Serving Canada's Home Improvement Industry

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


November 26, 2019

Building Construction Investment Rises

Total investment in building construction rose one per cent from August to $15.6 billion in September, says Statistics Canada. Investment was up for both the residential - 1.2 per cent to $10.8 billion and non-residential +0.4 per cent to $4.9 billion - sectors. Total investment grew 2.4 per cent from the second to the third quarter. Investment in the residential sector was up in five provinces in September, led by Ontario and Quebec. Nationally, investment in the single (1.4 per cent) and multi-unit (1.1 per cent) dwellings increased compared with August. In the non-residential sector, the commercial component increased 0.7 per cent with Quebec posting the largest increase. Nationally, the industrial and institutional components were largely unchanged. Investment in residential new construction was largely unchanged year over year at $16.6 billion in the third quarter.

BC Expands Secondary Suite Options

The British Columbia government is changing its building code to expand options for secondary suites in multi-family buildings. The change will give local governments the choice to allow secondary suites in side-by-side multi-family buildings such as duplexes, townhouses, and row housing. The changes do not apply to apartment-style buildings where units are above or below each other. The goal is to create more affordable housing, while ensuring buildings in BC meet health, safety, and energy-efficiency standards. Size restrictions for secondary suites are also being removed from the provincial building code which applies throughout BC except for some federal lands and the city of Vancouver. Secondary suites represent about two-thirds of all rental housing in the province. It will be up to municipalities to decide whether to embrace the changes and amend zoning and development bylaws to allow the secondary suites.

U.S. Construction In Good Health Overall

For the third quarter of 2019, the ‘Marcum Commercial Construction Index’ finds the U.S. industry in overall good health as 2020 approaches. However, ‘The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly’ identifies some causes for concern. On the positive side, the index points to increased public construction spending, growing backlogs, falling input prices, the ongoing U.S. economic expansion, a strong construction labour market, and interest rate cuts as key factors sustaining the construction industry’s momentum. For example, there was a 1.5 per cent increase in public construction spending in September and a 6.6 per cent increase year-over-year. In contrast, the report identifies several factors related to construction employment putting downward pressures on the industry. These include the continued lack of qualified construction workers to fill a historic high level of available construction jobs, which in turn is driving labour costs and producer prices higher. For the ugly, it identifies debt levels – corporate, governmental, and consumer – have risen massively due to the low interest rate environment and continued economic confidence. But while businesses have begun to slow their spending, consumers haven’t, which will translate into slower job growth and higher consumer exposure

Climate, ROI On Minds Of Homeowners

Coping with climate extremes, getting creative, and achieving better, longer-lasting performance that adds more ROI for the home improvement dollar are all top of mind for Canadian and U.S. homeowners this year, says the Metal Roofing Alliance (MRA). In its 2020 trends forecast, MRA says strength of the home exterior to prepare for climate extremes will be on top of homeowners’ minds. Delicate detailing is out, while the use of heartier exterior features that offer an almost ‘fortress-like’ feel and are meant to show off a home’s rugged resiliency are more popular than ever. Net Zero homes will also be important to homeowners next year. These homes are those deemed so energy efficient, they produce as much renewable energy as they consume. For roofs, homeowners will use bold colours. Metal is the second most popular roofing choice and those that choose metal are going with colourful colours that call attention to roofs rather than camouflage them. Natural light via skylights will also remain a major selling point for homes. With their ability to capture up to 30 per cent more light than standard windows, skylights help brighten up spaces that feel dark or cramped.

Heavy-duty Cabinet System Provides Garage Storage

Proslat’s Fusion Pro Series Cabinets provide storage and organization for the garage. They are manufactured from 19-gauge steel and feature heavy-duty drawers with mat liners. The dual wall doors have soft-close, zero clearance hinges and have ergonomically designed anodized handles. They are available in a blue satin finish with matching doors and drawers. The base unit consists of an extra large tool chest which can be mounted on feet for stationary storage or fitted with casters and handles to make it mobile. The cabinet system also features a work surface – a traditional stationary workbench or a mobile workstation.

Slight Sales Increase For ROCKWOOL

ROCKWOOL had sales of €706 million for the third quarter of 2019, an increase of 0.9 per cent over sales in the third quarter of 2018. EBIT was €100 million for the quarter, an increase of 2.8 per cent year-over-year, and EBIT margin was 14.1 per cent, up 0.1 per cent. Annualized return on invested capital reached 21.8 per cent compared to 22.8 per cent last year, a decrease of one per cent due to higher invested capital. The company’s insulation and system segments performed well in the North American market.

November 25, 2019

LBM Sales Above Industry Average

Retail sales decreased for the first time in three months, edging down 0.1 per cent to $51.6 billion in September, says Statistics Canada. The decline came from lower sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers and gasoline stations. Excluding these two subsectors, retail sales rose 0.7 per cent. Rounding out the third quarter, retail sales were up 0.5 per cent, following a 1.1 per cent increase in the second quarter. In volume terms, retail sales were up 0.5 per cent in the third quarter. Sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers rose 3.3 per cent. Sales were up at home centres which typically sell building materials, hardware, paint, wallpaper, and related supplies. On an unadjusted basis, retail eCommerce sales were $1.9 billion in September, accounting for 3.6 per cent of total retail trade. On a year-over-year basis, retail eCommerce increased 34.6 per cent.

BC RONA Showroom Opens Doors

RONA dealer-owners Russ and Tess Jones have opened the RONA Appliance & Design Showroom by Coast Builders in Gibsons, BC. The Jones, who also own two other RONA locations in Madeira Park and Sechelt, BC, acquired the Gibsons Sears store in 2017 and started an extensive renovation process to convert the space into a unique design destination. The 5,000-square-foot store offers supplies for kitchen and bathroom renovations including appliances, cabinets, lighting, and design services. The store also features three connected shipping containers to highlight seasonal, patio, and outdoor power equipment products.

Most Canadians Will Shop For Deals On Black Friday

Just under 95 per cent of Canadian consumers plan to shop for Black Friday deals this year, compared to 79 per cent in 2017, says a survey by Only 4.1 per cent intend to go to the U.S. to shop on Black Friday, compared to 15.5 per cent in 2016. Seventy-four per cent do research in online forums before they head out to the physical stores. However, 67 per cent of Canadian consumers plan to do most of their shopping online. Interestingly, almost 60 per cent of consumers think the best deals of the year will be on Black Friday, compared to 17 per cent who say Boxing Day will have the best deals.

Juggling Responsibilities Top Challenge For Managers

Trying to manage a team while taking care of other responsibilities is the top challenge facing managers today, says a survey by SoapBox, a provider of management apps. Other challenges they must cope with include hitting team goals, getting people to collaborate with one another, and retaining employees. The survey says most managers feel the most important part of their role as a manager is keeping the team on track to achieve goals. This is followed by providing direct reports with growth and development opportunities and removing blockers from their team. Interestingly, remote managers find retaining employees six times more challenging than on-site employees. To accomplish their responsibilities and goals, 94 per cent of managers have one-on-one meetings with their team with 41 per cent using personal productivity tools for meetings and 21 per cent using purpose-built one-on-one and team meeting software.

Ace Hardware Has Record Quarter

Ace Hardware Corporation had revenues of $1.53 billion for the third quarter of 2019, an increase of 7.2 per cent versus revenues of $1.43 billion in the third quarter of 2018. Net income was $60.5 million for the quarter, an increase of 66.7 per cent from last year. Same-store sales increased 3.4 per cent year-over-year, the average transaction size increased 2.4 per cent, and online sales increased 81 per cent. Wholesale revenues increased 4.7 per cent year-over-year with power tools, grilling products, and outdoor power equipment showing the largest gains. Paint was the only department with a decrease compared to the year-ago quarter. Retail revenues increased 47 per cent compared to the year-ago period. Gross profit was $183.3 million, an increase of $16.1 million from the third quarter of 2018.

November 22, 2019

Manufacturing Sales Edge Down

Manufacturing sales edged down 0.2 per cent in September to $57.4 billion, following a 0.8 per cent increase in August, says Statistics Canada. Sales were down in 10 of 21 industries, representing 62.2 per cent of the Canadian manufacturing sector. Sales in the petroleum and coal product and the motor vehicle parts industries accounted for the majority of the decrease; however, these decreases were largely offset by increases in the machinery and motor vehicle industries. Sales were down in seven provinces for the month, led by Alberta. British Colombia reported the largest increase. Inventory levels declined 0.8 per cent to $88 billion in September, following two months of increases and were down in 11 of 21 industries. The inventory-to-sales ratio decreased from 1.54 in August to 1.53 in September, mostly due to lower inventories of durable goods. This ratio measures the time, in months, that would be required to exhaust inventories if sales were to remain at their current level.

TIMBER MART Gets Kingston Member

Kingston, ON-based Cornerstone Building Supplies has joined TIMBER MART. “TIMBER MART has the credibility, brand image, and buying power we need to succeed in Kingston’s competitive market,” says Mason Laframboise, owner of Cornerstone Building Supplies. “We look forward to seizing all of the opportunities available to us as a member and continuing to grow our business.” The store opened in 2018 and since then has grown its product assortment to include windows, doors, flooring, tile, cabinets, electrical products, lumber, hardware, and common building supplies. The business has a 7,500-square-foot retail space, a large warehouse, and a yard. It focuses on selling high-end building projects and packages. Cornerstone is currently undergoing renovations which are expected to be complete by the end of 2019.

Kitchen, Bathroom Remain Top Renovations

Eight in 10 U.S. homeowners have renovated a kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room in the last two years, and 60 per cent have specific plans to do more in the next two years, says a survey by U.S. online fixture retailer Hausera. Homeowners spent an average of $12,800 for their kitchen renovation, $11,100 for their bathroom, and $10,800 for their laundry room. Adapting to a lifestyle change, such as a changing family size or accommodations due to a disability or aging, was the biggest reason for a renovation. Other reasons to renovate include improving the functionality of a space and increasing property value before selling. Green and smart products continue to gain popularity, with energy efficient lighting systems and smart lighting systems the most popular products. Wish lists also include hands-free faucets and Wi-Fi-enabled refrigerators. Among homeowners who completed renovations during the last two years, staying on budget and finding the right professionals were cited as the top challenges. Seventy per cent of homeowners have hired a design/build professional and 60 per cent have hired an interior designer for their kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room renovation.

L.J. Smith To Launch ‘Deck Your Stairs’ Photo Contest

L.J. Smith Stair Systems will hold its ‘2019 Deck Your Stairs Photo Contest’ from December 1 to 15. The online Facebook contest invites people to submit images of ways they’ve decorated their indoor stair system for the holidays. People may enter one time and include up to five photos of their own decorated stairway. The contest is open to residents of Canada and the U.S. Four winners will each win $100 cash prizes. For more information, visit L.J. Smith

Lowe's Third Quarter Sales Decrease

Lowe's Companies, Inc. had net sales of $17.39 billion for the third quarter of 2019, a decrease over net sales of $17.41 billion in the third quarter of 2018. Comparable sales increased 2.2 per cent year-over-year. Net earnings for the quarter were $1 billion, up from $629 million in the year-ago period. Earnings were impacted by $53 million in non-cash pre-tax charges for a strategic review of its Canadian operations. Gross margin was $5.64 billion compared to $5.38 billion a year ago. The company had improved performance in departments which have historically underperformed – paint, millwork, and décor. Categories that performed above the company average included tools, lawn and garden, appliances, and hardware.

November 21, 2019

Lowe’s Canada Restructuring Operations, Closing 34 Stores

Lowe’s Canada is closing 34 stores and “simplifying multiple store banners” as part of a reorganization effort to improve performance and better position it for the future. The retailer will close 26 RONA stores, six Lowe’s stores, and two Réno-Dépôt stores across the country. It will also reorganize its corporate support structure and rationalize its product assortment. “Closing underperforming stores is a necessary step in our plan to ensure the long-term stability and growth of our Canadian business,” says Tony Cioffi, interim president. “We are taking decisive action to build a healthy business which will provide us with the flexibility to reinvest in our future growth. This includes having a clear strategy for our banners, built on the strength of our Lowe's, RONA, and Reno-Depot brands. It also means investing in our omnichannel and supply chain capabilities, our web platforms, and our existing corporate stores and affiliated dealer network.” Lowe's Canada will continue serving customers from markets affected by the closures via other corporate and affiliated dealer stores from its network, as well as its online offering and parcel delivery service. The closures will take effect in January and February.

Harsh Canadian Winter Forecast

The snow and cold that has arrived early across much of Canada are preview of the harsh winter ahead, says the Weather Network in its ‘Winter Forecast.’ British Columbia is expected to have near seasonal temperatures and snowfall in the interior and temperatures should be above normal near the coastline and across the north. Residents of the Prairies can expect a long and frigid winter, with the coldest weather across Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Alberta will see periods of mild weather which could come close to offsetting the bouts of severe cold. A cold winter is expected in Ontario and Quebec, especially across northern Ontario. An active storm track will likely bring above normal snow totals to much of the region, along with a risk for ice at times, especially across the south. A delayed start to spring is also anticipated. In Atlantic Canada, an inconsistent start to winter is expected, but this region will still see an abundance of winter weather with near to above normal snowfall totals. Southern and eastern coastal areas of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland will see periods of milder weather at times with a higher potential for rain and ice. A delayed start to spring is expected for the entire region. In northern Canada, a typical winter is expected with near normal temperatures and snowfall. However, periods of milder weather at times across western areas should tip this region to the mild side of normal.

U.S. Construction Starts Fall

New U.S. construction starts declined 11 per cent in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $696.3 billion, says Dodge Data & Analytics. This is the third consecutive monthly drop in U.S. construction starts activity. By major sector, non-residential building starts fell 20 per cent from September to October and non-building starts dropped 14 per cent, while residential starts moved two per cent lower. The October statistics pushed the index down to 147 compared to 166 in September. In residential building, single family housing starts were seven per cent lower, while multifamily starts increased 14 per cent over the month. Through the first 10 months of the year, residential construction starts were six per cent lower than in the same period of 2018. Single family starts were down three per cent, while multifamily declined 12 per cent year-to-date.

Showers Reign In Master Bathroom Remodels

Master bathrooms are making extra space for showers, says the ‘2019 U.S. Houzz Bathroom Trends Study.’ Four in five U.S. homeowners upgrade their shower during master bathroom renovations (83 per cent) and over half increase their shower size (54 per cent). This is particularly notable when considering that only 22 per cent expand their master bathroom square footage during renovations. For many master bathroom renovators, shower expansion alleviates the pre-project pet peeve of a small shower or having an outdated space. In addition, a quarter of renovating homeowners remove their master tub and more than four in five of those choose to enlarge the shower in its place (84 per cent). Among those who added or replaced their bathtub, popularity of freestanding flat-bottom tubs grew from 41 per cent in 2017 to 50 per cent in 2019. Accent walls are also increasing in popularity in bathrooms both inside and outside the shower. Renovators are using patterns, different surface materials, colour, and textures as the differentiator on the accent wall. Custom medicine cabinets are also increasing in popularity.

Saint-Gobain To Acquire Continental

Saint-Gobain plans to acquire Continental Building Products. The transaction has been unanimously approved by the board of directors of both companies. Saint-Gobain says Continental is a geographic complement to its North American operations, good positioning in growth regions in the east and south-east of the U.S., and strong profitability. The acquisition will broaden Saint-Gobain’s asset portfolio and enhance its ability to provide a wider customer base with innovative solutions. The combination will also allow Continental customers to benefit from an enriched product portfolio supported by Saint-Gobain’s global R&D and product development infrastructure. As well, the combination will creates opportunity for cost synergies and performance improvements. The deal is expected to close in the second half of 2020.

Jacklin Named Director Of Marketing

Joe Jacklin is director of marketing and contractor development, a newly-created role at Regal Ideas. He has almost 30 years of industry experience, notably in marketing at Home Hardware Stores Limited.

November 20, 2019

Home Depot Sales Up 3.5 Per Cent

The Home Depot had sales of $27.2 billion for the third quarter of 2019, an increase of 3.5 per cent compared to sales of $26.3 billion in the third quarter of 2018. Comparable sales for the quarter were up 3.6 per cent and comparable sales in the U.S. were up 3.8 per cent year-over-year. Canadian comparable sales were also positive and online sales grew approximately 22 per cent over the previous year period. Net earnings were $2.8 billion, down 3.4 per cent compared with net earnings of $2.9 billion in the year-ago period. Gross profit was $9.4 billion, up 2.6 per cent over gross profit of $9.2 billion. Drivers for professional sales included fasteners, pneumatics, concrete, and insulation and drivers for the DIY segment included patio furniture, exterior stains and paint, soils, and live goods.

U.S. Retail Sales Up Over Last Year

U.S. retail sales in October increased 0.2 per cent seasonally adjusted over September and were up 4.2 per cent unadjusted year-over-year, says the National Retail Federation (NRF). The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations, and restaurants. October’s results make up for most of the 0.3 per cent month-over-month decline seen in September and build on September’s year-over-year increase of 4.1 per cent. As of October, the three-month moving average was up 4.3 per cent over the same period a year ago, compared with 4.7 per cent in September. Online and other non-store sales were up 14.6 per cent year-over-year. Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 1.6 per cent year-over-year and building materials and garden supply stores were down 0.2 per cent.

Self-checkout Technologies Gaining Traction

Self-checkout technologies are gaining traction in retail stores with 40 per cent of shoppers using these solutions within the last six months and 86 per cent saying they are comfortable with the technology, says Zebra Technologies Corporation in its ‘12th annual Global Shopper Study.’ Furthermore, most shoppers (58 per cent) – especially Millennials (70 per cent) – agree that self-checkout provides an improved customer experience. The majority of store associates (54 per cent) say staffed checkout areas are less necessary with new technology that automates the process. Most retail executives (87 per cent) believe self-checkout frees up store associates to better serve customers and 81 per cent say they’re starting to see a return on their investment. Retailers are also trying to improve the in-store experience through the use of robotics. Only seven per cent of shoppers have interacted with a robot in a retail environment in the last six months, but nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) say they are comfortable with them while 32 per cent of associates report concerns about being replaced by one.

Budget Blinds Now Offers Hunter Douglas Products

Budget Blinds franchises throughout Canada now offer Hunter Douglas products. The 74 Budget Blinds franchises are eligible to join the Hunter Douglas aligned dealer program and add its products to their consultation and installation services. Franchisees now have access to hundreds of products including sheers, shades, blinds, shutters, and motorized and other operating systems.

Skanska Creates Carbon Calculating Tool

Skanska USA, alongside the Carbon Leadership Forum and partners in industry, has created the Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator (EC3) tool, a solution for calculating and evaluating the carbon emissions embodied within a wide array of building materials. Traditional assessments of a building’s emissions and life-cycle costs focus primarily on energy efficiency or the operational carbon of a structure. Until now, due to lack of data or data too complex to evaluate, few tools or benchmarks were available to facilitate awareness of the embodied carbon opportunity which is to reduce the carbon footprint of a structure even before it is made operational. EC3 enables the building industry to easily access and view material carbon emissions data, allowing them to make carbon smart choices during material specifications and procurement.

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