices helped boost revenue and it benefited from cost controls. It reported net income of $68.3 million for the quarter ended March 31, up from $32.6 million a year ago. Revenue rose nearly 19 per cent to $1.86 billion from $1.57 million as the company also benefited from acquisitions.

Canadian Heads DIY Council

Jayne Seagrave is the first woman and first Canadian to serve as president of the Worldwide DIY Council. The marketing director of the Vancouver Tool Corp. has been a member of the council for more than six years and served on the board from 2007 to 2010. Her appointment is effective May 1.

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April 21, 2011

Property Sales Higher In March

Residential property sales in Canada were 0.1 per cent higher in March than the previous month, says the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). With national sales in each of the first three months of 2011 running close to their five- or 10-year monthly averages, seasonally adjusted national sales activity in the first quarter of 2011 was up 4.5 per cent from levels recorded in the fourth quarter of last year and reached the highest quarterly level in a year. Most of the quarterly increase in seasonally adjusted national sales activity was due to demand in Vancouver, BC, and Toronto, ON. Recent changes to mortgage regulations may have caused a number of sales in some of Canada’s more expensive housing markets to be brought forward into the first quarter that would have otherwise occurred later in the year, says CREA.

U.S. Sales Increase

Existing home sales increased 3.7 per cent in March to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.1 million in the U.S., says the National Association of Realtors (NAR). February's sales estimate was revised upwards from 4.88 million to 4.92 million. March's estimate is 6.3 per cent below March 2010, when existing-home sales were at a pace of 5.44 million. The month-to-month increase is a pattern the NAR expects to continue.

Prairie Showcase Dates Set

The WRLA’s ‘2012 Prairie Showcase Buying Show & Convention’ will take place January 18 to 20 at Prairieland Park, SK. Admission is open to WRLA retail members as well as BSIA, ABSDA, AQMAT, and LBMAO retail members. For more information, contact ckelly@wrla.org

April 21 Product Spotlight

• EcoDomo Echelon Recycled Leather is easy to install and maintain. Available in sheet, tile, and floating floors, clients include major retailers, hospitality groups, restaurants, and high-end residential residences.
• Venstar’s ComfortCall allows users to remotely adjust their Slimline residential thermostats from any telephone. It has a small, attractive attachment that plugs into the bottom of the thermostat. Using voice recognition and voice synthesis, it will tell the caller what the inside and outside temperatures are, and the status of the thermostat (if the heating or cooling is currently on or off), as well as allow the user to adjust the thermostat. 
• CertainTeed Corporation is enhancing its line of Restoration Millwork PVC trim with FinishedEdge. This product provides a crisp, clean edge for trimboards and corners by heat-sealing the edges to create a quality, smooth finish. While the product does not require painting, builders or homeowners that wish to add colour have a paint-ready surface.
• Huber Engineered Woods’ AdvanTech Flooring provides builders with a high performance engineered product that offers greater moisture resistance, strength, and sustainability than OSB (oriented strand board) and plywood. It is available in 19/32″, 23/32″, 7/8″, 1″ and 1⅛″ thicknesses.
• IDEAL’s Tri-Bore is a multi-purpose hole saw featuring a set of three tungsten carbide teeth for ultra-aggressive cutting action. Compatible with standard battery-powered tools or fixed stationary machines, the saws are optimal cutting solutions in HVAC, electrical, plumbing, and maintenance/repair applications. It empowers professional contractors and serious Do-It-Yourselfer's to make faster cuts through virtually any construction material.
• Elmira Stove Works' Northstar kitchen appliances awake the senses with spring colours from Robin's Egg Blue to Flamingo Pink. The manufacturer of ‘circa-1850’ and retro 1950s appliances offers a custom-colour match to reflect personal tastes and styles if its standard colour palette does not suit the space. The appliances feature high-tech functionality. Two models of refrigerators offer up to 19 cubic feet of storage space, ‘Visi’ shelving for easy access, and Energy Star high-efficiency technology. The range ‒ available in all-gas, all-electric, or dual fuel (gas top/electric oven) ‒ provides high-speed electric elements under glass or sealed gas burners, a self-cleaning option, and delayed-start baking.
• SKIL Power Tools is launching the 1400-02 Oscillating Multi-Tasker, an 11-piece multi-tool kit designed to help do-it-yourselfers with a variety of at-home projects. Whether levelling off piping, removing grout, or sanding small furniture pieces, it is perfect for fix-ups and installations, as well as light to medium-duty remodelling projects. It features OIS (Oscillating Interface System), a worldwide standard for universal accessory interface.
• Ply Gem Canada has introduced its ECO 5 double-glazed glass option that significantly improves overall energy performance in windows and doors. As one of the most energy efficient double-glazed options in western Canada, it has a U-value of 0.20, solar heat gain coefficient of 0.34, and its R-value of 5 delivers high energy performance year-round to keep homes cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It is available in new construction and replacement windows and doors.

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April 20, 2011

Recognition Is Personal

Ninety-seven per cent of organizations in a Conference Board of Canada survey have an employee rewards and recognition program in place. Yet, fewer than half of the survey respondents believe their employees are satisfied with the organization’s rewards and recognition practices. Its ‘Making it Meaningful: Recognizing and Rewarding Employees in Canadian Organizations’ study found that the average annual amount spent on recognition is $175 per employee. Public sector organizations average $123 in expenditure per employee; those in the private sector spend $208 on average. “Recognition from a manager carries meaning and motivation for employees, whether or not it is accompanied by a reward,” says Karla Thorpe, associate director, compensation and industrial relations. “Organizations should keep in mind that recognition is personal, in that what motivates one employee is different from what motivates another.”

Canadian Retailers Can Hold Their Own

Canadian retailers can hold their own against a U.S. invasion, says Robert Dutton, chief executive for RONA Inc. Speaking at the Economic Club of Canada, he said despite the arrival of U.S. retailers, retail has remained a national and regional affair. He noted in the Canadian hardware and renovation sector, domestic companies account for 80 per cent of the market and RONA’s 19 per cent was larger than Home Depot and Lowe's combined in 2010. However, he believes there is more consolidation to come in the Canadian retail industry.

New Home Sales Healthy

Healthy sales of new homes in March contributed to a solid first quarter performance for the new housing market in the Greater Toronto Area, says the Building Industry & Land Development Association (BILD). It says there were 3,434 new homes and condos sold in March 2011 and a total of 9,374 units sold from January to March, down 8.5 per cent year/year. The decline in total first quarter sales is fully attributable to weakness in the low-rise, 905 housing market, reflecting the very constrained low-rise land supply.

Lawn Ornaments Protest Pollution

Lawn ornaments have had enough and everyone from plastic garden gnomes, pink flamingos and fishing frogs is joining the ‘11th Annual Mow Down Pollution’ and will silent protest between April 21 and May 4 to educate Canadians on the harmful effects of gas-powered lawn equipment. And they have the support of the Home Depot Canada and Summerhill Impact which have come together to draw attention to a common and often overlooked contributor of smog and air pollution ‒ gas-powered lawn equipment. The event encourages Canadians to consider their lawn ornaments when caring for their lawns. Fatima Crerar, Summerhill Impact executive director, says "It's astounding to learn that standard two-stroke mowers emit the same amount of common air pollutants in one hour as driving a new car from Toronto to Ottawa, yet they are still widely used." During the program, Canadians are invited to bring their old gas-powered lawnmowers, hedge trimmers, string trimmers, and chainsaws to any Home Depot store in Canada to receive a coupon for an instant rebate of $10 to $100 off the purchase of an environmentally-preferred alternative.

Composite Index Up In March

The composite leading index rose 0.8 per cent in March, after a 1.1 per cent gain in February, says Statistics Canada. Among the 10 components, eight advanced in March, one less than in February. The stock market and the housing index posted the largest gains, with increases of 2.2 per cent and two per cent respectively.

Deck Building Going 3D

CertainTeed Corporation is now providing customers with 3D visualization software for deck building. Through a partnership with Edgenet and using its Big Hammer Pro Deck Design software, building professionals can increase their design capabilities, save valuable time, and improve the efficiency and accuracy of job site estimates. “With the Big Hammer Pro Deck Design service, building professionals can show homeowners how a certain deck layout will look on their home by simply uploading a photo of their house,” says Doug Mucher, product manager for CertainTeed Fence, railing and deck.

Hilti Earns GOOD DESIGN Awards

Hilti has earned a GOOD DESIGN Award from the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies. Eight products received the award ‒ the PRE 3 Rotating Laser, DSH 700 and 900 Gas Saws, TE 1000-AVR and TE 1500-AVR Breakers, WSR 18-A Cordless Reciprocating Saw, SF 18-A Cordless Drill Driver. and the SFH 18-A Cordless Hammer Drill Driver. The awards recognize the global designers and manufacturers for advancing new, visionary and innovative product concepts, inventions, and originality, and for stretching the envelope beyond what is considered ordinary product and consumer design.

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April 19, 2011

Retail Economy Fares Better

The Canadian retail economy fared better in the first quarter of 2011, compared to the same period last year, says Moneris Solutions, a Canadian credit and debit card processor. Its ‘Spending Report’ showed an overall increase of two per cent during the first three months of 2011. The travel industry saw the largest growth in spending, with an increase of 11.98 per cent, including a spike of 26.62 per cent in February, as Canadians planned their winter getaways. It also showed that spending on specialty retail was up 1.17 per cent in dollars spent. However, electronic stores realized a 3.52 per cent decrease. Department store spending maintained its downward trend from the past two quarters of 2010, with an 11.98 per cent decrease in the first quarter of 2011.

Canadians Won’t Pay For Environment

While most Canadians recognize the environment as a priority, a Leger Marketing indexed survey for Cascades found only 37 per cent are willing to pay extra for products that are more environmentally friendly. As well, setting a national environmental policy platform can definitely be a challenge to any political party as Canadians are extremely fractured when it comes to ecological priorities. Quebec's main concern is greenhouse gas emissions, energy issues worry Ontario, the Atlantic provinces and BC, while the prairie provinces focus on water management.

Wal-Mart Invests In Social Media

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is buying social media company Kosmix in a bid to strengthen its social and mobile commerce. It is interested in a social media technology platform Kosmix has developed that filters and organizes content in social networks to connect people with information that may be of interest to them. Kosmix will become part of the newly-created (at)WalmartLabs. The group is expected to create technologies and businesses around social and mobile commerce that will support Wal-Mart's global multi-channel strategy.

Huttig Net Sales Lower

Huttig Building Products had net sales of $99.5 million for the quarter that ended March 31, 2011, approximately 3.9 per cent lower than the same quarter in 2010. Sales declined in both the millwork and building products categories, but increased in the wood product category in 2011 from 2010. The company posted a net loss of $6.7 million for the quarter, compared with a loss of $5.8 million in the corresponding quarter of 2010. 

Staff Lead Customers To Safety

Staff at a Lowe’s store in North Carolina are being credited with saving customers at the store when a deadly storm hit the area. More than 100 employees and customers were herded into a windowless rear area of the store away from the worst of the storm. The storm was so violent it curled a steel roof off and flattened the front of the store. The employees are being praised for moving customers to the safest part of the store, with joined concrete walls and without heavy inventory stacked high on shelves. It was designated as a destination in an emergency in the store's preparedness plan.

Daoust Manages Seasonal

Stephanie Daoust is category manager – seasonal, at Chalifour Canada. She has more than 20 years of experience in retail, including 10 years as a category manager.  Based in Montreal, QC, she will lead all initiatives related to the seasonal categories.

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April 18, 2011

TruServ Canada Creates Tru Banner

TruServ Canada has announced three new banners for independent retailers in Canada. The True Value banner will be adapted to the TRU Hardware, TRU Building Centres, and TRU Farm & Garden concepts. The V&S and Country Depot banners will continue to be serviced by the company. More than 400 dealers at its Spring Market over the weekend heard first hand the plan for the future in hardware and building centre programs. "Our goal was to create a banner that can be adapted to different retail formats," says Bill Morrison, president of TruServ Canada. "The attributes mirror many of the retailers we're doing business with today." Over the coming months we will work with retailers to convert their stores to the new banner, says Morrison. "TruServ Canada will cover the costs of conversion for the retailer and has developed strong marketing programs."

Resale Activity Holds Steady

National resale housing activity held steady in March 2011 compared to February, says t he Canadian Real Estate Association. Seasonally adjusted national home sales activity in March came in one tenth of a percentage point above levels for the previous month, with stable demand in most large urban centres. With national sales in each of the first three months of 2011 running close to their five- or 10-year monthly averages, seasonally adjusted national sales activity in the first quarter of 2011 was up 4.5 per cent from levels recorded in the fourth quarter of last year and reached the highest quarterly level in a year.

Non-residential Investment Increases

Investment in non-residential building construction increased 1.3 per cent from the previous quarter to $10.7 billion in the first quarter, says Statistics Canada. This was the fifth consecutive quarterly increase and reflected higher spending in both commercial and industrial building construction. First-quarter investment increased in five provinces. The largest gains were in Ontario and Quebec, led by commercial investment, which was also up in seven other provinces. Investment in Alberta recorded the largest decline, as a result of lower spending in the institutional component.

Botanix Opens In Mont-Tremblant Region

RONA inc. has opened two Botanix garden centres in the Mont-Tremblant, QC, region. The stores are owned by Évodie and Constant Levert, of LeVert Paysage, a second-generation family-owned business that is joining the RONA network as an affiliate dealer-owner under the Botanix banner. The garden centres, with a total retail area of 5,000 square feet, also include two 28,000-square-foot greenhouses. The two centres offer a selection of new annuals and perennials as well as a custom landscaping planning, design, and implementation service.  Botanix offers nearly 60 private brand products.

TIM-BR-MARTS Adds 11 Locations

TIM-BR MARTS Ltd. has added 11 new locations to its Canada-wide network. Burnco Rock Products Ltd., an independent, family-owned construction aggregates business established in 1912, operates two landscape centres in BC’s lower mainland and seven more throughout Alberta in urban locations such as Calgary, Edmonton, and Red Deer. Morrow’s of Drumbo, in Drumbo, ON, serves an agricultural/farming customer-base as well as DIYers with a full offering of hardware products. St. Alban’s Building Supplies, of St. Alban’s, NL, owned by entrepreneur Mike Strickland, offers customers a wide selection of lumber, building material, and hardware products.

Online Resource Offered For Retrofits

GreenSaver and the Consumers Council of Canada have entered into a partnership to develop and implement an online application that will serve as a resource for consumers who are considering energy retrofits for their homes. This is the latest initiative geared to home owners from GreenSaver, a not-for-profit organization that has been working in the eco-energy space for more than 20 years to educate Canadians on how to make their homes more energy efficient. The new online application will include an energy efficiency primer that will provide general information about energy savings investments and what consumers should know; a guided online process that will result in a deep energy retrofit road map itemizing key steps towards substantial energy savings; and a listing of sources of information that have been researched and shown to be reliable and relevant to Canadian homes and consumer lifestyles.

Keynote Doubles Retail App

Keynote Competitive Research has more than doubled the size of its weekly smartphone mobile commerce index with the addition of 16 new sites. Launched in September 2010, it ranks U.S. retail mobile websites based on download speed and reliability. Sites added to the index include Lowe’s and The Home Depot.

EPA Concerned About Spray Foam Insulation

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to address the potential health risks to consumers of certain chemicals contained in spray foam insulation, sealing concrete, and finishing floors. These chemicals ‒ methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI), toluene diisocyanate (TDI), and other related compounds ‒ are known to cause severe skin and breathing responses in workers who have been repeatedly exposed to them. The chemicals have been documented as a leading cause of work-related asthma and, in severe cases, fatal reactions have occurred.

Universal Forest Sales Dip

Universal Forest Products posted first-quarter 2011 net sales of $387.2 million, down 1.5 per cent from net sales of $393 million in the same period of 2010. UFP posted a net loss of $3.7 million compared with net earnings of $1 million for the first quarter of 2010. The company says among the key factors that hurt sales and profitability were major winter storms in January and February, plus a dramatic run in lumber prices in early 2010 that boosted margins in the year-ago quarter. 

HD Supply Sales Increase

HD Supply had net sales for its fiscal 2010 fourth quarter of $1.7 billion, a 6.7 per cent increase over sales in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2009. Operating loss for the quarter, which ended January 30, 2011, was $11 million, compared with $87 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2010. For the full year, net sales for fiscal 2010 were $7.5 billion, an increase of 0.8 per cent over the full year of fiscal 2009.

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April 15, 2011

Employees Cited As Reason For Success

Employees (62 per cent), customer loyalty (60 per cent), and hard work (59 per cent) are what entrepreneurs attribute their success to, says a survey from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). "While most studies focus mainly on the personal characteristics of the successful entrepreneur, this is a one-of-a-kind, insider's perspective into the winning recipe for a business venture and it speaks volumes about the character of small business owners that they give top billing to their employees and customers," says Catherine Swift, CFIB president. The results also show that entrepreneurs are deeply connected to their communities and contribute in a number of ways, including employing locals (85 per cent), financial donations (74 per cent), donating goods or services (72 per cent), sponsoring sports teams (59 per cent), promoting local charities (47 per cent), and donating their time (47 per cent).

Despite Loonie, Canadians Pay More

Popular U.S. products still cost Canadians more in their country despite a higher loonie, says a BMO Economics report. It estimates that U.S. goods, such as mobile devices and books, are on average more than 20 per cent more expensive in Canada than south of the border. The appearance of that price gap is despite a Canadian currency that has gained 30 per cent in value compared to the U.S. dollar since 2009.

Voluntary Regulation Fails To Cut Fees

The federal government needs to regulate the credit card payment market as a voluntary system introduced a year ago has failed to cut high fees for merchants, says the Retail Council of Canada. It says a survey of retailers pointed to a failure of self-regulation, with 80 per cent saying their merchant discount had either increased or stayed the same, while less than half said there had been any greater disclosure of fees on their monthly statements. Merchants are concerned about rules that force them to accept all forms of card payment if they accept them at all. That means they are forced to accept premium cards, which charge merchants much higher transaction costs. Canada has among the world's highest credit card fees. Every time a card is used, the merchant pays between 1.5 per cent and three per cent of the sale to the credit card company. An Interac debit transaction, however, costs less than 12 cents.

Additional Stores Planned

Lumber Liquidators, a specialty retailer of hardwood flooring in the United States, now has four locations open in Ontario’s Greater Toronto Area with additional stores planned by the end of 2011. It offers Canadian customers a boutique experience with the selection and buying power of a big box store. Each Canadian showroom has an attached warehouse and displays more than 340 varieties of flooring including hardwood, bamboo, laminate, vinyl, and cork.

RONA Re-opens Affiliate Store

RONA inc. has re-opened its Matériaux Décoren affiliate store. The Sainte-Marie-de-Beauce, QC, store, owned by RONA affiliate dealer-owners Nathalie Lagrange and Marc-André Drouin, has doubled in size from 7,000 to 15,000 square feet. The 15,000-square-foot store also offers a 17,000-square-foot covered storage area and a 143,000-square-foot lumberyard. Customers can choose from more than 14,000 different products.

Best Buy Opening Smaller Stores

Best Buy plans to open hundreds of smaller mobile stores in an effort to be more competitive as consumers increasingly shop online. The electronics retailer plans to shrink square footage at big box stores by 10 per cent over the next three to five years. However, in stores, it is expanding its appliance selections. Meanwhile, it plans to have 200 Best Buy Mobile stand-alone stores open in the U.S. by July 4 and 600 to 800 within five years. Big box stores are increasingly being seen as outmoded as more shoppers research and buy electronics online and competition from discounters like Target and Wal-Mart Stores increases. Best Buy has been revamping its strategy to improve results and avoid the fate of its one-time competitor Circuit City, which went out of business in 2009.

CertainTeed Shares Top Honours

CertainTeed Corporation, through its parent company Saint-Gobain, is again sharing top honours for its contributions to protecting the environment through energy efficiency. Following a two-year run as an ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year, the company received the 2011 ENERGY STAR Sustained Excellence Award, the highest level of recognition from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. CertainTeed is the first and only fibreglass insulation manufacturer whose contributions have been recognized through the program. 

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April 14, 2011

Lawn And Garden Equipment Demand Recovers

U.S. demand for power lawn and garden equipment will increase 5.7 per cent yearly to $10.4 billion in 2015 as the industry rebounds from the 2007-2009 recession, says the Freedonia Group, Inc.’s ‘Power Lawn & Garden Equipment’ study. Overall growth in equipment sales will be promoted by an improvement in U.S. housing activity, including new construction and existing single-family home sales. Equipment demand will also benefit from a return to growth in the landscaping services business. While industry sales will post a strong rebound through 2015, longer-term growth will be more moderate due to slowing product pricing gains and declining opportunities in some key commercial markets, particularly golf courses.

VaproShield Sets Up Canadian Operation

VaproShield Canada has established offices in Milton, ON, to act as headquarters for all marketing and sales activities in Canada for the company's permeable materials for building envelopes. It has established a relationship with Enercorp in Canada to sell its complete line of building membranes, accessories, and systems to specifiers, contractors, architects, and building owners in every major Canadian city. VaproShield products act as a secondary line of defence in the wall or roof assembly and as a weather resistive barrier. They have been used in the United States for nearly a decade in both new and retrofit construction.

New Government Should Help Small Business

When it comes to small business, a new government likely won’t be any different from the old, says Greg Kopchuk, of ActionCOACH Canada, a business coaching firm in Canada. With weeks to the May 2 federal election and following the recent leaders’ debate, he says “Governments help big business, even when they are failing miserably, because they cannot afford to lose the votes of the people in those industries.” If the candidates for Canada’s new government really care about helping small business, he says it’s time they stopped talking about how great small business is for the country and actually started helping them. Measures he suggests the new government should take include real tax breaks for small business, instituting a bank for small business in Canada, and bringing an end to harmonized sales taxes.

Richlu Handles Renfro Work Socks

Richlu Manufacturing has signed a licence agreement with Renfro Corporation to manufacture and market Work King and Tough Duck socks inn Canada. Renfro has operations in North America, Europe, and Asia, and manufactures and markets socks under various major brands. Gavin Rich, vice-president of Richlu, says the agreement and licencing partnership are a great fit with Renfro as they share similar commitments to research, styling, and quality in the manufacturing of their sock apparel products. The socks are expected to be on retailer shelves by fall 2011.

Wal-Mart Opening Small Format Stores

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to open its first Wal-Mart Express store in its home state of Arkansas. The Express stores are less than a tenth the size of an average supercentre, about 14,400-square-feet. The new stores will feature a pharmacy and groceries section. It could open as many as 40 smaller units this year in rural and urban areas.

Aging Population Source Of Profits

The affluent, aging populations of the developed world represent one of the most likely sources of profitable growth for consumer products companies in the coming years, says a report by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited. ‘Global Powers of the Consumer Products Industry’ argues that while developed markets as a whole offer limited opportunities for growth, the ‘forever young’ attitude of the baby boomer generation represents a significant opportunity for innovation to address the specific needs of this consumer segment. It suggests that the biggest single opportunity comes from the emerging middle classes in developing economies, with an estimated 70 million new consumers expected to enter the global middle classes each year. However, to fully exploit this opportunity, companies must prepare for radical innovation to deliver the right products at price points that are typically well below equivalent products in the developed world.

April 14 Product Spotlight

• Air King’s model AK100D dual-speed Quiet Series exhaust fan provides cost-effective, energy-efficient ventilation. An electronically balanced centrifugal blower wheel assures maximum ventilation with minimum sound. It features a low profile grill design that almost disappears into the ceiling along with a metal housing and duct collar. A spring-loaded, back draft damper prevents drafts from entering back into the room through the ducting.
• Silverwoods Flooring’s Resysta looks like natural wood, but is 100 per cent wood free. It is comprised of a formula of rice husk, common salt, and mineral oil. It can be treated with one of several water based formulations to obtain custom stains. Working with it is just like working with regular wood. Planks and panels can be cut, drilled, sanded, and refinished. It can be used for decking, exterior cladding, rooftops, balconies, and any outdoor area.
• GE has introduced Adaptive Vibration Control (AVC) technology to its frontload clothing care appliance line-up. The innovation eliminates concerns about vibration and noise regardless of where the appliance is installed. For example, its frontload washing machines are able to adapt their spin cycles and account for flooring type, to minimize vibration and noise caused by out of balance loads.
• The Refresh Three-Way Shower Combination from Moen Canada means consumers do not have to choose between a rainshower or functional hand shower. It features both a multi-setting handheld showerhead and a nine-inch (23-centimetre) rainshower showerhead. Plus, a three-way diverter allows users to easily switch from the rainshower to the handheld – or use both showerheads together. The seven-setting handheld showerheads feature a spray selector that makes it easy to change from one setting to another. The rainshower features Moen’s advanced, self-pressurizing InvigoRain spray where water is channeled through the showerhead with three times more spray power than most rainshowers.
• Everpure, a brand within Pentair Residential Filtration, has upgraded its Helia Instant Hot & Chilled Water Dispenser. The appliance now features an enhanced frame and greater capacity to produce more cold water than ever before. Originally launched in 2008, it merges the convenience of two separate units ‒ the Solaria Instant Hot Water Dispenser and Polaria Instant Chilled Water Dispenser ‒ in one easy-to-install system that provides instantaneous hot and cold water. Helia can be paired with any Everpure commercial grade filtration system to reduce water contaminants.

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April 13, 2011

Food And Gas Prices Impact Canadians

Steeper gas and food prices are significantly impacting Canadians and their budgets, says the ‘RBC Canadian Consumer Outlook Index.’ These rising costs were registering highest among those living in Ontario (51 per cent), Atlantic Canada (49 per cent), and Quebec (48 per cent). Over the next year and compared to the last quarter, 42 per cent of respondents feel the Canadian economy will improve (down one per cent); 39 per cent feel their own personal financial situation will improve (up one per cent); and 22 per cent are worried about job loss or being laid off (up two per cent). Countering concerns about employment, the RBC Economics ‘Forecast’ says that labour market conditions will remain firm throughout the year. This report also noted that disposable income is expected to post a 4.1 per cent gain across the country.

Loblaw Launches ‘everydayliving’

Loblaw Companies Limited is rolling out into home, leisure, and entertainment in its retail locations across Canada. The general merchandise area of the store will now be branded ‘everydayliving’ and will feature Loblaw brands cookware, tabletop, linens, home décor, and small appliances as well as those outfitting busy family kitchens, starter homes, and campus dorms. Its ‘Tera Gear’ outdoor living and camping line for 2011 has been redesigned. A small electronics and stationery line, the ‘J±’ brand, is set to launch in time for back to school 2011.

Satisfied Web Users More Likely To Buy

Highly satisfied website visitors are 70 per cent more likely to purchase online and 133 per cent more likely to buy offline, says a survey by ForeSee Results, a technology-driven customer satisfaction measurement and management company. Its survey compared the behaviours of those Canadians who were highly satisfied with the future behaviours of less satisfied site visitors. "This research shows us that the value of a satisfied customer in Canada is huge," says Larry Freed, president and CEO. "Canadian companies that can satisfy their customers in any channel are just at a huge competitive advantage."

U.S. Consumers More Upbeat

U.S. consumers are becoming more upbeat about the economy, as the Consumer Reports Index in April remained positive for the second consecutive month. The index points to an improving employment climate, higher consumer spending, and a reduction in overall household financial stress for the American consumer. The index was at 50.2, which is close to last month’s 50.3, when the index was in positive territory for the first time since it was launched in 2008 and is up substantially from a year ago (43.7).  The improvement appears to have set the stage for increased consumer spending. Retail spending activity increased substantially from the prior month and the comparable year-ago period.

DEWALT Goes Into Hand Tools

DEWALT will launch a line of hand tools. The line includes more than 100 professional-grade products including utility knives, pliers, wrenches, tape measures, hammers, saws, toolboxes, and more. The line will be available beginning in June 2011.

Lexicon Prepares To Relist Stock

Lexicon Building Systems Ltd.  is executing a prudent and conservative business strategy to create a ‘valuation’ and eliminate any ‘volatility’ for the company's stock upon re-listing. It has court. It is now guided by the stipulations and requirements of BDO (Canada) Dunwoody and is engaged in the process to complete its audit in compliance with Canadian GAAP, U.S. GAAP, and the newly implemented international regulations as stipulated by the IFRS.

BrassCraft Offers Tips On YouTube

BrassCraft Manufacturing Company has launched a YouTube channel featuring detailed videos of common plumbing installations. The videos offer a popular medium for step-by-step instruction in modern plumbing applications. The channel will cover topics including how to install a compression valve and how to install a new solvent weld valve into a CPVC supply line. It has also applied a QR (quick response) barcode to product packaging and other marketing materials which allows customers to simply scan the barcode with a compatible smartphone to instantly launch YouTube for access to a menu of available installation videos.

RPM Moves From Loss

RPM International, the maker of Rust-Oleum, DAP, Zinsser, and other building products, had $1.9 million in net income for its third fiscal quarter, swinging from a loss of $9.4 million in the same quarter of 2010. Sales were $679 million for the third quarter, compared with $666.5 million a year ago. 

Handy Has Sales Growth

Handy Hardware had sales growth of 4.1 per cent in its first quarter of 2011. The hardlines co-op signed on 23 new members during the quarter.

Fastenal Revenue Climbs

Fastenal Co.’s profit rose 42 per cent in the first quarter as revenue climbed 23 per cent. Net income rose to $79.5 million for the three months ended March 31 from $56 million last year. Revenue rose to $640.6 million from $520.8 million last year. Sales deteriorated during the recession, but they've been rebounding. The strengthening Canadian dollar and the acquisition of Holo-Krome in 2009 also added to revenue gains.

Track Helps With Hanging Graphics

Rose Displays’ suspension mount ceiling track system offers a way to hang graphics from open ceilings. Designed to be used with the EasyGlide and Butterfly Tracks, Suspension Mounts can be affixed to any ceiling type, whether grid, plaster, or open. Ideal for stores with open or high ceilings, they enable retailers to lower the track to a reasonable height. This feature allows graphics to be hung in traditionally troublesome areas such as locations with ceiling obstacles and/or lighting fixtures.

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April 12, 2011

Wal-Mart Goes Back To Low Prices Theme

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is returning to its low-price message with an advertising campaign designed to bring back customers who no longer trust it to save them money. ‘Low Prices. Every Day. On Everything.’ is five 30-second commercials including spots featuring an Easter egg hunt and a customer asking for a price match. The campaign comes as Wal-Mart tries to reverse a nearly two-year slide at its U.S. business. Sales are hurting because of mistakes the retailer made on price and selection and increasing price competition from dollar chains and Amazon.com. It will also return 8,500 items to its inventory, 11 per cent more in an average store. These are items it had stopped carrying in effort to clean up its stores. Another change is customers won't have to bring competitors' advertisements to the cash register to get a price match because the associates should have the information on hand. However, customers will still have to ask for the price match.

Businesses Measuring Green Savings

American businesses are measuring the savings from their green workplace practices more than ever, says a survey by Buck Consultants, A Xerox Company. The ‘Greening of the American Workplace’ reveals that 60 per cent of organizations are measuring their cost savings from green programs, up from 39 per cent last year – an increase of 54 per cent. The savings are widespread throughout the workplace. Seventy-eight per cent report electricity cost savings, two-thirds indicate heating/cooling and paper savings, and 60 per cent are cutting costs on water. Overall, 69 per cent of survey respondents have green programs in place, an increase from 53 per cent last year. Seventy-eight per cent of organizations consider cost savings as the leading motivator for green programs, while the creation of community goodwill (58 per cent) and employee engagement/morale (56 per cent) round out the top three motivators. 

Liquidation World Evaluating Alternatives

Liquidation World Inc. has formed a special committee of the board to evaluate the strategic and financial alternatives available to the company with the objective of enhancing shareholder value. It has retained RBC Capital Markets as its financial advisor to assist in this regard. Liquidation World operates 93 stores in Canada and is Canada's largest operator of closeout retail stores.

Castle Adds Five Members

Castle Building Centres Group Ltd. has added five members, representing eight locations. Matériaux à Bas Prix ‒ St. Antonin, Lachute, Gatineau, QC, and St. Isidore de Prescott, ON ‒ operates four locations, three in the Quebec market and one in Ontario. In 2008, Sylvie Pomerleau became the owner and president of the company. Notre Dame Roof Truss, Grand Falls, Windsor, NF; becomes the 10th location operating under the Notre Dame Agencies business structure. Owner Cluny Sheppard currently serves on the Castle board. Sauve Lumber and Storage Inc., Timmins, ON, commenced operations in 1985, with a primary focus on the supply of commercial/industrial accounts and residential contractors. It now plans to expand its retail presence. C.D.S. Building Supply, Winnipeg, MB, opened in 2010. Owner Dave Dobie has developed a business model which focuses on the local contractor base. P.R. Service, La Loche, SK; has been operated since 2000 by Ron and Darney Kisslinger. They recently expanded into a full line of hardware and building material products to better serve their market.

Housing Starts Edge Higher

The rate of Canadian housing starts edged slightly higher than expected in March, says Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). The seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts was 188,800 units in March, compared to an upwardly revised rate of 183,700 units in February 2011. The rate of urban starts increased by 0.4 per cent to 163,500 units in March. Urban multiple starts were up by 6.6 per cent in March to 101,400 units, while single urban starts decreased by 8.3 per cent to 62,100 units. Residential construction spending dropped in February, with home improvement spending leading the decline. Home improvement spending fell 5.6 per cent to $109.8 billion, reversing much of its gains from January.

Alien Expands RFID Products

Alien Technology, a provider of Radio Frequency Identification and Ultra High Frequency products and services, has unveiled a trio of technologies led by the Higgs 4 Integrated Circuit. It enables best-in-class read accuracy and rates, optimized user memory, advanced security features, and a sleek design targeted at cost-sensitive applications. The ALH-900x family of mobile handheld readers delivers best-in-class receive sensitivity, enhanced interference rejection, and a compact ergonomic footprint with high read rates for retail, supply chain, manufacturing, and other asset-management applications. The newest additions to the Squiggle family include the Squiglette, H, Squig, and SIT which are ideal for item-level applications.

Lyski Joins Scotts

Jim Lyski is executive vice-president and chief marketing officer at Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. Previously, he was chief marketing officer for Nationwide Insurance in Columbus, Ohio. He has also held senior level positions in strategy and marketing for CIGNA HealthCare, Inc. and FedEx Corporation.

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April 11, 2011

Target Now Looking At 200 Stores

Target could open up to 200 stores in Canada, up from its former target of about 150 outlets. Its CFO, Douglas Scovanner, says sales could grow to more than $6 billion. “The sun, the moon and the stars all lined up properly ... Canada represents a vibrant retail market, where we think we can highly succeed,” he says. Canada represents its first foray into an international market.

SEC Rejects Wal-Mart Arguments

The Securities and Exchange Commission has rejected an attempt by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to omit a shareholder resolution from five New York City pension funds relating to sustainability reporting in its supply chain. The SEC says it does not believe the retailer may omit the proposal from its proxy materials ahead of its annual general meeting on June 3. Wal-Mart had argued against the proposal on two grounds ‒ that it relates to ordinary business operations so it’s not appropriate for shareholder resolutions and it has already been implemented.

Wallquest Earns Export Award

Wallquest Inc. has received the ‘2011 Small Business Exporter of the Year’ award from the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank). It has seen its exports soar 76 per cent to more than $17 million in 2010. It exports to approximately 90 foreign buyers in more than 50 countries, including China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Brazil, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates Wallquest uses a variety of printing techniques to produce wall covering designs in an environmentally conscious manner. Its facilities use only water-based inks and all of its papers are sourced from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified sources. As part of the recycling process, no excess waste/inks are released into the public water system, and all of the surplus inks are taken off site and properly processed and disposed.

Second Season Opens

The second season RONA inc.’s reality TV series has aired. My RONA Home’s first episode of the second season aired Sunday, April 10. Hosted by Elissa Lansdell, season two of My RONA Home follows two families – Robyn and Jordan Ausmus (Blue Team) and Raegan and Jesse Maley (Yellow Team) – in a competition to see who can best design, construct, and decorate a brand new home. Each family is matched up with a handyman as well as two experts consisting of a contractor and an interior designer. Together they work room-by-room, with a deadline of 30 hours to radically transform empty spaces, ultimately turning the shell of a house into a home. Following each episode, viewers vote online for the team they think did the best overall job that week. The team with the most votes at the end of the 10-week season wins their dream home, plus the entire contents of furniture, appliances, and electronics.

Comparable Store Sales Rise

Pier 1 Imports saw comparable-store sales increase 8.9 per cent in the fourth quarter ended February 26. For the full year, comparable-store sales surged 10.9 per cent, compared with an increase of 1.5 per cent in the prior year. It reported net income of $57.1 million, compared with last year’s fourth quarter net income of $34.5 million. Total sales were $426.6 million, up 7.7 per cent. 

First eTail Conference In Toronto

The inaugural ‘2011 eTail Canada Conference’ Jason Roussos, president/COO, Living Direct, and Jim Wright, senior vice-president, customer marketing and eCommerce, Express, Inc. it takes place May 16 and 17 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit www.etail2011.ca

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April 8, 2011

Building Permits Up In February

Municipalities issued building permits worth $5.8 billion in February, up 9.9 per cent from January, says Statistics Canada. However, the February advance was a result of gains in the non-residential sector in Alberta and Ontario which more than offset the decline in the residential sector. Construction intentions for multi-family dwellings fell 34.4 per cent to $892 million in February. This was the first time in a year that the value of multi-family permits fell below the billion-dollar mark. The decline was attributable to decreases in five provinces, particularly Ontario and Quebec. The value of building permits for single-family dwellings fell 8.6 per cent to $2.1 billion, following three consecutive monthly gains. The February decrease was a result of declines in six provinces, led by Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.

Dollarama Plans 50 More Stores

Dollarama Inc plans to open 50 new stores within a year as the popularity of its discount format soars. The chain expects to be operating more than 700 stores within a year. It currently has 652. Its fourth-quarter profit jumped 23 per cent as the company introduced higher price points to attract shoppers beyond the bargain-basement category. While other dollar stores stick to the $1 per item format, Dollarama has tried to edge upmarket, selling products for up to $2, a move that has allowed it to offer merchandise appealing to a broader audience than its competitors. In its fourth quarter, 42 per cent of sales came from products priced higher than $1, compared with 30 per cent a year ago.

Spring Market Welcomes 37 New Stores

Home Hardware will welcome 37 new stores to their first Home Hardware Spring Market. This year’s market is the 96th in the company’s history. “The theme for this year’s market is Together Towards Tomorrow,” says Paul Straus, president and CEO. “This theme captures the essence of the independent, yet team-minded approach that drives Home Hardware to success year after year. Our dealers have the freedom to operate and manage their own businesses, while drawing from the collective wisdom, buying power, and support of the country’s largest independent network in the home improvement industry to grow for long-term success.” This year, it will host more than 12,000 dealers, staff, vendors, and hardware industry representatives. It provides an opportunity for dealer-owners to learn from industry experts, preview new product innovations, conduct seasonal product buying, and learn from each other.

Some Exceptions To ‘Expiry Date’ Prohibition

While gift cards cannot have an expiry date, some provinces provide exceptions to the ‘expiry date’ prohibition, says a Borden Ladner Gervais ‘Advertising and Sponsorship Law Bulletin.’ The exceptions include gift cards issued or sold for a specific good or service; for a charitable purpose; for a marketing, advertising, or promotional purpose; at a discount; and/or with the holder not providing anything of value when the card is issued. Whether a supplier may charge a fee in relation to the gift card varies across the provinces. Where fees are permitted, they generally include fees payable for the purpose of activating the card, replacing a lost or stolen card, or customizing a card. In some provinces, the rules may permit a supplier to charge a dormancy fee under certain conditions and provided that certain information is indicated on the card.

Retail Report Coming Back

KubasPrimedia ‘Major Market Retail Report’ is being revived. Ed Strapagiel, executive vice-president, says the report was produced for 15 consecutive years until 2009 when the economy faltered. The impending arrival of Target in Canada will change the retail landscape, prompting the decision to bring the report back. It provides a comparative analysis of Canadian retailers based on in-depth surveys with consumers in Vancouver, BC; Edmonton and Calgary, AB; Toronto and Ottawa, ON; and Montreal, QC ‒ markets that account for nearly half of all retail sales in the country. Results will be available in late May.

RONA Renovates Gatineau Store

RONA inc. has opened a freshly renovated RONA L'entrepôt store in Gatineau, QC. The 100,000-square-foot retail outlet belongs to the Lacasse family. Martin Lacasse, the store's owner, says has undergone a top-to-bottom makeover. RONA has worked with the Lacasse family for nearly 25 years. Martin Lacasse and sons are the owners of three RONA stores in the Outaouais region.

Stock Building Reorganizes

Stock Building Supply has reorganized the company into four divisions and eliminated two top executive positions. It will no longer have a chief operating officer or vice-president of national sales. Instead, Stock will rely on four regional presidents/general managers to cover all regions of the U.S. It currently operates in 20 residential markets.

Brand Information High On Online Searches

When looking online for home improvement service providers, consumers want information about brands, products, services, and estimated costs above everything else, says a survey by WebVisible, an online marketing specialist, and Synovate eNation, a market research firm.  Details about a provider’s certifications and special offers – a discount or an added service for free – are also high on the list.

MVMA Awards Return

The Masonry Veneer Manufacturers Association (MVMA) has announced its second annual MVMA Design Awards. The program was created to recognize the work of industry professionals who are setting trends by featuring Manufactured Stone Veneer in their projects. Manufactured Stone is becoming one of the most requested wall coverings in new construction and renovation projects. For information, visit www.MasonryVeneerDesignAwards.com

AnoSkin Now Available

Rose Displays, a provider of signware solutions to retailers worldwide, has introduced AnoSkin, a revolutionary way to create custom finishes for graphic holders. This insert can be any self-supporting substrate up to .030″, printed in any colour or finish – such as wood or leather – that is desired. Even wood veneer paneling can be used. AnoSkin can be used to enhance brand imagery, promoting sales, or creating an entirely new appearance. It is also reusable.

Bed Bath & Beyond Income Rises

Bed Bath & Beyond Inc.’s fourth-quarter net income rose 25 per cent on strong sales. The home furnishings retail chain earned $283.5 million for the three months that ended February 26. That's up from $226 million in the same quarter last year. Sales rose nearly 12 per cent to $2.5 billion from $2.24 billion as consumers ramped up spending on items for the home.

Winning Strategies Examined

The International Council of Shopping Centers’ ‘Toronto Spring Next Gen Program & Reception’ will explore how Canadian retail brands are gearing up for the next wave of competition from international retailers. Bob Gorrie, owner and chairman of Gorrie Marketing; Wendy Greenwood, director of marketing, Ontario portfolio, Cadillac Fairview; and Dev Hubraj, director, leasing and real estate, Holt Renfrew; will discuss winning strategies. It takes place May 4 in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit http://www.icsc.org

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April 7, 2011

Women A Growth Market

Women represent a growth market that is bigger than India and China combined, says Jack Suvak, senior director of research and insights at Moen. Speaking at Moen Canada’s ‘2011 Media Roundtable,’ he said, however, that many companies underestimate or make presumptions about the female market which can prove costly to them. Women are coming into the market en masse today and these women are better educated and expect better salaries. As well, they dominate choice when it comes to style and while they are currently tied with men when it comes to brand decisions, they are growing more prominent when it comes to buying brands.

RONA Opens Réno-Dépôt Store

RONA inc. has opened a Réno-Dépôt store in Sainte-Foy, QC. This is the third store under this banner to serve the Quebec City region. The 100,000-square-foot retail outlet is its 18th retail outlet under the Réno-Dépôt banner. The new location was designed according to the latest concept for Réno-Dépôt, with the aim of satisfying the hardware- and renovation-related needs of the most demanding consumers.

Cabela’s Opening Third Store

Outdoor outfitter Cabela's is planning to open its third retail store in Canada next year. A 50,000-square foot store is planned for Saskatoon, SK, and construction should begin on the store this summer. The store will resemble its existing ones from the outside with log construction and metal roofing, but it will be smaller than many of its existing U.S. stores. It has a store in Winnipeg, MB, and plans to open a second location in Edmonton, AB, later this summer.

Activant To Combine With Epicor

Activant Solutions Inc., a technology provider of ERP and point-of-sale software serving mid-market retailers and distributors, is being acquired by funds advised by Apax Partners, a private equity firm. Apax will also acquire Epicor Software Corporation, a provider of enterprise business software solutions for the mid-market and divisions of global 1000 companies. It intends to combine Activant with Epicor to create a provider of enterprise applications focused on the manufacturing, distribution, services, and retail sectors. The combined company will be called Epicor Software Corporation.

First-time Buying Pushes Market

The Canadian housing market has remained hot in the early stages of 2011, thanks to a strong push from first-time buyers in big Canadian cities, says a report by Remax. It found the threat of higher interest rates down the road has first-time buyers rushing to buy now and avoid getting caught with an inflated interest rate on their mortgage. Most of today's first-time buyers appear to be dual-income, university, or college educated couples with solid earnings and moderate financial knowledge. The couples are tending to spend close to the average, if not more, in order to secure property in sought-after locations in the city. Condominiums and townhouses remain the most attractive properties for first-time homeowners.

Confidence Index Slips

The American Hardware Manufacturers Association’s ‘AHMA Home Improvement Industry Confidence Index’s Current Situation Index’ declined in March to 200 from 229.2 in February. The Future Expectations Index also declined to 206.9 from 246.6 a month earlier. In comparing current sales levels with year-ago levels, 48 per cent of respondents said sales were higher in March versus year-ago levels, down from 55 per cent in February. For March, 28 per cent reported sales were even, and 24 per cent said sales were below year-ago levels. Looking forward six months, 48 per cent of March respondents said they expect sales to be above current levels, down from 70 per cent in February.

Green Enthusiasm Wanes

Canadians may be losing enthusiasm about going green. The Home Depot’s third annual ‘Canadian Green Home Index’ assigned Canadians a 54.7 out of 100 rating when it comes to environmental actions taken at home, down 1.9 points from last year. And while the national score has declined for the second consecutive year, index results also reveal a notable link between going green, the influence of individual social networks, and, for the second year in a row, the Canadian economy. Canadians with a social network (defined as their friends and neighbours) interested in greening their own homes, and those who feel supported by this network to go green, have higher overall Green Index scores than those less connected in these ways. For the second year, the index reveals fewer homeowners are taking green actions due to the economy or their financial situation (23 per cent). It’s clear that although the Canadian economy seems to be rebounding, consumers are still cautious about returning to previous spending habits.

Most Canadians In Loyalty Programs

Almost all Canadians (94 per cent) are members of a loyalty program, Maritz insights: the loyalty report,’ an in-depth look at the Canadian attachment to loyalty programs. According to the report, many loyalty program members strategically shop to maximize point accumulation. Common strategies include changing when and where items are purchased, focusing on a specific loyalty program to attain certain rewards, and changing brands purchased to accumulate points faster. Maritz' ‘True Driver Analysis’reveals that the ability to earn points and obtain desired rewards is the greatest driver of member satisfaction (42 per cent). Forty per cent would like to see improvement in redemption processes and 53 per cent want to be alerted when they reach their desired points balance.

April 7 Product Spotlight

•Liquid Nails are a complete line of adhesives for every home repair or construction project. The products come in the form of a liquid, but work as strongly as nails. Each of the AkzoNobel Decorative Paints Canada products is scientifically formulated to offer the best possible performance for any surface.
• FrogTape brand painter’s tape can help transform even the most common home accessories into unique pieces of home décor. It is the only tape treated with PaintBlock Technology, a super-absorbent polymer that instantly gels when latex paint comes in contact with the tape and prevents paint from bleeding under the tape. It is available in a variety of widths to accommodate a multitude of patterns, designs, and paint projects.
• Fiskars’ Eco Bin Composter features an easy-to-assemble, easy-to-use design that can simplify and speed the composting process. It includes a spring-loaded design that makes set-up and storage a breeze, in addition to offering easy access when it’s time to aerate your compost. An open bottom, round shape, and mesh walls work together to maximize the breakdown process, yielding usable compost as efficiently as possible.
• From growing tomatoes to creating a visual screen, the Lechuza Trio self-watering planter is as versatile as it is practical. There are three individual plant liners contained inside this trough style planter, each with its own one-gallon water reservoir. With the addition of the optional trellis, the Trio can become a screen for a balcony or a planter for growing a bumper crop of tomatoes.

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April 6, 2011

Do it Best Extends DemandTec

Do it Best Corp. has extended its subscription for DemandTec's 'Promotion & Planning & Management' and 'Promotion Execution.' Do it Best Corp. uses the services to manage the process of planning promotions and creating marketing materials that target shopper segments and are localized for different region, demographic, and store nuances. DemandTec, Inc. is a collaborative optimization network for retailers and consumer products companies.

10,000 Homes Earn Certification

More than 10,000 homes across the U.S. have earned LEED certification through the LEED for Homes program, says the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED-certified home projects span the residential market, from multi- and single-family to market rate and affordable housing."Reaching this milestone signifies the continued transformation of the home building industry towards high-performing, healthy homes that save home owners money," says Nate Kredich, vice-president of residential market development, U.S. Green Building Council. Since its launch in 2008, 10,161 homes have certified with more than 38,000 additional units in the pipeline. LEED for Homes is a national voluntary certification system that promotes the design and construction of high-performance green homes that use less energy and water and fewer natural resources; create less waste; and are healthier and more comfortable for the occupants.

Siding Named Brand Leader

CertainTeed vinyl siding is the overall brand leader and its CedarBoards insulated siding and EverNew decking earned top rankings in the ‘2011 Brand Use Study.’ The study asked building professionals to rank products based on familiarity, frequency of use, and overall quality. The vinyl siding and CedarBoards insulated siding were selected as the top choices across all categories. EverNew decking was selected as the frontrunner in terms of quality in the composite and PVC decking category. 

Ace Plans Paint-and-primer

Ace Hardware Corp. is planning a paint-and-primer-in-one launch later this year in a bid to boost its competitive footing against the warehouse home centres. It describes the paint as a "flagship new product" by providing convenience and ease of application. The branding of the new product will be unveiled when the launch occurs, possibly during the third quarter of this year.

Signware Reflects Upscale Ambiance

Rose Displays, a provider of signware solutions to retailers worldwide, has introduced the Newbury Collection. Designed to reflect the upscale ambiance and high style of its namesake, Boston’s famous Newbury Street, the versatile and fully integrated line of frames and frame systems is made of aluminum in a profile which provides a consistency that can be carried throughout a store – whether graphics are displayed on walls as standalone visuals or as collages, on table tops, shelving, floor stands, or hung from the ceiling.

Schneider Names Business Development Managers

William Daoud is business development manager for Quebec and the Atlantic provinces and Matthew Ward is business development manager for Western Canada at Schneider Electric. Based in Montreal, QC, Daoud has extensive experience in controls and automation. Ward brings a broad spectrum of experience in security solutions including both access control and video management. He will be based in Calgary, AB.

Craycraft Heads Safety-Kleen

Robert ‘Bob’ M. Craycraft II is president and chief executive officer of Safety-Kleen Systems. He was most recently president of Ashland Distribution, a division of Ashland, Inc., where he led the company's chemicals, plastics, environmental services, and composites businesses in North America, Europe, and China.

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April 5, 2011

Preplanning Still A Priority

While fewer consumers are seeking out private label options this year, preplanning activities continue to be a priority, says a survey by SymphonyIRI Group. Its inaugural ‘MarketPulse’ survey found that two-out-of-three shoppers today are making shopping lists prior to visiting the store, while 56 per cent are reading store flyers either before or at the store. These statistics are in line with trends noted in 2010. What's more, consumers are shifting back to their favorite brands, although they noted that value is essential when purchasing products. For example, 38 per cent of consumers in 2011 are giving up their favourite brands to save money (down from 46 per cent in 2010), while 36 per cent of consumers actively are seeking out private label brands to save money today, versus 44 per cent in 2010. From a price standpoint, 64 per cent of respondents said price has become a more important consideration than convenience in brand purchases, a six-point decline from last year. 

Internet Retailer Goes Bricks-and-mortar

Power Equipment Direct, an Internet-only retailer, has opened its first bricks-and-mortar store in a suburb of Chicago, IL. Founded in 2003, the privately-owned company tested a ‘pop-up’ store last December on its SnowBlowersDirect.com site. By February, after store sales exceeded expectations, it decided to make the store permanent and offer shoppers the full line of products which includes lawn mowers, pressure washers, air compressors, chain saws, electric generators, log splitters, sump pumps, and water pumps.

‘Where-to-buy App' Launched

Channel Intelligence (CI) has announced a complete solution with the ‘CI Where-to-Buy’ Facebook application. Using its proprietary technology, the app allows manufacturers to promote products using Facebook and connects potential customers to retailers who sell the products. Facebook is the second most popular website in the world and people online spend up to 20 per cent of their time on Facebook, more than with Google. Manufacturers and retailers of consumer products are looking to find the best ways to connect with customers where they actually spend time online, which is increasingly an issue of connecting with them on Facebook. The primary reason consumers visit a manufacturer’s Facebook page is to search for deals, discounts, and coupons.

Broadband Becomes New Home Prerequisite

The percentage of builders installing broadband connections, at 77 per cent, is the highest in the history of the Consumer Electronics Association’s ‘9th Annual State of the Builder Technology Market Study.’ This shows that Internet access is a prerequisite for any new home. As builders differentiate themselves in a competitive marketplace, technology has become not only a selling point, but also a source of profit. One in four builders (27 per cent) said home technology greatly or somewhat increased their revenue, a significant increase from 2008 (18 per cent) that illustrates the growth of home technology in the marketplace. More builders are either proactively marketing and/or providing information on request to customers regarding technology, while the percentage of builders who ‘do nothing’ with home technology fell significantly this year across all product categories. The multi-room audio category saw the biggest percentage increase with 43 per cent of builders proactively marketing it, up from 34 per cent in 2009.

Hanwha Plans New Marketing Campaign

Hanwha L&C Surfaces, a global manufacturer of quartz and acrylic solid surfaces, has announced new marketing campaign and sales efforts focused on educating and inspiring the architectural and design community on the benefits of quartz as a material ideally suited for commercial application. The marketing campaign, ‘Meet the New 11,’ promotes its quartz product line and new additions through trade advertising, product launch kits, direct mail, and eMail marketing efforts.

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April 4, 2011

1,500 Attend Inaugural Show

TIM-BR Marts’ inaugural National Buying Show attracted more than 1,500 dealers and vendors to see the power of the buying group in action. Steve Stremecki, newly-appointed vice-president of corporate development, says about 40 per cent of its dealers from retail and commercial operations attended the show which showcased the products, services, and supports it provides for its members. Those services include a full hardware distribution network through TIM-BR MARTS’ Chalifour Canada hardware division. He also called it an opportunity to show its collaborative approach to doing business. “There are two stakeholders who help us measure our success,” he says. “Dealers are one, vendors are the other. Strong partnerships with the supplier community are essential to us remaining the best choice for independent entrepreneurs across Canada.”

Industrial Equipment Separated From Autos

As part of Toyota Industries Corporation’s global strategy to focus on its material handling business, Toyota Material Handling, U.S.A., Inc. will acquire the Industrial Equipment Division of Toyota Canada Inc. Over the past decade globally Toyota has strategically separated its industrial equipment operations from its automotive distributors to allow greater focus on each business segment. The restructuring will allow the Toyota Material Handling North America organization to enhance support to dealers and customers by integrating and aligning business operations throughout Canada and the U.S. 

Ideal, Tridon Brands Merged

Ideal Clamp Products, Inc., a designer and manufacturer of worm gear, hose, and specialty clamps, has merged the Ideal and Tridon brands into the IDEAL-TRIDON brand. The brand will be backed by more than 185 years of experience in designing and engineering high quality clamps.  The first step in the brand merger will be the introduction of IDEAL-TRIDON brand stamped on both Ideal and Tridon clamp housings. However, certain global markets will continue using the IDEAL and/or TRIDON brands. Customers will begin to see the new IDEAL-TRIDON products immediately, with future plans to include updated literature, packaging, and a new IDEAL-TRIDON brand website.

Consumers Misunderstand Green Phrases

Most consumers continue to misunderstand phrases commonly used in environmental marketing and advertising, giving products more credit than they deserve, says a survey by Cone, a brand strategy and marketing firm. Its ‘Green Gap Trend Tracker’ found that 97 per cent of Americans believe they know what common environmental marketing claims such as ‘green’ or ‘environmentally friendly’ mean. Yet their interpretations are often inaccurate. More than two-in-five Americans (41 per cent) erroneously believe these terms mean a product has a positive (i.e., beneficial) impact on the environment. Only 29 per cent understand that these terms more accurately describe products with less environmental impact than previous versions or competing products. At the same time, most Americans are willing to punish a company if they think they were deliberately misled by ‘greenwashing’ claims. Of those surveyed, 71 per cent said they will stop buying the product if they feel misled by an environmental claim, and more than a third (37 per cent) will go so far as to boycott the company's products entirely.

Wood Promoted As Green Material

The United States Department of Agriculture will promote the use of wood as a green building material. "Wood has a vital role to play in meeting the growing demand for green building materials. Forest service studies show that wood compares favorably with competing materials," says Tom Vilsack, the agriculture secretary. To address current green building practices, it will actively look for opportunities to demonstrate the innovative use of wood as a green building material for all new structures of 10,000 square feet or more, using recognized green building standards such as LEED, Green Globes, or the National Green Building Standard; it will preferentially select wood in new building construction, while maintaining its commitment to certified green building standards; and it will examine ways to increase its commitment to green building by reporting on ways to enhance the research and development being done around green building materials.  

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April 1, 2011

Canadians Don’t Walk The Talk

Ontarians are on par with the national average when it comes to choosing sustainable building products, but fewer than half of Ontarians are aware of products that improve indoor air quality, says ‘The LePage Report on Canadians’ Attitudes to Sustainability.’ It shows three-quarters of Canadians value green building products, but few incorporate them in home maintenance or renovations. An overwhelming majority of Canadians (98 per cent) view air quality in the home as important, yet fewer than half are aware of building products that improve air quality. The survey also found that Canadian homeowners aged 55+ are most likely to use green building products; more women than men say sustainable building products are important, but there is no difference compared to men in green product adoption; and in terms of ways to improve indoor air quality, Canadians have the most knowledge of heating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and low-Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) building materials.

Richelieu Has Sales Increase

Richelieu’s consolidated sales grew by 18.9 per cent to $113.2 million and net earnings from continuing operations increased by 10.4 per cent to $7 million in its first quarter. "We achieved good growth for a first quarter, historically the weakest period of the year,” says Richard Lord, president and chief executive officer. Although the situation remained challenging in the United States, its market penetration efforts yielded positive results, as reflected by the 15.1 per cent internal growth in U.S. dollar sales, to which was added a 40.4 per cent growth from the five acquisitions closed since the beginning of 2010 in the United States. Sales to hardware retailers,including renovation superstores, totalled $19.1 million, up by nine per cent or $1.6 million over the first quarter of the previous year. This increase came from the contribution of Gordonply, whose distribution operations are targeted notably to hardware retailers and renovation superstores in Quebec and Ontario. In Canada, sales totalled $92.6 million, an increase of $11.4 million or 14 per cent over the same quarter of 2010.

Business Account Launched

Scotiabank has launched the Scotia Power Savings for business account, a high interest account specifically designed for small businesses. This account provides small business owners with a high yield, liquid alternative to term deposits for surplus balances. There are no monthly maintenance fees and customers can access their money at any given time as there are no term restrictions. Businesses will receive unlimited free self-service transfers to and from their other Scotiabank accounts when they use Scotiabank's Automated Banking Machines (ABMs) or online, telephone, and wireless banking services.

Owens Corning Works On Dream Home

Owens Corning has joined with Sloot Construction Ltd., located in Guelph, ON, to help build the home for this year’s ‘Rotary Club of Guelph Dream Home Lottery.’ The dream home is not only furnished with state-of-the-art appliances and furniture, but the entire home has been outfitted with Owens Corning’s insulation products and sets a new standard of energy efficiency in Canada. The final Blower Door Test on the completed home to test the home’s level of air tightness showed it surpassed the energy efficiency of homes that meet the R-2000 energy rating.

Tremco Hits Sustainability Milestone


Tremco Commercial Sealants & Waterproofing's Toronto, ON, facility has achieved a major milestone two-and-a-half years ahead of schedule ‒ zero landfill. In addition, the North American supplier of integrated building envelope solutions for the commercial construction industry has furthered its commitment to sustainability through numerous initiatives that focus on enhancements to its products and operations as well as employee education. Beginning in June 2008 and completed in November 2010, the company's Toronto facility achieved zero landfill in just under 2½ years. This is half the time most case studies suggest it would take to complete the project for a large industrial manufacturing facility. The facility reached its goal through a reduction of waste, recycling of waste, and reuse of waste as fuel feedstock. The Toronto facility is being monitored for the next 12 months to ensure there is no waste going to landfill. Initiated in 2008, this is part of a five-year project designed to eliminate Tremco's landfill waste in its North American sealant and waterproofing facilities. In the program's first year, the organization reduced its ratio of landfill waste to materials shipped by 40 per cent.

U.S. Home Stand Vacant

Thirteen per cent of all U.S. homes stand vacant, says U.S. Census Bureau data. The states with the highest percentages of vacant homes are Maine, Vermont, Florida, Arizona, and Alaska. However, the Census Bureau counts vacation home or second homes as vacant, along with homes that are sold but not occupied and empty homes for sale or rent, which means many are not vacant in the usual sense of the word.

New ReStore Opens In Toronto

Just four months after opening the doors to the brand new ReStore in East York, ON, Habitat Toronto will celebrate the opening of a fourth Toronto ReStore. The 6,000 square foot retail space will not only help Habitat Toronto fulfill its mission, but will also help the city become a little greener. Toronto ReStores salvage and receive new items from homeowners, renovation contractors, and manufacturers and then sell them at 50 per cent of their original retail price. In 2010 alone, Toronto ReStores diverted more than 3,000 pounds of waste from landfills.

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March 31, 2011

Capital Spending To Drive Economy

Capital spending and exports will be the new drivers of the Canadian economy, picking up the baton from those sectors that lifted the country out of the recession, says a CIBC World Markets report. With interest rates expected to rise and government stimulus on the wane, Canadians can expect less impact on the economy from infrastructure spending, residential real estate, and retail. "To keep the economy rolling, growth will have to be found elsewhere: in spending by business on new plant and equipment, and in exports," says CIBC World Markets chief economist Avery Shenfeld in ‘Canadian Business: Targeting the New Mix.’ Exports will be driven higher by growing strength in the U.S. and global economies.

Market Conditions Behind Invasion

Americans retailers are coming to Canada because they think it is a sound place to do business, but, more importantly, because of market conditions in the U.S., says Jerod Dinkin, director of real estate of Bed Bath and Beyond. Speaking at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ ‘Toronto Next Generation Program’ entitled ‘Growing Pains: The Challenges U.S. Retailers Face When Coming to Canada,’ he said between 2003 and 2008 U.S. retailers were in a period of massive growth, driven in part by Wall Street. Bed Bath and Beyond was opening 80 stores a year during this time because if it didn’t, Wall Street would see it as a negative, he said. Today, Wall Street views it as a failure if retailers are not scaling down or closing stores as a negative. Canada becomes an attractive market for them because of factors such as a common language, similar business practices, geographic proximity, and similar governments.

Resale Prices Up Again

Canadian resale home prices rose for a second straight month in January, says the Teranet-National Bank ‘Composite House Price Index,’ which measures price changes for repeat sales of single-family homes in six metropolitan areas. It showed overall prices were up 0.4 per cent in January from December. The index tracks home prices over time for repeat sales, so properties with at least two sales are required in the calculations. The report did not provide actual prices.

Home Depot Launches Online Know-How Centre

The Home Depot Canada is now online to show Canadian DIYers how easy it is to tackle their household projects. With quick tip and step-by-step instructional videos, project inspiration galleries, buying and brand guides, calculators, and one trip checklists, the Know-How Centre at www.homedepot.ca/know-how is available in French, Cantonese, Hindi, and Spanish. The video hub hosts more than 50 DIY videos covering a range of topics from gardening to energy-saving tips and décor projects.

Caruk Endorsing Stanley Black & Decker

Stanley Black & Decker, Inc has entered into a three-year endorsement with Jim Caruk, master contractor and host of the Real Reno’s television program. The agreement involves category exclusive endorsement of DEWALT Power Tools and accessories and Stanley Hand Tools branded Stanley, Stanley FatMax, FatMax Xtreme, and Stanley BOSTITCH. In addition to his participation in integrated media campaigns, editorial, and promotions for the brands, he will take part in trade and customer-related events. 

Whirlpool Makes Dumping Allegations

Whirlpool Corp. is calling for an investigation into the two South Korean companies' production of bottom-mounted refrigerators. It claims that South Korean government subsidies are enabling Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics to sell bottom-mounted refrigerators made in South Korea and Mexico in the U.S. at less than fair value. It alleges the two other companies are "dumping" the refrigerators ‒ selling them for substantially less than fair value to gain a competitive edge.

Walmart Plans Three More Supercentres

Walmart Canada plans to open three more Supercentres in Québec. Starting this fall, customers at the Vaudreuil, Saint-Eustache, and Saint-Jérôme locations will find a full range of fresh food products in addition to the general merchandise and food assortment currently available. These locations will join the Laval East, Laval Ouest, and the Mascouche locations set to open this summer. Walmart Canada has 325 stores, including 128 supercentres.  By the end of January, 2012, Walmart Canada's store count will be 333, including 164 supercentres and 169 discount stores. 

Farrah Earns Lifetime Award

Pat Farrah, co-founder of the Home Depot who is given credit for being the inventor of the DIY ‘big box,’ will receive the 1st Global DIY Lifetime Award at ‘1st DIY Lifetime Summit.’ The event, entitled ‘One World ‒ What will shape the future of home improvement worldwide,’ is the result of efforts by the European DIY Retail Association, the Global Home Improvement Network, and the European Federation of DIY Manufacturers in conjunction with the Conference Group. Speakers include RONA CEO Robert Dutton. It takes place June 8 and 9 at the Square in Brussels, Belgium. For more information, visit www.edra-online.org

March 31 Product Spotlight

• Wooster is now offering Power Stacks, promotional displays featuring multi-packs of its brushes or rollers. They are available to traditional paint and decorating centres, hardware stores, and paint sundry distributors or retailers until April 29, 2011. Power Stacks include products such as Super/Fab rollers, shed-resistant Pro/Doo-Z , and Avalon, the hybrid roller designed for today’s newest paint formulas. Brush Power Stacks contain two-packs of professional paint brushes.
• Hyde Tools now offers a new point-of-purchase display for its 14-in-1 Multi-tool. The 10-5/16" x 9-3/16" cut-case style merchandiser is designed to maximize retail space, offering versatile placement options near registers, on help counters, or in aisles. The display clearly lists the tool’s common uses ‒ scrape paint, spread compound, clean rollers, remove putty, open cracks, set nails, scrape contours, scrape convex surfaces, open cans, and pull nails.
• Intertape Polymer Group  Inc. will feature Bloc-it, a professional grade painter’s tape at the National Hardware Show, May 10 to 12 in Las Vegas. Designed to prevent paint ‘bleeding,’ it is specially treated to repel paint and prevent bleed-through, resulting in a clean, smooth paint line when the tape is removed.  The tape has UV resistance for performance up to 14 days of direct sunlight and much longer when used indoors. 
•Mid Continent Cabinetry is introducing a program that lets designers and consumers personalize cabinetry for the bath by choosing from a variety of design elements. From door styles and end panels to base options and finishes, the program offers options to create vanities, wall cabinets, and storage units for the bath.

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March 30, 2011

Operating Profits Unchanged

Canadian retailers' operating profits as a share of operating revenue remained unchanged at 4.8 per cent in 2009 from 2008, as revenues declined at about the same pace as expenses, says Statistics Canada. Store and non-store retailers reported $450.4 billion in annual operating revenue for 2009, down 3.9 per cent from 2008. Total expenses, including cost of goods sold and total operating expenses, fell 3.9 per cent to $428.9 billion. Chain stores, which are defined as operating four or more locations in Canada, have been gradually gaining market share from the non-chains. Chains accounted for 48 per cent of store operating revenue in 2009 compared with 43 per cent in 2004.

Quebec Consumers Think More

Quebec consumers no longer buy the same way, says a survey by PwC. It found they make purchases after a lot more thought, conduct searches, and compare options available to them before making a decision. "Today's consumers are much more in control," says Alain Michaud, Quebec's leader for PwC's retail and consumer goods practice. "They are better informed thanks to their ability to research the desired product beforehand. Retailers must become better acquainted with this new type of consumer if they wish to secure their loyalty in a fiercely competitive environment." One of the main challenges identified by Quebec retailers is the ability to attract and retain employees. The retail industry must compete with other sectors to get their share of the available workforce. Other concerns identified by retailers include the rise of property rental costs and the entrance of American retailers in the Quebec market, which will not only have an impact on retailers' market share, but will also contribute to further stimulating rental prices.

Confidence Falls Sharply

Consumer confidence fell sharply in March in most of the country as Canadians grew more worried about their finances, says the Conference Board of Canada. Its monthly report found consumer confidence fell to 83.7 from 89.3 in February, a level lower than March 2010, but higher than six months ago. The board said attitudes towards current finances were “worrisome,” as about a quarter of Canadians ‒ 2.4 percentage points more than last time ‒ said their finances had worsened over the last six months. Along with the cost of gasoline rising and the uncertain pace of economic recovery, consumers are also worried about food price inflation and the impact of rising interest rates on high consumer debt.

Reconstruction Will Boost Prices

Reconstruction in Japan will boost demand and prices for lumber, panelboard, and plywood, especially from West Coast producers, says Scotiabank’s commodities expert Patricia Mohr. This offers support to Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney’s assertion that commodity prices could remain elevated for decades. Mohr says reconstruction in Japan will also boost demand and prices for lumber, panelboard, and plywood, and also for steel and many other metals over the next six to 12 months.

CertainTeed Adds Colours

CertainTeed is adding three colours to the Wolverine American Legend vinyl siding product line. The new colours are Buckskin, Flagstone, and Spruce. Available in three classic styles and 16 low-gloss colours, Wolverine American Legend siding offers a natural woodgrain appearance and strong performance.

Colour Picking Software Launched

X-Rite Inc. is launching its ColorDesigner PLUS software package that aims to increase profits of paint retailers and manufacturers by improving the process of colour picking, matching, and custom mixing of architectural paints. Designed to work seamlessly with all major types of paint dispensing equipment, ColorDesigner PLUS gives users more options to search paint collections and match colors, input data for new families of paints, create recipes for small scale manufacturing, and connect with X-Rite's CAPSURE, a tool used by contractors and interior designers to pick and match paint colors at worksites. The company will demonstrate the product at the Home Hardware Spring Market April 10 to 12.

DOMISON Opens Toronto Store

DOMISON will open a store in Toronto's furniture district. The 3,500 square foot showroom includes furniture for the bedroom, living room, and dining room. In addition to the wide furniture collection, the flagship store will showcase the talent of independent design studios from Canada and abroad.

SKIL Has New Generation Of Routers

SKIL Power Tools' new generation of routers meets the needs of everyone from the DIYer to the professional. The three models are designed for a variety of at home tasks, from countertop installation to more leisurely projects such as basic or intricate cutting of patterns and templates. Additional highlights in the line of SKIL routers include micro-fine adjustment for precise depth measurements and an LED SiteLight for improved visibility.

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March 29, 2011

LeBlanc Tripled Stores Sales

A Canadian is among the young home improvement retailers being honoured for outstanding achievement as owners and managers of independently owned hardware and building supply stores by the North American Retail Hardware Association. Conrad LeBlanc, owner of Tediche Home Hardware Building Centre, Cap-Pele, NB, was honoured in the under $2 million in sales category of the ‘2011 Young Retailer of the Year’ program. Hejoined his uncle’s building supplybusiness when he graduated from college in 2000. Shortly thereafter his uncle retired and LeBlanc and his family purchased the business. By 2006, he was in charge and since then he has increased the size of the store to about 12,000 square feet and added many new product categories. The result has been that the sales of the operation tripled.

Royal Group Adds Versetta Stone

Royal Group has added a new masonry product to its line of offerings. Owens Corning’s Versetta Stone has a panelized stone veneer that offers the authentic beauty of traditional masonry using a modern installation method. It can be used for interior and exterior walls for remodelling as well as new construction projects, giving contractors an expanded product portfolio to offer homeowners, including the ability to provide a mixed material exterior by combining the look of stone with vinyl siding.

Home Depot Issuing Note

The Home Depot will use the proceeds of a $2 billion senior note issuance to refinance $1 billion of senior notes that came due in March 2011 and to repurchase $1 billion of outstanding shares through an accelerated share repurchase program with Barclays Capital. The accelerated share repurchase is in addition to the company's previously announced intention to repurchase approximately $2.5 billion of outstanding shares throughout 2011 using excess cash generated by the business. "Creating strong shareholder value is a priority, and we are committed to returning capital to our shareholders in the form of dividends and share repurchases," says Frank Blake, chairman and CEO. "2010 was the first year of positive sales growth since 2006 and our business continues to stabilize. As such, we elected to take advantage of the attractive interest rate environment and raise incremental debt capital to be used for share repurchases."

Sico Offers Eco-friendly Products

Sico has unveiled two eco-friendly products designed to transform kitchens with the stroke of a paint brush. GoPrime All-in-One and Furniture and Cabinets Paint work well on any surface, from melamine, wood and medium-density fibreboard(MDF) to thermoplastic, ceramic tile, and glass. They are made from a formula that blends alkyd emulsion in a water-based paint. So while they are low-VOC (volatile organic compound) water-based paints, they perform like alkyds or oil-based paints. The GoPrime All-in-One primer seals any surface – even those previously painted with oil – and provides an even, adherent canvas for the top coat. The Furniture and Cabinets Paint is ideal for surfaces that are exposed to daily contact such as furniture, cabinets, doors, walls, and trim.

Osmore Acquires Production Assets

Osmose, a global supplier of wood preservative products, has acquired the production assets of Peninsula Copper Industries, Inc., a producer of copper-based chemicals. PCI has been a copper compound supplier to Osmose for more than 25 years and will continue as a distributor of its established products under a contract manufacturing arrangement with Osmose.

RONA Announces New Store

RONA inc. will open a new store in Granby, QC, in early summer 2011. This 12,000-square-foot outlet ‒ owned by the Hébert, Gagnon, and Lamarche families ‒ will become a branch of the RONA L'entrepôt Granby store, owned by the same franchised dealer-owners.

Symposium Set For April

Mel Hughes, of Halsall Associates, will look at ‘Leading Approaches to Greening Existing Buildings’ at the ‘Canadian Green Building Council (CaGBC) National Symposium 2011.’ The session will summarize how integrated energy assessments can realize savings through retro-commissioning, tenant engagement, and equipment replacement. It takes place April 13 and 14 at the Allstream Centre in Toronto, ON. Theme of the event is ‘Existing Buildings & Communities ‒ How Can They Be Sustainable.’ For more information, visit www.cagbc.org

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March 28, 2011

Homebuyer Satisfaction Improves In Edmonton

New homebuyer satisfaction has increased significantly from 2009 in the Edmonton, AB, single-family home market due to notable improvements in buyer perceptions of value received for the price paid and home readiness, says the J.D. Power and Associates ‘2011 Alberta Single-Family New-Home Builder Customer Satisfaction Study.’ Overall new homebuyer satisfaction in Edmonton increased to 711 on a 1,000-point scale in 2011, up 63 points from 2009. The most notable improvements occurred in the price/value and home readiness factors. The study found that new home builders in Edmonton have also improved in the frequency of follow-up communications with homebuyers and reduced rates of problems reported after move-in. The study is carried out in association with The Alberta New Home Warranty Program, The Professional Home Builders Institute of Alberta, and the Canadian Home Builders' Association-Edmonton Region.

U.S. Credit Availability Better

Commercial construction and the slowed rate of spending decline for that sector have helped the overall credit availability for construction projects, says Standard & Poor's Ratings Services’ ‘Commercial Construction Markets are Helping to Repair U.S. Building Materials’ report. It projects a 14 per cent increase in residential housing in 2011 over 2010, and spending on repairs and remodeling possibly increasing about five per cent. However, higher material costs are a key risk for the industry, says the report, especially if there is no improvement in the unemployment rate as it will be harder to pass on those costs to buyers. Infrastructure projects could help the industry, but the number of projects will vary by region and some could be tied to pending legislation.

Saint-Gobain Closing Shanghai Stores

Growing challenges in China and an increasingly complicated market is forcing Saint-Gobain to shut down its seven home decoration shops in Shanghai, China. It says the decoration market in China has moved to more pre-decoration as more housing and apartments are being sold with interior decorations. It follows similar moves by other foreign retailers in China. The Home Depot, which entered China in 2006, closed its fifth outlet in January, leaving it with seven stores in the country. The B&Q, which came to China in 1999, has closed 22 of its 63 stores and reduced the area of another 17 stores in 2009. Saint-Gobain blames the failure of these multinationals on China's immature industry chain which failed to help big shopping malls reduce costs. The whole system including the supply chain, logistics, and warehousing has not been developed fully, so big chains cannot achieve their advantages in lower costs. They are also facing competition from domestic retailers. Red Star Macalline International Furniture and Real Estate Chain, China's biggest home improvement retailer, opened about 80 shops in 2010.

Canadian Companies Respond To Demand From Japan

Canadian wood and pre-manufactured housing companies are seeing a pickup in demand from Japan as a result of the earthquake and tsunami disaster. The disaster two weeks ago caused an estimated $310 billion of damage. Ontario-based Viceroy Homes Ltd. will build and ship 200 pre-engineered temporary shelters for victims displaced by the world's costliest natural disaster. It also hopes for orders from its Japanese partner, Selco Homes, for up to 2,000 of the 30,000 units requested by the Japanese government.

Jenkins Heads HMA

Pembroke ‘Pem’ Jenkins, of Turn Bull Lumber Co, Inc., Elizabethtown, N.C.; is president of the Hardwood Manufacturers Association (HMA). Other officers for 2011 are first vice-president: Jack Shannon, J. T. Shannon Lumber Co., Memphis, Tenn.; second vice-president; Skipper Beal, Beal Lumber Co. Inc., Little Mountain, S.C.; and executive vice-president: Linda Jovanovich, HMA, Pittsburgh, PA. Directors are Richard Wilkerson, Anderson-Tully Company, Vicksburg, Miss.; Mike McQueen, Anthony Timberlands, Inc., Beirne, Ark.; Tommy Battle, Battle Lumber Company, Inc., Wadley, Ga.; Jeff Edwards, Edwards Wood Products, Inc., Marshville, N.C.; Butch Morgan, Louisiana Hardwood Products, LLC, Morrow, La.; and Nordeck Thompson, Thompson Appalachian Hardwoods, Inc., Huntland, Tenn. In addition to the officers, the executive committee is Wilkerson; Battle; Bob Miller, Frank Miller Lumber Company, Inc., Union City, Ind.; Rhonda Kendrick, Kendrick Forest Products, Inc., Edgewood, Iowa; and Terry Brennan of Baillie Lumber Co., Hamburg, N.Y.

Using Power Of Brand

The International Council of Shopping Centers 'Toronto Spring Next Generation Program & Reception' will focus on how retailers and developers will have to use the power of their brands and skills of the marketing departments to ensure success amid competition coming from international brands entering the Canadian playing field. "Battle of the Brands' will feature a panel of Bob Gorrie, owner and chairman of Gorrie Marketing; Wendy Greenwood, director of marketing, Ontario Portfolio, Cadillac Fairview; and Dev Hubraj, director, leasing and real estate, Holt Renfrew. It takes place May 4 at the Academy of Spherical Arts in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit http://icsc.org/apps/meeting_list.php

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March 25, 2011

Existing Home Sales Cool

Sales of existing homes cooled in February, a trend that is expected to continue in the coming months as tighter mortgage rules keep more buyers out of the market, says the Conference Board of Canada. Its metro resale index for February was down in 19 of 28 areas from January levels and listings were down from year-earlier levels in 18 areas. Softer markets also tempered price growth, with increases slowing in 16 markets. On a year-over-year basis, however, 24 of 28 areas recorded price gains in February.

Arbitration Clauses More Vulnerable

Arbitration clauses in consumer contracts may be more vulnerable to escape than previously believed, says an Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP ‘Update’ on the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Seidel v. Telus Communications Inc. (Telus). At issue was whether a mandatory arbitration clause in the appellant’s consumer contract with Telus meant that she could not proceed with a class action against Telus. In a ruling which appears to weaken the enforceability of arbitration clauses in both consumer and commercial agreements across the country, a majority of the court permitted the class action. The update the extent to which future litigants will be successful in avoiding arbitration agreements remains to be seen, but given the recent number of Ontario cases which have permitted commercial parties to pursue court action in spite of arbitration agreements, it appears likely that Telus will lead to a greater amount of public litigation for commercial parties down the road.

Decision-makers Need To Be Educated

Loss prevention professionals at retail organizations need to show their organizations that they can do more than capture the “bad guys,’ says Kevin Auty, president, KEA Associates. Speaking at the i3 International and Checkpoint ‘2011 Innovation and Loss Prevention Conference & Expo,’ he said their job has moved beyond preventing shrinkage and loss prevention to asset protection. A good asset protection system is one of risk and margin management that not only adds value from a loss prevention perspective, but also contributes directly to intra-departmental performance and overall business results, he said. However, organizations are hesitant to invest fully in asset protection, as the benefits seem limited. To change this, loss professionals need to learn the language of the decision-makers and educate them about what they do and how the tools they use can, for example, improve processes, inventory control, and conversion rates to add to the bottom line.

Bonsal American Picks Marketing Firm

Bonsal American will use Hitchcock Fleming & Associates Inc. to provide marketing and communications for its SAKRETE, ProSpec, GemSeal, and Amerimix brands. The marketing firm is developing a national public relations program that will include outreach to consumer and trade press and promotional activities for SAKRETE’s 75th anniversary. It is also developing a fully integrated strategic media plan. The SAKRETE brand is the largest of the four brands and is available at home centres, independent retailers, and building material suppliers across North America.

Partnerships Can Improve Data Collection

The partnership between all facets of a company and its suppliers can help improve the data collection and loss prevention, says Vy Hoang, vice-president of sales, i3 International. In a session entitled ‘The Importance of Partnership’ at the i3 International and Checkpoint ‘2011 Innovation and Loss Prevention Conference & Expo,’ he said integrated efforts are needed to come up with the best solutions for an organization. He said the nature of loss prevention has changed and it is no longer one person reviewing a video tape. Now, for example, digital recorders in stores can collect a variety of information in one database which can be used for merchandising, store staffing, inventory management, and to reduce shrinkage. It means suppliers need to be allowed to get inside a company to understand the business. In fact, partnership and integration will identify where loss prevention technology needs to go in a company to provide it with the most valuable and useful data for all facets of the operation.

HBC Using NEW Protection Services

The Hudson’s Bay Company has selected N.E.W. Customer Service Companies Inc. to provide product protection and support services for customers at more than 400 of its banner retail outlets. The HBC retail banners included in the partnership are The Bay and Zellers. As part of this agreement, NEW will help the Bay stores launch their first jewelry protection plan available to consumers outside the United States. NEWwill also provide Bay customers with its product protection plans and customer service for consumer electronics and appliances.

Two Nominated For Home Depot Board

J. Frank Brown and Ronald (Ron) L. Sargent have been nominated for election to the board of directors of the Home Depot. Brown just completed his term as Dean of INSEAD, an international business school with campuses in France, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi.  He also spent 26 years at PricewaterhouseCoopers where he held a series of leadership roles. Sargent has served as chief executive officer of Staples, Inc. since 2002 and as its chairman since 2005. Prior to Staples, he held a variety of positions at The Kroger Co. David H. Batchelder has decided not to stand for re-election. The founder and principal of Relational Investors LLC has been a director since 2007.

Brick Sales Grow By Double-digits

Sales for The Brick Group Income Fund saw double digit growth last year. It had an EBITDA of $87.2 million, the highest in its history. The performance comes after two years of losses. Its fourth-quarter revenue of $421.4 million was up 3.6 per cent over the same period in 2009. Sales at corporately owned stores were $372.2 million, up three per cent year-over-year as same store sales grew two per cent. Sales at its 54 franchise stores were $49.2 million in the fourth quarter, a gain of 8.8 per cent with same store sales rising 5.7 per cent.

Always Something Better

“There is always going to be something better, regardless the decision you make today, the technology will have passed you by,” says Rui Rodrigues, director, loss prevention, Staples. At a session on ‘The Future of LP Video Technology’ at the i3 International and Checkpoint ‘2011 Innovation and Loss Prevention Conference & Expo,’ he cited advances in technology developments in areas such as storage and video that were unimagined just a few years ago. And computer chips should have as many  transistors as the human brain, 100 billion, by 2018. However, unlike humans who only use about 10 per cent of the brain’s transistors, computers will use them all meaning they will think 10 times faster than humans do. He suggested any technology purchased now needs to meet the needs of an organization over the next five to 10 years and it should be scalable and able to accommodate future upgrades.

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March 24, 2011

Credit Would Make Canadians Environmentally Efficient

A tax credit would impact their decision of 76 per cent of Canadians to make an environmentally efficient upgrade to their home, says the ‘Bosch Green Savings Survey.’ Steve Preiner, director of marketing at Bosch, says "While Canadians are concerned about the environment, money plays an important role in energy efficient upgrades."  The top reasons for Canadians to make energy efficient upgrades to their home are to save money (72 per cent), followed by reducing their home's impact on the environment (37 per cent), and improving resale value (34 per cent).  Environmentally friendly improvements they have already completed or are planning to undertake over the next 18 months, Canadians' top responses include replace regular light-bulbs with CFL light-bulbs (57 per cent), purchase energy efficient appliance (41 per cent), change lighting fixtures to accommodate low wattage lighting (29 per cent), replace or upgrade windows (27 per cent), upgrade cooling or heating system to more energy efficient model (20 per cent), and insulate basement, roof or walls (19 per cent).

RONA Opens Latest Concept Store

RONA inc. has opened a latest generation Réno-Dépôt store in Vaudreuil-Dorion, QC. The new store was designed according to the latest concept for Réno-Dépôt stores. The central aisle is lined with boutiques offering various decoration and finishing products such as flooring, doors and windows, kitchens, bathrooms, paint, and interior decoration. The storage boutique, an emerging priority for consumers, is located near the entrance to the store and customers will find an extensive selection of items to meet all their storage related needs for the garage, the kitchen, basement, and closets. With a retail sales space of 102,000-square-feet, the store features a 25,000-square-foot outdoor garden centre and offers a selection of 37,000 products, including construction and finishing materials.

Scotts Phasing Out Phosphorus

Scotts Miracle-Gro Co will phase out phosphorus from lawn fertilizers, including its Turf Builder brand, by the end of next year. As a result, it will focus on more efficient and optimized ways to use nitrogen in its lawn fertilizer products. The company has concluded that most lawns can flourish without supplemental phosphorus applications. However, because phosphorus is essential to the initial root development of grass, the nutrient will remain in the company's starter fertilizers which are used for new lawns. It will also remain in the Miracle-Gro lines of organic lawn food as it naturally occurs in the organic materials contained in the products.

U.S. Puts Duty On Chinese Flooring

An unfair competition complaint by U.S manufacturers has led to preliminary duties on multi-layered wood flooring from China. The Commerce Department has put a 27.01 per cent duty rate on the flooring imports as a result of evidence of Chinese subsidies.

Sansin Partners With Trees Ontario

Sansin is partnering with Trees Ontario to launch a native tree seedling promotion, which kicks off on Earth Day, April 22. For every gallon of Sansin Enviro Stain sold from Earth Day through May 31 at participating Ontario retailers, one native tree seedling will be planted in the province. Sjoerd Bos, vice-president of Sansin, says at a time when green building is on the rise, wood is about as green as it gets.  “This partnership with Trees Ontario is a natural fit for Sansin, our dealers, and customers in Ontario who care about our forest ecosystem.” 

New Home Sales Plunge

Sales of new homes in the U.S. plunged in February to the slowest pace on records dating back nearly half a century, says the Commerce Department. New home sales fell 16.9 per cent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 250,000 homes. It's the third straight monthly decline and far below the 700,000-a-year pace that economists view as healthy. New home sales now account for just five per cent of total home sales so far this year. They typically represent closer to 15 per cent in healthier housing markets.

Ply Gem Sales Increased

Ply Gem Holdings, an exterior products manufacturer, posted 2010 sales of $995.9 million, up 4.7 per cent from 2009. Net income for the full year ended December 31, 2010, was $27.7 million, compared with a loss of $76.8 million in the prior year. For the quarter, sales were $220.5 million, up from $214.6 million in the same quarter last year. The company posted a fourth-quarter loss of $19.6 million, compared with a loss of $17.6 million in the prior-year quarter.

Intertape Closes Brantford Plant

Intertape Polymer Group Inc., a plastic tape and packaging maker, is closing its Brantford, ON, plant because a 30-month strike has made it non-profitable. The company posted fourth-quarter sales of $180 million, up 12 per cent from a year earlier, and a loss of $43.4 million, including restructuring charges, up from a loss of $8.5 million. CEO Greg Yull says gross margins remained under pressure because of rising raw material costs and heavy price competition. Focusing on higher-margin products will help this year and it will continue to reduce its manufacturing costs.

Macdonald Earns Award Of Merit

Scott Macdonald, Ontario business leader of Envirogard Products, has earned a Water Quality Association Award of Merit. The Award of Merit is given for “exceptional service to the water quality improvement industry.” In presenting the award, WQA stated that he “has given his time and expertise to the Canadian Water Quality Association and to WQA.” As a pioneering president of the Canadian association in the early ’90s, he developed the organization’s first education and certification program. Employing his technical expertise, he helped develop the first Canadian Drinking Water Treatment Unit standard, which will be included in the Canadian National Plumbing Code in 2014. The WQA is a not-for-profit international trade organization representing the residential, commercial, and industrial water treatment industry.

Picard Moves To Groupe BMR
Marcel Picard is director, forest products, at Groupe BMR. He worked for more than 20 years for R.S. Plant and for Taiga Forest Products.

Dutton Speaks On Global Competition

Robert Dutton, president and chief executive officer of RONA Inc. will addressCan Canadian Business Compete in a Globalized World?at an Economic Club of Canada session. It takes place April 19 in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit www.economicclub.ca

March 24 Product Spotlight

• Guardian Technologies has expanded its Germ Guardian family of air purifiers with models that offer multiple levels of filtration – including HEPA – and feature UV-C light technology which kills airborne germs and bacteria. The tower AC4825 3-in-1 Air Cleaning System is a complete air cleaning system that features a sleek, compact design and multiple levels of cleaning to capture allergens, kill airborne germs and bacteria, and fight mold and odours. It is also introducing two digital LCD display models which allow for easy setting and timing of the power, fan and UV-C control.
• Tjernlund Products, Inc.’s  ‘XCHANGER’ is an energy-saving fan that is capable of automatically and simultaneously ridding basements or other areas of stale, musty, or smelly air and drawing in fresh outside air. Installed in an outside wall, it features two reversible 90 CFM fans that can be positioned to move air in either direction. While the initial cost is comparable to a dehumidifier, its dual fans use 35 watts of electricity compared to more than 1,000 watts for the typical portable dehumidifier.
• The Earlex Spray Station 5500 is a professional unit designed for the light contractor, occasional maintenance person, woodworker, and serious DIY enthusiast. For use in the workshop, garden, or home, both water-based and oil-based coatings can be applied using it. It has on-board storage for the spray gun, a long carry handle for easy portability, a spray-gun cleaning kit, and a one-quart pro-gun with Teflon-coated paint container.

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March 23, 2011

ecoEnergy Program Extended

The federal government will extend the ecoEnergy program for one year. That is one of the measures that will have an impact on business outlined in the 2011 Canadian Federal Budget. The ecoENERGY retrofit program has the added benefit of encouraging people to work with legitimate renovators, says Vince Laberge, president of the Canadian Home Builders' Association (CHBA). It will bolster the government's efforts to combat the underground cash economy in home renovation services. "Illegal contracting creates problems for consumers, costs jobs and income, undermines our continuous efforts to build a professional industry and costs governments billions of dollars annually in lost revenue." The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is welcoming the introduction of a one-time hiring credit of $1,000 for small businesses to offset increases in EI premiums. Roughly 525,000 small businesses will be eligible for the temporary hiring credit that promises to reduce their collective 2011 payroll costs by about $165 million. It is available to employers whose total EI premiums were $10,000 or less in 2010. The government will also review the current rules for Employee Profit Sharing Plansto address concerns that some business owners are using them “inappropriately” by directing profits to an EPSP for the benefit of family members and/or to avoid payroll levies such as CPP and EI. The budget also proposes a measure to eliminate a perceived abuse through the use of corporate partnerships.  In certain cases, partnerships are being used by corporations to defer taxes especially given the declining tax rates.

Retail Sales Dip In January

Retail sales decreased 0.3 per cent to $37.1 billion in January, the second decline in two months, says Statistics Canada. Sales in volume terms decreased 0.6 per cent. Lower sales were reported in seven of 11 subsectors, representing 55 per cent of total retail sales. For a third time in four months, higher sales were reported at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers. They reported sales increases of one per cent.

British Women Prefer Professionals

British women would rather hire a professional than let their partner do DIY around their house. A survey by MyHammer, a website which brings together customers and tradesmen, found 61 per cent of women prefer paying a professional over inhouse free labour. Almost 60 per cent felt they could only rely on their partner for the very basic DIY tasks. The list of the jobs they felt their partners could not complete to a good standard were fitting a kitchen, tiling a bathroom, laying flooring, replacing a plug socket, and wallpapering. Nearly half of the women questioned dread their partner doing any DIY and yet 59 per cent of improvements in the home are attempted by men.

Composite Index Rises In February

The composite leading index rose 0.8 per cent in February, double its gain in each of the previous three months and its largest advance since May 2010, says Statistics Canada. The increase was broadly-based, with nine of the 10 components posting gains in February compared with five rising the month before. A turnaround in manufacturing contributed to the overall increase in the index. In manufacturing, new orders for durable goods rebounded one per cent after three straight declines.

CertainTeed Issues Sustainable Report

As part of its company-wide commitment to manufacturing environmentally conscious building products, CertainTeed Corporation, a North American manufacturer of exterior and interior building products, has issued its first corporate sustainability report. The report highlights recent steps the company has taken ‒ and achievements made ‒ on the path to becoming an increasingly sustainable company. One of its most notable environmental achievements was a substantial reduction in energy use by its facilities, a savings that kept more than 70,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions from entering the atmosphere.

Owens Corning Expands Production In Mexico

Owens Corning Inc. will build a new furnace to expand production capacity at its glass reinforcement plant in Mexico. The construction of the furnace at the Tlaxcala facility is aimed at helping meet rising demand for glass reinforcements. Owens Corning previously announced similar steps to boost production capacity at facilities in China, Russia, and Italy.

Ekstein Has New Position

Steve Ekstein is executive vice-president and vice-president of distribution at Weston Forest Products Inc. He joined the company in 1987 is now taking full responsibility for growing market share in the industrial and infrastructure sectors. Steve Rhone is vice-president of operations. A career lumberman at the company, he joined it in 1987 as a general labourer.  He has served as U.S. sales manager, North American sales manager, and hardwood purchasing manager. Steven Rustja is vice-president of trading. He joined in 2001 as a salesperson and was put in charge of a small sales team in 2004. Rob Hruby is vice-president of purchasing. He has held numerous positions in the industry including vice-president of purchasing at Great Lakes MSR Lumber and president of Georgian Bay Forest Products.

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March 22, 2011

Trex Takes Show On Road

The Trex Outdoor Living Road Show will once again be traveling North America to bring outdoor living innovation and inspiration to consumers. Now in its fourth consecutive year, the mobile marketing unit provides an opportunity for both homeowners and retailers in participating markets to interact with Trex products and experience the brand’s user-friendly online resources. Ron Kaplan, chairman, president, and CEO of Trex, says “We value the opportunity to not only educate and inspire consumers, but also to hear feedback and address needs for specific products and resources.” Wrapped with colourful visuals and brand messaging, the show provides an opportunity for consumers to obtain all the information and tools necessary to complete their own outdoor living projects. It will visit retail locations and home shows throughout the south, northeast, and midwest – as well as Ontario – before concluding in San Diego, CA, in June. 

Activant Works With ALLPRO

Activant Solutions Inc. has signed a technology vendor agreement with ALLPRO Corporation which will see the two work together to bring the benefits of Activant's technology and solutions, along with cost savings, to ALLPRO members. ALLPRO is a business-to-business buying co-operative comprised of a network of independently owned paint and decorating products dealers throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and Ireland. It currently serves 270 companies who collectively represent approximately 1,300 storefronts. Activant will offer these retailers the technology and services they need to improve business efficiency and performance.

Quanex Buys Edgetech

Quanex Building Products Corp. is purchasing Edgetech I.G., a maker of warm edge insulating glass spacer systems for window and door customers in North America and abroad. Edgetech has three manufacturing plants in the United States, Germany, and the U.K. Its products separate and seal double and triple pane glass within a window and further act as a thermal barrier to conserve energy. It will be part of Quanex’s engineered products group. Quanex Building Products is a publicly held manufacturer of engineered materials, components, and systems, serving the U.S residential window and door markets.

No Evidence Of Safety Hazard

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have found no evidence of a safety hazard to home electrical systems related to drywall imported from China. Their study did not observe any acute or long-term electrical safety events, such as smoking or fire. Corrosion and blackening of the exposed electrical components did occur and was observed to be consistent with the characteristic corrosion reported to CPSC by thousands of consumers. The drywall was imported during 2006 and 2007 and was installed as late as 2009.

Fewer Americans Buying Resales

Fewer Americans bought previously occupied homes in February and those who did purchased them at steep discount, says the National Association of Realtors. Sales of previously occupied homes fell last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.88 million, down 9.6 per cent from 5.4 million in January. The weak sales and rise in foreclosures pushed home prices down to their lowest level in nearly nine years.

RONA, MLSE Fix Up Skating Rink

The RONA inc. and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment’s Team Up Foundation will refurbish the Burnhamthorpe Community Centre’s outdoor rink in Mississauga, ON. It marks the 26th project undertaken through the program and the seventh such partnership involving RONA. Upgrades and improvements to the outdoor skating rink include a new skate flooring, Plexiglas board completion, the installation of protective netting, and repairs and improvements to the arena board gates as well as the replacement and addition of plastic benching to the outdoor change area.

Retail Research Event Planned

‘At the Retail Frontier: U.S. Retailers in Canada’ and ‘Scanning the Radar of Retail Development’ will be among the areas covered at the Canadian Retail Research Seminar. It will also feature a ‘Canadian and U.S. Economic and Consumer Outlook.’ It takes place May 10 at Ryerson University in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit http://www.icsc.org

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March 21, 2011

RONA Stores Pool Strength

Three RONA inc. stores in the Greater Toronto Area of Ontario have pooled their separate strengths into a single retail force to deliver a full range of quality products and services to the local communities. "By sharing our management, inventory, and services, our goal is to become a triple shopping destination for the region," says Benoit Leduc, vice-president of retail for Ontario.” The new arrangement also aims to further improve the level of service and the choice of products in the Scarborough and Markham areas. The three locations will share employees and expertise and are located within a 10-minute drive of each other. They and will be operated as one unit.

Canadian Tire Tries New Approach

Canadian Tire has launched a fully integrated, new consumer campaign designed to position the company as Canada's authority for fulfilling the jobs and joys of everyday life. Featuring consumers facing daunting tasks and saying, ‘Bring it On,’ the campaign replaces the current ‘For Days Like Today’ creative that has been in place since 2008. Rob Shields, senior vice-president of marketing, says "the campaign is far edgier than some of our more sentimental campaigns and gets straight to the heart of why Canadians love shopping at Canadian Tire." The new campaign features Canadians saying, ‘bring it on’ to the everyday realities of everything from repairing a yard ravaged by winter to barbecuing in the rain or spring cleaning the house or car.

Manufacturing Sales Hit High In Janaury

Canadian manufacturing sales hit a 26-month high in January, up 4.5 per cent to $47.7 billion, says Statistics Canada. Higher sales were reported in 17 of 21 industries, representing 87 per cent of total manufacturing. Regionally, manufacturing sales were higher in four provinces in January, representing 81 per cent of total manufacturing. They were Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and New Brunswick.

American Discount Store Opens In Toronto

American discount store Marshalls has opened its doors for the first time in the Toronto, ON, area. Similar to Winners, it carries brand name goods at discounted prices. Owned by TJX Companies, it has over 750 conventional stores, as well as larger stores named Marshalls Mega Store, and covers 42 states and Puerto Rico.

Home Depot Opening New BC Store

Home Depot will open a store in Chilliwack, BC, April 7. The 80,000-square foot store will include a special home decor section, more than 40,000 products, an expansive outdoor garden area, a tool rental centre, and installation services. Home improvement workshops will be offered at the store on topics such as how to build a deck, installing energy-efficient lighting, and updating kitchens.

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March 18, 2011

TOTEM Store Opens In Edmonton

TOTEM Building Supplies has opened a 52,000-square-foot store in Edmonton, AB, the 19th TOTEM location in Alberta and the sixth in the Edmonton area. The new location represents an investment of close to $20 million in the community and will provide more than 50 local jobs. It is also the banner’s second to apply for a LEED certification, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design assessment system for new buildings construction. It features a two-acre drive-through lumberyard as well as dedicated entrance and service area for contractors.

Economic Activity Rises

Economic activity in the U.S. rose 0.8 per cent in February, as the job market showed improvement and consumers were more optimistic, says the Conference Board's index of leading economic indicators. February's pace was faster than the previous month's, when the index rose just 0.1 per cent, but lower than December's one per cent. While data points to an improving economy, rising food and energy prices could affect economic growth, the Conference Board says. Eight of the 10 components in the index increased last month, led by a measure of interest rates that has historically pointed at a quickening economy and rising prices. Rising stock prices and a rise in the number of average weekly hours worked in manufacturing also boosted the index. A plunge in building permits was the main drag on the index, a sign that housing is still far from seeing a recovery.

Consumer Confidence Loses Steam

TNS Canada's Monthly Consumer Confidence Indexlost the gain of 1.3 points from February, dropping back down to 98.4 from 99.7. The drop is solely attributable to concerns about future prospects. Canadians' still feel good about their economic situation right now, as the present situation index rose another full three points (from 94.5 to 97.4). However, the ‘Expectations Index,’ whichhad been climbing steadily for the last six months, lost almost four points in March. Consumers continue to watch their spending plans carefully, with the ‘Buy Index,’which measures consumers' intent to purchase ‘big ticket items,’ showing an even sharper decline in March. "Canadians are watching events closely, and it will likely take some stability in the Middle East, some relief at the pumps, and some progress in alleviating the suffering in Japan before our outlook improves," says Norman Baillie-David, vice-president of TNS.  

Liquidation World Reduces Head Office

Liquidation World Inc. will attempt to reduce its operating expenses by in excess of $2 million on an annualized basis through a reduction-in-workforce of approximately 20 positions. These reductions include its vice-presidents of marketing, human resources, and real estate as well as its chief merchandising officer position. The reductions will take place between March and August of this year. In addition, it has retained Insight Group, a global specialist in supply chain optimization, to assist in the roll out of cost reduction measures, distribution synergies, and optimization of the company's two Canadian distribution centres.

Canadian Tire Reports On Sustainability 

Canadian Tire Corporation, Limited released the results of its business sustainability strategy from 2010. In fiscal 2010, it completed 389 initiatives, forecasted to annually avoid approximately $6 million in costs, 610 tonnes of waste, and more than 7,800 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. These initiatives focused on three key areas – products, product transport, and buildings – and included reduced packaging, fuel efficiency enhancements to fleet vehicles, new energy efficient store lighting, heating and cooling systems, and central energy management. Canadian Tire also contributed $17.9 million to government-mandated community blue box and industry product stewardship and recycling programs in 2010. It has further integrated sustainability into its day-to-day operations by including sustainability objectives into 2011 operating plans and having a committee of the board of directors to oversee efforts.

ICSC Conference Program Improved

The program for the ‘2011 ICSC Quebec Conference’ has been revised and improved to maximize education content and networking opportunities. More than 950 delegates are expected to attend including 400 retailers. It takes place June 15 and 16 at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, QC. For more information, visit http://www.icsc.org/

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March 17, 2011

U.S. Home Construction Plummets

U.S. home construction dropped 22.5 per cent in February from January to a seasonally adjusted 479,000 homes, the Commerce Department says, the lowest level since April 2009 and the second lowest on records dating back more than a half-century. The decline followed a surge in apartment construction in January that pushed overall construction up to more than 600,000 units, the fastest rate in 20 months. Single-family homes fell 11.8 per cent in February. Apartment and condominium construction dropped 47 per cent, reversing much of January's gains. Building permits fell 8.1 per cent last month to the lowest level on record dating back to 1960.

Richelieu Closes Acquisitions

Richelieu Hardware Ltd. has closed two acquisitions, bringing to nine the number of businesses acquired since the beginning of 2010. The company acquired Madico Distribution Inc., a Canadian producer of floor-protection products such as Feltac, Feltac Ultra, Slidex, Anti-Skid, Solid Wood Ultra Cups, and Pro-tec-tors. Furthermore, Richelieu acquired 85 per cent of the shares of Provincial Woodproducts Ltd., a Newfoundland-based distributor of hardware, finishing products, panels, and hardwood floors. These two projects, together with seven previously announced acquisitions, represent potential sales of approximately $100 million on an annualized basis.

March 17 Weekly Product Spotlight

• The French-Victorian inspired Trilogy of baths by MTI Whirlpools includes ‘The Parisian,’ a traditional freestanding tub that comes in white; ‘The Versailles,’ a freestanding tub in transitional style which comes in 15 designer colours; and ‘The Normandy,’ made to drop into an enclosure, it retains the rolled lip that defines the trilogy.
• Price Pfister’s ‘Elevate’ provides users with the freedom to customize faucet height. Its adjustable spout offers more control, allowing one to change style and functionality whenever desired. It also has an ergonomic pullout sprayer and swivels 360 degrees for greater maneuverability.
• Fisher & Paykel's French Door Refrigerators features ‘Active SmartT’ technology, automatic ice making, chilled and filtered water on demand, and strong extendable storage drawers. Active Smart system has two variable speed fans, providing faster cooling and freezing with an even temperature throughout each level. The system continuously adjusts the flow of cold air based on daily use and climatic conditions, ensuring it quickly reaches the safe temperature for maintaining freshness. 

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March 16, 2011

TruServ Adds District Managers

TruServ Canada has added four western district managers to its field team. Darrin Grace is district manager, Southern Alberta; Duncan Jacob is district manager, Northern BC and Yukon; Ruben Orellana is district manager for Central Alberta and the North West Territories; and Tony Perillo is district manager for Eastern Manitoba and north-western Ontario. Dealers in these districts will be notified of these changes and visited over the coming weeks by the managers. They will also be available to meet everyone at the Spring Market from April 16 to 18 at the Winnipeg Convention Centre in Winnipeg, MB. They report to Bonnie Birollo, director, sales, and business development (West).

Homebuilder Optimism Edges Up

The outlook for homebuilders' improved slightly this month, despite falling home prices and a weak pace of construction, says the National Association of Home Builders. Its index of industry sentiment for March improved slightly to 17, the first gain in five months after four straight readings of 16. Readings below 50 indicate negative sentiment about the market. The index hasn't been above that level since April 2006. Economists say home prices will hit bottom this year before a modest recovery takes hold. Hard-hit states ‒ including Arizona, California, Florida, and Nevada ‒ continue to struggle with foreclosures and short sales, when a lender allows a borrower to sell their property for less than what is owed. Still, the March reading is the highest for the builder index since last May, when it reached 22. The spring season is traditionally the best for home sales.

Retailers Should Embrace Channel Blurring

Retailers often focus their merchandising, branding, marketing, and advertising campaigns on perceived needs of a hypothetical “core customer.” But given the prevalence of cross shopping and channel-blurring, some chains would do well to broaden their horizons by looking past these carefully crafted composite characters, says Joseph R. Bona, president of the Retail Division for global branding firm CBX. In ‘Seeing Past the core customer, channel-blurring means retailers should embrace complexity – and even paradox,’ Bona says. Malls that once relied on upscale, fashion-forward tenant lineups, for example, are now welcoming Costco and Target to backfill vacated department store spaces. Convenience stores are transforming into something akin to a quick-serve restaurant, replete with cafés and prepared meals. Given these changes, many retailers could discover new opportunities by reaching out to the heterogeneous mix that is their customer base.

Williams-Sonoma Net Income Rises

Williams-Sonoma Inc.'s fiscal fourth-quarter net income rose 28 per cent, thanks in part to strong sales at its outlet stores and online. The company, which runs Pottery Barn, West Elm, its namesake stores, and other brands, earned $113.4 million for the period ended January 30, up from $88.4 million a year ago.

Loss Prevention Experts Co-host Event

The Retail Council of Canada (RCC) will host its ‘2nd Annual Retail Security Conference and Expo’ in Toronto, ON, March 24, at the Woodbine Entertainment Complex. i3 International, digital security video technology firm; and Checkpoint Systems, a global provider  of shrink management, will be joining forces with the RCC to organize and co-host the event. For more information, visit http://www.i3international.com

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March 15, 2011

OSRAM Names President

James (Jim) L. Johnson, Jr. is president of OSRAM SYLVANIA LTD. In this role, he will oversee the company’s sales, operations, and support functions including the trade, retail, and automotive lighting sales channels and the SYLVANIA lighting services division. He joined GTE Sylvania, the predecessor of OSRAM SYLVANIA, in 1985 and has held positions of increasing responsibility. 

Businesses Not Passing To Next Generation

Nearly half (49 per cent) of Canadian family business owners have not chosen their next business leader, exposing a lack of succession planning, says the Canadian results of PwC's latest ‘Global Family Business Survey.’ The study found less than half (48 per cent) of Canadian family business owners plan on passing their family business onto the next generation – a significant drop from 90 per cent in 2007. Many, then, are making non-traditional decisions about their business with a large number opting to sell or choosing not to pass the company along to family. Within the next five years, it found 27 per cent of owners anticipate a change in ownership; among those, 33 per cent plan to sell to a private equity investor, up from 14 per cent in 2007, while 22 per cent plan to sell to a management team. Half of respondents say their companies were owned by the first generation, 34 per cent by the second generation, and only 16 per cent by the third or more generations.

Men, Women View Wallets Differently

Men appear to be more faithful to loyalty programs than women, says a survey conducted on behalf of the AIR MILES Reward Program. More than 80 per cent of women belong to more than one loyalty program compared to only 69 per cent of men. And one in four women carry at least five loyalty cards which can lead to ‘wallet bulge.’ "Women may look to make the most out of every purchase, signing up for a variety of loyalty programs while men tend to have more credit cards,” says Patrick Sojka, Canada's rewards expert. Men and women view their wallets and what goes in them in different ways.  When it comes to credit cards, men are more likely to have more than one credit card (61 per cent versus 53 per cent), and 25 per cent of men say they have too many credit cards in their wallet. Men also appear to be more ‘hands on’ about managing their credit cards: 42 per cent agree that they need to reassess the credit cards they have to make sure they are 'working' for them, compared to 35 per cent of women.

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March 14, 2011

TIM-BR MARTS Acquires IRLY

TIM-BR MARTS Ltd. has acquired IRLY Distributors Ltd., wholly owned by IRLY Building Centre dealers, which includes distribution, lumber, building material, and hardware inventory assets. All 46 IRLY locations will become members of TIM-BR MARTS Ltd. and, under the terms of the agreement, dealers may choose to keep the registered name of ‘IRLY Building Centres’ only, co-brand with ‘TIM-BR MART,’ or convert and become a fully branded TIM-BR MART location. Tim Urquhart, president and CEO, says “We knew we needed a distribution centre on the west coast, there was a gap in our infrastructure; this arrangement addresses that need. Plus it will allow our import program to grow by giving us the ability to land goods and ship to our dealers and customers quickly and efficiently.”

Dorel Posts Strong Quarter

Dorel Industries Inc.’s fourth-quarter revenue decreased 1.1 per cent to $539.5 million from $545.3 million a year ago. Quarterly net income rose 4.2 per cent to $25.2million, from $24.2 million last year. Revenue for the full year rose 8.1 per cent to $2.3 billion as compared to $2.1 billion in 2009. Despite a challenging quarter, reduced consumer discretionary spending, and rising input costs, the company says it was able to deliver revenue growth of over eight per cent and improved earnings over the prior year.

Lighting Science Group Appoints Vice-president

Jose Sierra is vice-president of customer satisfaction for Lighting Science Group. The company, with offices around the world, designs, develops, manufactures, and markets LED products.

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March 11, 2011

Builders Expect Tight Year Ahead

Canadian builders expect a third consecutive year of lower profits in 2011 as spending on new homes declines, says The Conference Board of Canada’s ‘Canadian Industrial Outlook: Canada’s Residential Construction Industry - Winter 2011.’ New mortgage lending rules, elevated levels of consumer debt, and anticipated mortgage rate increases are some of the factors restricting new home sales this year, it says. Demand will pick up next year as lending policy changes fade, but housing starts are not expected to return to pre-recession levels of more than 220,000 units per year. Housing starts are expected to average 175,000 units this year, down from 190,000 in 2010. Containing costs will continue to be an issue for builders, as prices for building materials rise and skilled trades shortages lead to above-average wage growth. Pre-tax profits are expected to fall by 5.3 per cent to $1.8 billion in 2011, their lowest annual level since 2004. Industry profitability will steadily improve beginning in 2012, but costs and competitive pressures are expected to keep margins tight over the next four years.

Wal-Mart Expanding Pick Up Services

Wal-Mart is expanding its program that allows customers to pick up online orders at stores as a way of attracting people who prefer the convenience of Web shopping but want same-day satisfaction. It currently offers the service on about 2,000 items in 750 stores but it is expanding it to all stores and applying it to 40,000 items, including baby items, toys, electronics, video games, and appliances. Groceries are not part of the program. Online orders are usually ready in about four hours at a dedicated counter in stores for pick up by customers.

Lumber Liquidators Opens Toronto Stores

Lumber Liquidators has opened its first two Canadian stores, both located in Toronto, ON. It plans to open a third Toronto area store next week. The company says it will open 40 to 50 new stores in North America for 2011, with 35 to 40 in the U.S. and the remainder in Canada.

U.S. Renovation Spending To Rebound

The U.S. home-improvement industry is poised for a revival this year as those who saved are now ready to update kitchens and bathrooms, says Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Spending on remodelling is expected to rise 9.2 per cent to $125.1 billion in the first quarter from $114.6 billion a year earlier. Spending on renovations may increase 3.5 per cent annually through 2015, following a decline that started in the third quarter of 2007 and sent spending to a six-year low of $112 billion in 2009.

CertainTeed Offering BIM

CertainTeed Corporation now offers architects, contractors, spec writers, and building engineers a line of Building Information Modeling (BIM) objects for use in project design and specification. CertainTeed joined forces with ARCAT, Inc. to create the objects ‒ 3D models with embedded data ‒ for its fibreglass and spray foam insulation product lines. The objects enable a project to be shown in a three-dimensional model and include all the additional properties that go along with it including specification documents, technical data sheets, and relevant product websites. It can be accessed at www.ARCAT.com or www.certainteed.com

Niagara Home Show Announced

The 1st Annual Greater Niagara Region Home & Garden Show is scheduled for April 8 to 10 at the Scotiabank Convention Centre, Niagara Falls, ON. The show will feature everything from a home improvement zone to trends in kitchen and bath and windows and doors. For more information, visit http://www.niagarahomeandgardenshow.ca

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March 10, 2011

Castle Adds Three In Newfoundland

Castle Building Centres Group Ltd. is adding three members in Newfoundland to its expanding network of independent dealers. They include Power Brothers Inc, which commenced operations in 1983; Cavendish Castle Building Centre, which began as Norm’s Lumberyard in Newfoundland’s Trinity area; and Burden’s Building Supplies, a family owned hardware store that has served Northern Newfoundland since 1958.

Small Businesses Reluctant To Take Risks

Canadian small business owners are still waiting for the economic recovery and are increasingly reluctant to take risks with their business, says the quarterly American Express ‘Small Business Monitor’ conducted by Angus Reid. Willingness among Canadian small business to take “significant" or "above average" risks has fallen to 16 per cent from 25 per cent a year ago. Respondents said they were less willing to make significant capital investments, dig into lines of credit, or extend payment terms to customers than they were three months ago. Only two per cent of the 568 people surveyed said they were willing to take on "significant" risk. Fewer than half (47 per cent) categorize themselves as "hopeful" that their financial position will improve, down eight points over the past year. More than a third said that their most important priority is to maintain their current business, while 28 per cent have made growth their main priority. Being more innovative was the main priority for 14 per cent. And less than a quarter (23 per cent) have sought new or increased credit in the last six months, suggesting any "Dream Big" plans are on hold.

Canadians Confident About Real Estate

A strong majority of Canadians (90 per cent) are confident about real estate and 85 per cent feel that they are doing a good or excellent job of paying down their mortgage, says the ‘18th Annual RBC Homeownership Study.’ Seventy-three per cent believe that they or their family are well-positioned to weather a housing drop. Interest in purchasing a home over the next two years has declined slightly, but remains high overall, as 29 per cent say it's likely they will buy. This is down two points from 2010 yet higher than any other year since 2006. Compared to last year, fewer Canadians are saying it's better to buy now (55 per cent, a drop of 12 points) than wait (45 per cent, up 12 points). Among those likely to buy, over half (57 per cent) are looking to buy within 18 to 24 months while almost one-quarter (24 per cent) are planning to buy in the next year.

March 10 Weekly Product Spotlight

• Starborn Industries, Inc. introduced ‘Cap-Tor,’ a high-performance fastener specifically designed for use with capstock (co-extruded) decking as well as for traditional composite decking. The specially engineered head and thread design addresses common challenges associated with fastening capstock decking, such as curled waste, dimpling, and white shear.
• Hyde Tools’ electric version of its ‘Pivot Nozzle Wand’ for gas pressure washers is suitable for cleaning decks, siding, trucks, ATVs, and worksites. It features a simple slide handle that pivots the nozzle as you work, allowing you to reach all around obstacles while maintaining maximum power. The addition to the line comes with four connectors and fits any major brand of electric pressure washer.
• Moen Canada’s ‘Brantford’ collection brings modern convenience to traditionally styled kitchens. It includes elegant high-arc, multi-function pulldown wands and docking systems that allow users to switch between several water-flow patterns with the touch of a button. It is offered in chrome, stainless, and oil rubbed bronze.

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March 9, 2011

Housing Sector Stabilizing

The Canadian housing sector is settling to a sustainable level, easing worries of super-low interest rates triggering a housing bubble, says the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC). It reports the seasonally adjusted annual rate of starts rose 6.5 per cent in February to 181,900 units from 170,600 in January, higher than predicted but still below year-ago levels. February’s gain in starts was due primarily to increased activity in the multi-family starts in Ontario and the Prairies. The seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts increased by 9.4 per cent to 161,000 units in February. Urban multiple starts were up by 14.5 per cent in February to 94,900 units, while single urban starts edged higher by three per cent to 66,100 units. Rural starts were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 20,900 units in February.

Consumers More Confident

Canadian consumers are more confident now than they were in November of last year, says the Harris/Decima-Investor's Group ‘Measure of Consumer Confidence.’ Positivity also extended to their personal financial well-being and the short- and medium-term outlook. In Canada, overall consumer confidence increased from 82.8 last November to 86.2 today. In the U.S., the measure stands at 77.5, an increase from 71.6. Nineteen per cent of Canadians indicated they were better off financially compared to a year ago, while 21 per cent feel worse off – a slight improvement from levels recorded in the final quarter of 2010. In total, 31 per cent believe they will be better off a year from now, up from the 27 per cent recorded in the last wave. One in four Canadians (24 per cent) sees good times ahead for the economy in the next 12 months, a jump from 19 per cent. Half (51 per cent) believe that now is a good time to make a major purchase.  Nationally, 31 per cent believe it is a bad time to make such a purchase.  In November, this split was 50-35 per cent.

CertainTeed Enhances Website

CertainTeed Corporation has enhanced its website with a new building science ‘sitelet’ that provides information, educational tools, technical resources, and animations of heat, air, and moisture flow within buildings. It was developed specifically for building and design professionals interested in building forensics and building physics. Topics covered include acoustics, fire performance, indoor environmental quality, moisture management, sustainability, and energy efficiency. It is available at www.certainteed.com/buildingscience

NHS To Showcase New Products

The 2011 National Hardware Show – May 10-12 in Las Vegas, NV – will feature a range of new products from companies such as 3M, Robert Bosch Tool Corporation, SKIL, Ryobi/Ridgid, Char-broil, The Coleman Co., and Jarden Safety & Security. The event will showcase innovations in hardware and tools, homewares, lawn and garden/outdoor living, paint and accessories, plumbing and electrical, storage and organization, and tailgate/outdoor recreation, as well as categories in the international sourcing area. There will be four areas devoted to new products at the show, including the ‘New Product Launch Spotlight,’ with a visible location in the lobby of the Central Hall. For more information, visit www.nationalhardwareshow.com

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March 8, 2011

Building Permit Value Drops

The value of building permits issued by municipalities dropped 5.1 per cent to $5.4 billion in January, says Statistics Canada. The decline was due to lower construction intentions, particularly in the residential sector in Ontario and the non-residential sector in Alberta and British Columbia. In the residential sector, value fell 0.9 per cent to $3.7 billion following a 19.6 per cent increase in December. The decrease in January occurred mainly as a result of declines in the value for multiple dwellings in Ontario, following an increase in December. The total value of building permits decreased in six provinces, led by Ontario and Alberta, with Quebec recording the largest increase.

Homebuyer Preferences Revealed

Canadian homebuyers are divided on whether to buy a brand-new home or a fixer-upper, says the ‘2011 TD Canada Trust Home Buyers Report.’ Half would prefer a new home because everything will work perfectly (25 per cent) and it hasn't been lived in before (24 per cent), while the other half prefer older homes, which they feel offer better quality (34 per cent) or have more character (17 per cent). The report also found that men are more likely than women to prefer a fixer-upper because it is more affordable (14 per cent versus eight per cent) and because they can renovate to their taste (37 per cent versus 29 per cent). Overall, Canadians say the most important consideration when buying is cost (97 per cent). Other important factors are features of the home (94 per cent), size (93 per cent), security and safety (92 per cent), and location (91 per cent). 

Session Looks at Challenges Of Coming To Canada

‘Growing Pains: The Challenges U.S. Retailers Face When Coming to Canada’ is the topic of an International Council of Shopping Centers’ Toronto Next Generation Breakfast Program. Jerod Dinkin, director of real estate for Bed Bath and Beyond will shed some light on some of the challenges U.S. retailers face when coming to Canada. It takes place March 30 in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit http://www.icsc.org

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March 7, 2011

Home Depot Canada Names President

Bill Lennie is president, Home Depot Canada, replacing Aaron Carmack who is taking an extended leave of absence to attend to a personal illness. Lennie served most recently as the company’s vice-president of merchandising, international and sourcing. He began his career at The Home Depot began in 1992, when he joined as a merchant for millwork and building materials. Carmack will assume a different role when he returns.

Royal Group Open U.S. DC

Woodbridge, ON-based Royal Group Inc. has opened a distribution centre in Bristol, TN, for its Royal Window and Door Profiles division, its first in the U.S. The Southern Patio Door Distribution Center is being co-located with a Royal Mouldings manufacturing facility. “Our growing customer base in the eastern U.S. necessitates an expanded presence in the region to better support our customers and increased demand for our patio door products,” says Mark Fanelli, general manager.

Tembec Secures Revolving Credit Facility

Tembec has entered into a $200 million asset-based secured revolving credit facility with GE Capital and CIBC. The new five-year facility expires in February 2016 and will effectively replace an existing $205 million revolving credit facility that would have expired in December 2011. The facility has a first priority charge over the receivables and inventories of the company's Canadian operations. The terms of the new facility will provide for an increase in availability of approximately $60 million due primarily to a reduction in borrowing base reserves. After giving effect to the increased availability, the company's total liquidity will be approximately $190 million.

Small Business Impact Challenge Kicks Off

Scotiabank, in partnership with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), has launched the ‘Small Business Big Impact Challenge,’ which highlights owners who are positively impacting their communities in the areas of employment, innovative products, services, and leadership. The top 15 entries will be evaluated by a small-business judging panel which will then select the three finalists to be awarded $10,000 each. The challenge ends on April 30, 2011, and all Canadians are encouraged to visit the website to vote for their favourite small business. For more information, visit www.getgrowingforbusiness.com

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March 4, 2011

JELD-WEN Sells Vinyl Extrusion Assets

JELD-WEN has sold part of its vinyl extrusion plant in Yakima, WA, to Quanex Building Products, a long-time business partner of JELD-WEN, according to the Portland Business Journal. Quanex will buy the equipment and other assets from the extrusion operation and will continue to contract with JELD-WEN for extrusions and other materials. JELD-WEN had been producing materials for its window products at the site since 2007.

U.S. Construction Spending Down In January

U.S. construction spending fell 0.7 per cent in January to an annual rate of $791.82 billion, says the Commerce Department, the lowest level since August. Private construction spending decreased 1.2 per cent and investment in non-residential construction dropped 6.9 per cent, the lowest since August 2004. However, residential construction in January rose by 5.3 per cent to $245.6 billion. Spending on public construction fell 0.1 per cent, the report said, while federal construction spending increased 9.1 per cent.

Armstrong Posts Fourth-quarter Loss

Armstrong World Industries, Inc. reported fourth quarter net sales of $642.9 million, down two per cent from $653 million in the same period last year. Quarterly net loss was $21 million for the flooring and cabinets producer, compared to a loss of $3.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2009. Wood flooring unit sales, which make up about 17 per cent of total revenue, decreased 11 per cent and was negatively impacted by a $20 million increase in lumber pricing, the company says.

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March 3, 2011

Boise Cascade Reports Loss

Boise Cascade Holdings, L.L.C. posted a $16.2 million net loss for its fourth quarter and a $6.1 million full year 2010 net loss. Quarterly sales for the building materials distribution segment grew nine per cent to $402.7 million, while sales in the wood products division increased 14 per cent to $156.6 million. The Boise, ID-based timber producer attributed the gain to a 12 per cent boost in plywood sales volumes and 13 per cent higher laminated veneer prices. It says prices of engineered wood products improved and that it was able to lower its per-unit plywood panel manufacturing costs.

Costco Up For Second Quarter

Costco reported second-quarter earnings of $348 million, compared to $299 million in the same quarter last year. Quarterly net sales rose 11 per cent to $20.45 billion, on same-store sales growth of seven per cent overall. Same-store sales increased five per cent in the U.S. and 12 per cent internationally.

Lumber Liquidators Names Merchandising Chief

William Schlegel is chief merchandising officer for Lumber Liquidators, effective March 14, 2011. In this position, he will direct merchandising, replenishment, allocation, and global sourcing activities for the company.

March 3 Weekly Product Spotlight

• Moxie Trades has expanded its fashionable line of women’s safety gear to include a metal-free athletic runner, static-dissipating athletic runner, slip-ons, oxfords, light duty work boots, fall/winter safety boots, and eight-inch work boots. The apparel line includes denim overalls, carpenter pants, coveralls, hard hats, tool belts, safety harnesses, and safety glasses.  
• Pfifer’s ‘UltraVue Excellent Visibility Insect Screen’ provides a "total" window-screening package. It promises a sharp, more brilliant view; improved day lighting; better ventilation; and protection from disease-carrying insects. It comes with 15 per cent greater openness over conventional insect screening and 25 per cent better airflow for breezes and ventilation.

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March 2, 2011

Walmart Canada Honours Globe Electric

Walmart Canada has named Globe Electric Company Inc. ‘Vendor Partner of the Year’ in the hardlines category. Globe is a North American manufacturer and distributor of residential bulbs, electrical, and lighting products. "We are extremely humbled to have been recognized amongst many leading companies in the consumer products industry," says Edward Weinstein, Globe Electric's president and CEO.

Ace Fourth Quarter Improves

Ace Hardware reported total revenues of $859.3 million for the fourth quarter, an increase of $59 million or 7.4 per cent from the same period last year. Quarterly net income was $20.6 million, an increase of $8.2 million or 65.1 per cent, compared to $12.4 million in 2009. For the full year, total revenues were $3.5 billion, an increase of $73.5 million or 2.1 per cent from fiscal 2009. Net income was $75.1 million for fiscal 2010, a decrease of $20.6 million or 21.5 per cent, compared to $95.7 million in fiscal 2009.

LEED Scoring Tool Launched

The U.S. Green Building Council has launched an online scoring tool for green homes and to explore the LEED home building program. It features a rating system that provides either a ‘Quick Score’ path and a deeper dive ‘Credit by Credit’ path, allowing a project team to understand which green features they want to incorporate into a new green home. “The LEED for Homes Scoring Tool will help fill in the gaps for home builders and home owners alike,” says Nate Kredich, vice-president of residential market development. The tool is available at http://www.leedforhomes.org

Liquidation World Closes Financing

Liquidation World Inc. has successfully closed the first tranche of private placement financing, expected to generate more than $7 million (up to a maximum of $9.2 million). The company issued 595 units at $10,000 each, generating aggregate gross proceeds of $5.95 million. The financing puts it in a stronger financial position, the company says, allowing it to source new deals for its customers and continue to convert legacy stores to the new ‘LW - Everybody's Outlet Store’ brand.

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March 1, 2011

Retail Sales Steady In 2011

Retail sales will rise 5.1 per cent this year, the same as in 2010, says a study by retail consultancy KubasPrimedia. It says core segments such as food and drug stores will contribute more to the 2011 sales results while the automobile business will make a little less of a difference than a year earlier. However, if meaningful economic recovery finally does arrive in 2011, the stage could be set for significant improvement in the back half of the year. Last year, total retail sales hit $436.5 billion, an increase over pre-recession times. This is in contrast to U.S. retail sales which failed to regain what was lost in the recession, the report says.

Castle Adds 10 To Network

Castle Building Centres Group Ltd. is adding 10 members to its nation-wide network of independent dealers. They include Homestead Country Shop Ltd., Lipton, SK; Contractor’s Corner, Brandon, MB; Excess Building Depot Inc., Winkler, MB; Down East Windows and Doors, Sussex, NB; Parrsboro Hardware Limited, Parrsboro, NS; Docks and Decks Unlimited Inc., Sudbury, ON; Amherst Supply, Amherstburg, ON; Jade True Value Hardware, Tumbler Ridge, BC; Happy Harry’s Affordable Building Centre, Dartmouth & New Minas, NS; and PBS – Prosperi Building Supplies, serving the Greater Toronto area.

Handhelds Replacing Traditional POS

After several years of struggling, the worldwide point-of-sale (POS) market grew 6.9 per cent in 2010, says a study by research firm IHL Group. Shipments grew in all four major worldwide regions while the Asia/Pacific region saw strong double-digit growth driven by new shipments in China, India, Korea, and Indonesia. While it was a strong year overall, there are challenges facing the POS market, such as mobile devices inspired by the Apple iPad price point of $500, particularly for specialty stores and hospitality establishments. “Our recent research studies found that upwards of 50 per cent of specialty retailers are looking to deploy handheld POS devices to replace many of their standard POS systems,” says Greg Buzek, president.

Ontario Contractors Somewhat Optimistic

Ontario's industrial, commercial, and institutional building contractors expect a somewhat improved year in 2011, but optimism is guarded, says the Ontario Construction Secretariat’s (OCS) annual survey of contractors. While 55 per cent express optimism about the economy, it is largely made up of those who say it is only 'somewhat good' rather than 'very good'. Some 44 per cent expect they'll be conducting more work and 34 per cent think they'll be adding jobs, this year – not dramatically different than 2010, but up significantly from 2009. Firms located in the GTA are the most optimistic about increased work and employment in 2011, while those in southwestern Ontario are the most negative. The commercial sector leads in expected increased opportunities followed by the industrial sector. As well, the availability of skilled labour is a top concern as contractors say it is the number-one barrier to business growth.

Henkel Up In Fourth Quarter

Adhesives producer Henkel reported fourth-quarter net income of € 254 million compared to €177 million last year. Sales for the German-based company were up 11.5 per cent to €3.73 billion from € 3.35 billion a year earlier. For fiscal 2010, Henkel posted a profit of €1.14 billion on revenues of €15.09 billion.

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