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News

January 7, 2020

One in Six Canadians To Return Holiday Gifts

Canadian Gen Z's are taking things into their own hands this holiday season with 21 per cent admitting to typically returning some of their holiday gifts – nearly double the amount of Boomers who report returning gifts (11 per cent), says the ‘2019 FedEx Returns Economy Survey.’ Overall, one in six Canadians return holiday gifts in a typical year. Of those that return gifts, 36 per cent are most likely to return gifts from their mothers. That number is highest among men, with 46 per cent most likely to return gifts from their mothers (compared to 30 per cent of women). Canadians are also turning to regifting as a solution to getting rid of unwanted gifts with a quarter (24 per cent) of Canadian shoppers admitting to regifting holiday gifts in a typical year.


Business Can Take Steps For Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is an ever-growing concern for businesses. While the obvious worry is about sensitive data breaches and leaks, cyber weakness also hurts innovation, says NordVPN Teams, a cybersecurity solution for business. It says many businesses view cybersecurity as a daunting, complex, and expensive task, but there are steps they can take to help prevent them from potential risks. The first step is to educate and empower employees because they are the most vulnerable part of the whole cybersecurity infrastructure. Employees can be a human shield in the company’s firewall. Another step is to change passwords regularly and be creative when choosing one. It is not good enough to use ‘12345’ or recycle old passwords; NordVPN Teams suggests using a password manager. Businesses should also have an up-to-date inventory and account list which should be reviewed regularly. As well, they should have backups and make sure to test those backups frequently to make sure they work. Business should also use VPNs and encryption to secure transmittance of files both internally and externally.


Schneider Electric Launches Connected Home Suite

Schneider Electric has launched Square D Connected Home, which comprises devices and applications to help homeowners consolidate the connected home, appliances, and energy management into one intuitive digital experience. The products and services are designed as an open platform to enable interoperability between connected home devices. This allows consumers to live in comfortable, digitally connected homes with greater control over electricity use contributing to a more sustainable world. Consumers can use the Square D version of the Sense app or voice assistants to digitally track energy usage, receive updates, or get alerts if an appliance is malfunctioning or requires service. This information allows homeowners to reduce the risk of potential expensive energy bills, deliver protection and safety for their home, or, for those with alternate energy sources such as solar, control and manage how appliances leverage different energy sources.


Weiser Releases Improved Halo Smart Lock

The Weiser brand of Spectrum Brands Holdings, Inc. – Hardware & Home Improvement Division, has launched the Halo Touch Wi-Fi Smart Lock. This smart lock provides homeowners access to their home via fingerprint. It comes with the ability to program and store up to 100 fingerprints (50 users). In addition, through the Weiser app, homeowners can remotely monitor and control their locks from anywhere in the world while connected to the internet. Like its predecessor Halo, the brand's first foray into Wi-Fi enabled smart locks, Halo Touch will connect directly to homeowners' existing Wi-Fi network and smartphone without the need for a third-party hub, panel, or subscription service.


Structurlam Makes Changes

Paul Sehn is senior vice-president, sales and marketing, with Structurlam Mass Timber Corporation. He has more than 30 years of experience in the North American engineered wood products industry in both construction and industrial verticals. Michael Darby is chief financial officer. He has over 25 years of experience in senior financial management in Canada, the U.S., and internationally. Greg Johnston is senior vice-president, manufacturing and operations. He had experience in both lumber and OSB manufacturing in developing safety improvement plans and quality management systems.


January 6, 2020

eCommerce To ‘Explode’ In 2020

Total eCommerce revenue in 2020 will reach US$3.52 trillion, an explosion that will force retailers to find faster and more convenient modes to reach the final mile and yard, says global tech market advisory firm, ABI Research. In its whitepaper, ‘54 Technology Trends to Watch in 2020,’ ABI Research says eCommerce growth this year will reach nearly 19 per cent over 2019. Growth is due to increasing convergence of online and in-store businesses, with brick-and-mortar positioned as hubs closer to the customer, as well as eCommerce sites directing package delivery to retail outlets. Additive investment will grow in ‘buy online pay in store’ (BOPIS) options. ABI Research says retailers need to address their increasing costs and consumer expectations through new business models and optimized transportation and logistics methods. “Amazon felt the financial pressure in 2019, with North American margin compression, as it grew investments in its next-day Prime delivery,” says Susan Beardslee, freight transportation and logistics principal analyst. “Other retailers have been pushed into offering expanded shipping options and reverse logistics in order to compete.”


Online Return Process Key To Web Conversion

The online return process is key to customer experience, web conversion, and, ultimately, the bottom line, finds a survey by Splitit, an installment payment solution provider. As usual, online return rates are expected to dramatically increase post-holidays. The survey shows 60 per cent of consumers have returned an online purchase, with 38 per cent having returned up to 10 per cent of all online purchases they have made. Twelve per cent of consumers have returned a purchase within the past month, 11 per cent within the last six months, and 18 per cent within the last year. As well, 48 per cent of consumers say they have purchased multiple variations of an item with the intention of returning one or more items, a process known as ‘bracketing.’ More importantly for merchants, the survey demonstrates that a retailer's return policy weighs heavily on web conversion, with returns top of mind for consumers when deciding whether to make a purchase. A staggering 52 per cent of consumers have abandoned an online purchase out of fear of a difficult return process. This number increases to 67 per cent for Millennial respondents (ages 25-34). And, with 10 per cent of consumers dissatisfied in some way with their last return experience, the survey results serve as a warning to retailers that returns are high stakes – with customer experience and overall sales at risk.


NCR Acquires Zynstra

NCR Corporation has acquired UK-based Zynstra, a provider of edge virtualization technology. The two companies have worked together for several years, reflected in the launch of NCR Software Defined Store introduced in January 2019. Zynstra’s subscription-based virtualization solution is one of the critical pillars of NCR’s next-generation store architecture for the retail and hospitality industries. By virtualizing back and front office technology, businesses can reduce hardware and enterprise technology management costs. For example, with a simple swipe of the screen a device can change from a POS terminal to an inventory management console. The acquisition will allow NCR to enhance capabilities and extend its leadership in the vertical industries it serves.


LG To Launch Indoor Gardening Appliance

LG Electronics will launch an indoor gardening appliance, a built-in column-style indoor gardening unit that employs advanced light, temperature, and water control; all-in-one seed packages; and a growth-monitoring app to help users cultivate greens inside their own homes. Utilizing flexible modules, the appliance replicates optimal outdoor conditions by matching the temperature inside the insulated cabinet with the time of day. LED lights, forced air circulation, and wick-based water management allow seeds to grow. A key component of the unit is LG's non-circulating water supply technology, which evenly distributes the exact amount of water that the plant packages require. This technology prevents algae growth and unpleasant odours for a hygienic environment. A companion smartphone app helps users manage and monitor plants, offering guidance along the way.


Door Demand To Grow Through 2026

The global doors market size is estimated to surpass US$165 billion by 2026, says a report by Global Market Insights, Inc. Growing urbanization and populations will be accountable for the increase in non-residential and residential buildings and will hasten the growth of the doors industry in the coming years. As well, growing private, as well as government investments towards the new residential construction sector in North America will develop the industry. The report says changing consumer buying patterns for luxury products will enhance the product demand and ongoing trends for energy-efficient buildings will boost the industry in coming years. However, high prices of raw materials will be a potential restraint for doors manufacturers. Sliding doors will account for a market share of more than 25 per cent over the forecast period. These doors are equipped with soundproof and airtight insulation features depending upon the end-user requirement. These doors also provide attractive aesthetics to residential housing, which is likely to increase its usage in the new residential construction industry in the future.


January 3, 2020

U.S. Holiday Retail Sales Grew 3.4 Per Cent

U.S. holiday retail sales increased 3.4 per cent (excluding automobile categories) with online sales growing 18.8 per cent compared to 2018, says the ‘Mastercard SpendingPulse.’ “eCommerce sales hit a record high this year with more people doing their holiday shopping online,” says Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard. “Due to a later than usual Thanksgiving holiday, we saw retailers offering omnichannel sales earlier in the season, meeting consumers’ demand for the best deals across all channels and devices.” The report details holiday shopping from November 1 through December 24. Key findings indicate that this was a winning holiday season for retail, especially for eCommerce. Total retail sales in apparel had one per cent growth year-over-year. The category also experienced stronger than expected eCommerce growth, up 17 per cent compared to 2018. Department stores saw overall sales decline 1.8 per cent and online sales growth of 6.9 per cent, emphasizing the importance of omnichannel offerings. Electronics and appliances were up 4.6 per cent, while the home furniture and furnishings category grew 1.3 per cent.


AAMA, IGMA Merge

The American Architectural Manufacturers Association (AAMA) and the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance (IGMA) have combined into one organization with the new name, Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance (FGIA). After a July vote by both bodies to unify, the two organizations have come together as of January 1. FGIA’s mission is to focus on improving home and building performance through better glass, window, door, and skylight technologies and standards. It strives to be a welcoming community, leading the glass, glazing, and fenestration industry through research, consensus-based standards, product certification, advocacy, education, and professional development. The logo and branding for the new organization will be revealed at the inaugural ‘FGIA Annual Conference,’ to be held February 10 to 13 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. For more information visit FGIA


Universal Forest Products Now UFP Industries

Universal Forest Products, Inc. has completed the reorganization of its operations and is now operating as UFP Industries, a change announced in 2019. The company says the new name more accurately describes its operations today. “We are not just a forest products or wood company anymore,” says Matthew J. Missad, chief executive officer. “Over the years, we have evolved from a lumber wholesaler to a mixed materials manufacturer and solutions provider serving thousands of business customers. Our new segments – UFP Retail, UFP Construction, and UFP Industrial – will be much more focused on their individual markets and, with the leadership teams now in position, we expect more speed to market, better product and customer alignment, and more efficient capital utilization.” UFP Industries has approximately 170 locations and 14,000 employees around the world. Prior to the reorganization, UFP affiliates were organized by region; now they are organized by market.


Smart Home Companies Form Certification Standards Group

Amazon, Apple, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance have partnered to promote the formation of the Working Group, an initiative that plans to develop and promote the adoption of a royalty-free connectivity standard to increase compatibility among smart home products, with security as a fundamental design tenet. IKEA, Legrand, NXP Semiconductors, Resideo, Samsung SmartThings, Schneider Electric, Signify (formerly Philips Lighting), Silicon Labs, Somfy, and Wulian are also on board to join the Working Group and contribute to the ‘Connected Home over IP’ project. The project’s mission is to simplify development for manufacturers and increase compatibility for consumers. It is built around a shared belief that smart home devices should be secure, reliable, and seamless to use. By building upon Internet Protocol (IP), the project aims to enable communication across smart home devices, mobile apps, and cloud services and to define a specific set of IP-based networking technologies for device certification.


Black To Head Payments Canada

Tracey Black will be president and CEO of Payments Canada, effective March 1. She joined the company in 2018 to lead the payments modernization program. Previously, she was president of GFH Group, Inc.


January 2, 2020

2019 Retail Sales May Hit 10-year Low

After 10 months of 2019, year-to-date Canadian retail sales were up only 1.5 per cent versus 2018 on a non-seasonally adjusted basis. At this rate, 2019 will very likely clock in as a 10-year low for retail sales growth, says Ed Strapagiel, a retail consultant. One has to go back to 2009 and the Great Recession to find a lower number. To put this in perspective, Canada's annual population growth rate is currently about 1.4 per cent while inflation is around 2.1 per cent. This means retail sales should be going up by approximately 3.5 per cent just to keep pace. Actual retail sales growth, however, is significantly below this benchmark. It's also apparent that things are likely to get even worse before the year is done, he says. For the three months ending October 2019, year-over-year Canadian retail sales were up a scant 0.5 per cent, a six year low. Of the major retail sectors, automotive and related is in the worst shape and may even end the year with a loss. Food and drug has deteriorated significantly in the last few months. Store merchandise appears to be the best performer, but only because the other sectors are in such poor shape. eCommerce represented about 3.4 per cent of total Canadian retail sales for the 12 months ending October. eCommerce sales were up 23.8 per cent year-over-year for the three months ending October.


November GTA New Home Market Busy

The Greater Toronto, ON, Area (GTA) new home market was busier than usual in November, says the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD). There were 4,720 new home sales in the GTA in November. This was up 53 per cent from November 2018 and 19 per cent above the 10-year average. Single-family home sales (detached, linked, and semi-detached houses and townhouses) were up 207 per cent year-over-year but four per cent below the 10-year average. Condominium apartments in low-, medium-, and high-rise buildings, stacked townhouses, and loft units sales were up 32 per cent and 29 per cent above the 10-year average. A number of new project openings in November ensured that, despite strong sales, remaining inventory decreased only slightly compared to the previous month. Remaining inventory includes units in pre-construction projects, in projects currently under construction, and in completed buildings.


Concrete Use For Hardscaping On The Rise

Sales of concrete used in hardscaping applications are forecast to grow 5.6 per cent per year through 2023 to $2 billion, says a report by the Freedonia Group. Gains will be driven by consumers’ growing incorporation of outdoor living trends in landscaping, which feature spaces that are frequently constructed with concrete products. Increasing interest in more durable and stylish hardscaping will drive growth of natural materials and porcelain pavers and products that mimic these materials, such as plank pavers. As well, water management concerns are increasing the adoption of environmentally-friendly landscaping products such as permeable pavers. The top hardscape product categories in 2018 were concrete (53 per cent); stone pavers, tiles, and boulders (16 per cent); and wood (15 per cent).


Reduced EI Premium In Effect

Effective January 1, 2020, the employment insurance (EI) premium rate for employees was reduced to $1.58 per $100 of insurable earnings – a decrease of four cents compared to the 2019 rate of $1.62 per $100 of insurable earnings. For employers who pay 1.4 times the employee rate, the 2020 rate has decreased by six cents to $2.21. In addition, the maximum insurable earnings (MIE) for 2020 has increased to $54,200 from $53,100 in 2019. The maximum annual EI contribution for a worker will decrease by $3.86 to $856.36 (down $5.41 for employers to $1,198.90 per employee). For self-employed Canadians who have opted in to the EI program, the annual earnings required in 2019 will increase to $7,279 for claims filed in 2020. The level of earnings required by self-employed Canadians to be eligible for EI special benefits is indexed annually to growth in the MIE. The premium rate for residents of Quebec covered under the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP) will be $1.20 per $100 of insurable earnings, while their employers will pay $1.68 per $100 of insurable earnings. The maximum annual contribution for a worker in Quebec will decrease by $13.35 to $650.40 (down $18.69 for employers to $910.56 per employee).


Resolute To Acquire Three Conifex Sawmills

Resolute Forest Products Inc. plans to acquire Conifex Timber Inc.'s three sawmills in the U.S. south. The three sawmills, with combined production capacity of 550 million board feet, are located in Cross City, FL, and Glenwood and El Dorado AR. The sawmills produce construction-grade dimensional lumber and decking products from locally-sourced southern yellow pine. The acquisition will diversify Resolute’s lumber production; when operating to capacity, almost 25 per cent of production will be in the U.S. south. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020.


3P Sellers Drive Amazon Sales

Amazon had record-breaking sales throughout the holiday season with the help of third-party sellers – mostly small- and medium-sized business. They had double-digit growth in worldwide unit sales, surpassing one billion items sold in Amazon’s stores. Home was one of the top categories for the season. Top selling products in the home category included the Instant Pot Duo 80 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker, the iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum, the Keurig K-Classic Coffee Maker, the Lodge Silicone Hot Handle Holder, the COSORI Air Fryer, the Brita Ultra Max Filtering Dispenser, and Mr. Coffee Mug Warmer. This year, 60 per cent more customers shipped their holiday orders to an Amazon pickup point compared to the same period last year.


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