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News

March 25, 2020

Small Businesses In Jeopardy

The COVID-19 outbreak is quickly becoming a disaster for small businesses, says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). A study by the organization shows that a full 60 per cent of small firms have seen a significant drop in sales, with more than one in three reporting a reduction greater than 75 per cent. “More than half of small firms have begun laying off staff, with a quarter reporting they have already been forced to lay off their entire workforce,” says Dan Kelly, president of CFIB. “At this rate, the only way to prevent massive additional unemployment is for government to introduce a much larger wage subsidy program.” While last week's economic measures were welcome initial steps, CFIB is proposing a COVID-19 ‘Job Retention Program’ that would subsidize wages of employers able to retain their staff. This would cover at least 75 per cent of wages for all employers, up to a cap of $5,000 per worker per month. CFIB proposes the program include the self-employed and small business owners. Nearly one in three businesses say they can survive less than a month under the current conditions, up from a quarter last week. The average cost of the outbreak for affected businesses has also doubled since last week to $136,000. As well, more than half of small businesses across Canada are already at least partially shut down, led by firms in the service and restaurant sectors.


Canadian Retail Heading For Meltdown

There was a slight improvement in Canadian retail sales growth for the three months ending January 2020. However, the reality is that Canadian retail had a relatively weak 2019, and is simply not in good shape to take on current challenges, says Ed Strapagiel, a retail consultant. The coronavirus pandemic is almost certain to lead to a recession which likely will significantly depress retail sales, although it will be a few months yet before we see it in the official statistics. Another potential effect is that many consumers may make greater use of online buying and home delivery, just to avoid shopping in actual stores. And they may find that they like it. This could result in a marginal but permanent shift from bricks-and-mortar to eCommerce. Overall, eCommerce represented about 3.5 per cent of Canadian retail sales for the 12 months ending January 2020. eCommerce sales were up 18.4 per cent year-over-year for the three months ending January. This was much higher than for location-based retail which gained 2.5 per cent.


Lightspeed POS Offers Free Services During Pandemic

Lightspeed POS Inc. has launched several initiatives to support its local retail and restaurant customers who have been affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Effective immediately, and for the next three months, Lightspeed now offers Lightspeed eCommerce for retail customers and Lightspeed Loyalty for omnichannel customers for free to help customers adapt. In addition, and to directly support its businesses, the company has also rolled out a #lightspeedlocal initiative that engages its company employees to shop locally and support small businesses in its network. The program reimburses employees in its 14 global offices up to $500 in local currency on purchases employees make from any Lightspeed retail or restaurant customer, whether through eCommerce shopping, meal takeout, or delivery. To further help small businesses, Lightspeed launched an online ‘COVID-19 Retail and Restaurant Resource Guide.’ The guide includes tips for operational tasks, as well as tools for new revenue streams to help businesses navigate changes in consumer behaviour. The company says its aim is to help small- and medium-sized businesses remain agile in the current socio-economic climate and provide them with resources to safeguard a prosperous future.


BILD Supports Construction As ‘Essential Workplace’

The Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD) supports the Ontario government’s announcement that construction sites are ‘essential workplaces.’ It says properties are essential to keep housing supply levels where needed. It is not feasible to delay the completion of homes near closing without significant effect throughout the Greater Toronto, ON, Area (GTA). With housing supply already at crisis levels, stopping construction will create long term implications to housing supply in the future. It adds that the health and safety of employees, suppliers, and customers is the industry’s top concern and people within the industry are taking the recommenced steps necessary to help reduce the possibility of transmission of the coronavirus.


Paint, Coatings Industry Provides Support During Pandemic

The Canadian Paint and Coatings Association (CPCA) says it supports both the Ontario and Quebec governments in their understanding of the critical role of supply chains and the importance of materials provided by the paint and coatings industry included in the list of ‘essential services.’ Anti-bacterial and easily cleaned coatings are used in facilities such as hospitals and senior care centres to help prevent and control bacteria and associated illnesses. CPCA members also provide support to other industries. They provide life-saving equipment, such as ventilators and vital signs monitors, which have multiple parts and components that must be coated to protect them and ensure they work as designed. As well, ventilators and vital signs monitors, other critical pandemic-related supplies, and equipment require coatings supplied by paint and coatings manufacturers. Coatings companies also make cleaning products and mould/mildewcide treatments that are generally used before painting and used for antimicrobial control. It is critical these operations continue as they increase capacity and avoid reliance on big producers.


KNIPEX Upgrades Pliers Wrench

KNIPEX Tools has introduced an improved 7¼” version of its Pliers Wrench. The wrench is about 10 per cent lighter in weight than the previous model and features an increased jaw capacity, from 1???” to 1½”, as well as a narrower jaw profile for accessibility into confined areas. The wrench is now also available in a black finish and in the original chrome-plated finish. Other upgraded features include recessed areas for a better grip and laser-etched markings in both metric and imperial. This feature is key in determining the jaw opening before setting the wrench on the fastener.


March 24, 2020

Hardware Stores Deemed Essential

Due to the COVID-19 situation, the Ontario government is ordering at-risk workplaces to close-down, while encouraging businesses to explore opportunities to continue operations through work-from-home and innovative business models. At the same time, the government reminds businesses to put in place protocols for physical distancing and regular hand-washing in order to protect the health and safety of employees and the general public. Essential businesses include hardware stores and stores that provide hardware products necessary to the essential operations of residences and businesses. Essential businesses are being asked to put into place any and all measures to safeguard the wellbeing of their employees on the front-lines. Teleworking and online commerce are permitted at all times for all businesses. At-risk workplaces will be ordered to close by 11:59 p.m. today and, where possible, take the necessary measures so staff can work from home allowing operations to continue.


Goodsoil RONA Opens In April

James and Patrick Willis, RONA affiliate dealers of the Lowe’s Canada network, will open their 3,000-square-foot store in Goodsoil, SK, in early April. The father and son team, who also own the Vermilion, AB, RONA store, have been looking to expand their business for some time. The store will offer a wide selection of products including building materials, seasonal products, Craftsman tools, and appliances. Customers at the Goodsoil location will also benefit from the 10,000-square-foot Vermillion store as more products are only a few days away. Goodsoil customers will also have access to online shopping through the RONA website. As well, the store will offer full home, cottage, commercial, and agricultural shop building packages of all sizes.


Lowe's Canada Reduces Opening Hours

As Lowe’s Canada continues to respond to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic, it has reduced its opening hours in Canada. All Lowe’s, RONA, and Reno-Depot corporate stores across the country (with the exception of Quebec) will close at 6 p.m. This will provide additional flexibility for associates and increase time for essential product replenishment as well as daily cleaning and disinfection of stores. In addition to enhanced cleaning efforts of stores and clear social distancing guidelines for associates, customers, and business partners, increased measures have been taken to ensure cashiers and front-end teams are regularly cleaning their work areas and registers after each customer interaction.


Investment Rose In January

Total investment in building construction increased by 0.5 per cent in January to $15.6 billion, with gains in both the residential and non-residential sectors, says Statistics Canada. Investment in the residential sector remained unchanged in January. Increases in Quebec (5.5 per cent to $2.3 billion), British Columbia (0.1 per cent to $1.9 billion), and Nova Scotia (0.6 per cent to $224 million) offset declines in the seven other provinces. All three components of non-residential investment (commercial, institutional, and industrial) were up in January, rising 1.4 per cent to $5.1 billion. Both Quebec (5.1 per cent to $1.1 billion) and Ontario (1.8 per cent to $1.9 billion) reported notable growth, while Alberta declined 1.5 per cent to $682.1 million.


Confidence Slips In March

Builder confidence slipped in March, says the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HIM). The latest index fell two points to 72 this month. Sentiment levels have remained in a firm range of the low- to mid-70s for the past six months. However, more than half of the builder responses in the March HMI were collected prior to March 4 so the recent stock market declines and the rising economic impact of the coronavirus were not reflected. Overall, 21 per cent of builders reported some disruption in supply due to virus concerns in other countries such as China.


Vinyl Plank Drives Lumber Liquidator Sales

Lumber Liquidators had net sales of $274 million for the fourth quarter of 2019, an increase of 1.8 per cent over net sales of $269 million in the fourth quarter of 2018. Comparable store sales increased 0.4 per cent year-over-year driven by sales growth in the vinyl plank category and offset, in part, by weakness in bamboo and laminate. Gross profit increased 17 per cent to $112 million compared to the year-ago period and gross margin expanded to 40.9 per cent from 35.7 per cent. Net income for the quarter was $16 million compared to a net loss of $57 million and adjusted earnings were $16 million compared to $4.7 million.


March 23, 2020

Retail Sales Up In January

Retail sales rose for the third consecutive month, up 0.4 per cent to $52 billion in January, says Statistics Canada. The increase was primarily attributable to higher sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers and gasoline stations, both of which were down in December. The other nine subsectors, which comprise the core retail sector, collectively declined 0.3 per cent. Sales were up in four of the 11 subsectors, representing 48 per cent of retail trade. After removing the effects of price changes, retail sales in volume terms decreased 0.3 per cent. The largest contributor to the monthly gain came from the motor vehicle and parts dealers subsector (1.8 per cent). After outpacing total retail sales in the fourth quarter of 2019 and growing in three of the last four months, core retail sales fell 0.3 per cent in January. Sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers decreased 1.6 per cent, following a 4.1 per cent increase in December.


Fonthill Retailer Joins Castle

Niagara Building Centre has joined Castle Building Centres. Located in Fonthill, ON, it will offer a full-service home improvement experience to the community and local area. Construction of the new location is well under way with the targeted grand opening to the community in early September.


Consumer Confidence Plummets Among COVID-19 Fears

Canadians are anxious about the coronavirus and this has implications for Canada’s economy given that consumers have been the main engine of economic growth, says the Conference Board of Canada in its March 2020 ‘Index of Consumer Confidence.’ The index dropped 32 points, the largest monthly decline ever, and stands at 89 (compared to 121 in February). There were no positives in the March survey – every region had a double-digit decline in confidence and every question saw a significant weakening in responses. Atlantic Canada and British Columbia each had their largest monthly declines ever. Quebec, Ontario, and Saskatchewan/Manitoba all had their second largest, while Alberta had its fourth largest. Unsurprisingly, views of the future are especially weak. The share of respondents who expect their finances to worsen reached the third-highest level ever. Meanwhile, the share of respondents who expect their job prospects to worsen rose to 32.6 per cent, well above the 21.1 per cent who expected the same just last month. With pessimism toward the future, the share of respondents who see now as a bad time to make a major purchase rose to 43.3 per cent, the highest since the beginning of 2017.


New Brunswick Company Manufactures Hempwood Cabinets

New Brunswick-based cabinet manufacturer Eastland Group of Companies Inc. has partnered with U.S.-based Fibonacci, a company that turns hemp stalks into building-grade hardwood. The two companies have been working together since Fibonacci’s inception in 2019 on developing applications for Hempwood in everyday building materials. Through its affiliated company, Canada Hempwood Inc., Eastland is finalizing an exclusive licensing agreement with Fibonacci to press Hempwood in Canada. Rather than the typical 20-year growth period for traditional hardwoods, hemp grows in a 90-day cycle. Additionally, it is 20 per cent denser than oak and breathes four times more carbon dioxide than other trees, resulting in a reduced environmental impact and stronger product. Eastland says Hempwood has the potential to expand and elevate building material options available on the market. Further options in finish and uniformity in texture will continue to become available as the partnership evolves.


Giant Tiger Implements Temporary Wage Increase

Giant Tiger Stores Limited is temporarily increasing the hourly wages of its store, distribution centre, and trucking employees by $2 per hour for hours worked, retroactive to March 8. The discount retailer is also implementing further measures in its over 250 stores across the country in an effort to increase the protection of customers and staff. Giant Tiger stores have seen an unprecedented amount of activity in the last number of weeks and the retailer plans to hire temporary workers to meet demand.


STONEX, PM Springfest Postponed

STONEX Canada and PM Springfest have been postponed due to ongoing COVID-19 developments. STONEX Canada, which was originally scheduled for May 12 to 14, has not yet been rescheduled. PM Springfest was originally scheduled for April 2 and will now be held June 3 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto, ON. For more information, visit STONEX Canada and PM Springfest


March 20, 2020

Government Support Encourages Chamber

The Ontario Chamber of Commerce is encouraged by the federal government’s $27 billion in direct support to Canadian employers and employees and $55 billion to meet liquidity needs of businesses and households through tax deferrals. These measures will help individuals, families and businesses affected by the COVID-19 crisis, says Rocco Rossi, its president and CEO. However, he says the federal government needs to further outline to the business community how this will apply to specific industries. “Many business owners, particularly small business owners, are struggling to react to the pace of disruption, as well as necessary efforts by all tiers of government to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect public health,” he says.


Home Depot Expands Paid Time Off

The Home Depot Canada is expanding its paid time off policy to address the needs of hourly associates to help alleviate some of the challenges they may be facing as a result of COVID-19. Starting this week, all hourly full-time associates will receive an additional 80 hours of paid sick or personal time and part-time hourly associates will receive an additional 40 hours of paid sick or personal time. These hours can be taken anytime from now until the end of the year. If associates are diagnosed with COVID-19 or advised by health or government officials to self-quarantine due to direct COVID-19 exposure, they will continue to be paid during that time.


U.S. Construction Shows Big Gain

Residential construction in the U.S. showed big year-over-year gains in February – a month untainted by the coronavirus, says the Commerce Department, with single-family starts producing the largest rate since June of 2007. However, starts were dragged down by sharp declines in new multi-family construction. Total U.S. housing starts in February declined 1.5 per cent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.59 million. The figure for total starts is 39.2 per cent above the February 2019 rate of 1.14 million. Single family housing starts in February were at a rate of 1.07 million, 6.7 per cent above the revised January figure of 1 million. Starts for buildings with five or more units fell 17 per cent to 508,000 in February. However, it says hurdles are on the horizon for home builders as the coronavirus has caused massive disruptions to the U.S. economy.


Royal Adds New Products

Royal Building Products now offers 5” smooth clapboard offerings in Celect Cellular Composite Siding and Celect Canvas Unpainted Siding. These products feature a smooth brushed finish and the same low-maintenance as traditional Celect products. They are available in 15 fade-resistant colors and feature a patented interlocking seam design, which keeps moisture out and almost completely eliminates seams.


March 19, 2020

Business Confidence Tumbles

Small business confidence took a sizable tumble in early March on news of the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak, says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). Its Business Barometer’ shows optimism levels dropped to 49.8 index points, down more than 10 points from its February reading of 60.5 and the lowest level since the 2008 financial crisis. An index level nearer to 65 indicates that the economy is growing at its potential. As well, its survey on the impacts of COVID-19 on small business owners found a quarter say they won't survive a month with a big drop in income.


Home Depot Adjusts Store Hours

The Home Depot Canada is temporarily adjusting store hours to better serve customers and communities in response to COVID-19. Beginning Saturday, stores will close daily at 6 p.m. As an essential retailer to the communities it serves, it is committed to keeping stores open just as it always does during times of crisis and natural disaster to provide homeowners and businesses for urgent needs such as hot water heaters, refrigerators, cleaning supplies, electrical and plumbing repairs, and harsh weather items like tarps, propane, and batteries. The adjusted hours will give stores the ability to staff appropriately and provide additional time to restock shelves and perform cleaning. As many items across store are in high demand, its merchants and supply chain teams are prioritizing replenishment and restocking as quickly as possible.


IKEA Canada Closes Stores

Effective immediately, IKEA Canada will close its stores as a precautionary measure due to the ongoing risk of COVID-19. Working in line with recommendations from local authorities, the retailer has already taken a number of preventative measures including closing its restaurants, bistros, and play areas and increasing the frequency of sanitization and cleaning in its locations. Based on the evolving situation, it has now closed all stores to customers until further notice. For convenience, IKEA will remain open online at IKEA.ca, offering home delivery services as well as store Click & Collect pick-up between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.


Amazon Prioritizes High-Demand Items

Amazon is changing the way it handles its business during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will begin to prioritize high-demand items like medical supplies and household staples by temporarily suspending the shipment of many other non-essential products. Thesuspension wiill block sellers from sending anything other than the absolute essentials. Items like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, paper towels, hand soap, and other similar products will all be ‘prioritized’ which will enable Amazon to more quickly receive, restock, and ship them out to customers. Prioritized categories are baby products, health and household, beauty and personal care including personal care appliances, groceries, industrial and scientific, and pet supplies.


Home Improvement Industry Strengthens

The U.S. home improvement industry is stronger than it has been in over 10 years. A report from Statisa estimates that total U.S. home improvement expenditure amounted to about $394 billion in 2018 and projects total home improvement sales in U.S. will reach $454.6 billion in 2023.It encompasses the sale of building materials, appliances, décor, and other home enhancements, and the services offered by contractors, tradespeople, and other workers who help to build, install, modify, and upgrade homes. With a nationwide shortage of housing and record-high home prices, more homeowners prefer to stay in their properties versus moving or upgrading to new ones. In fact, nearly half of American homeowners are living in the first home they purchased. Of those who have lived there for longer than six years, 61 per cent will choose to renovate instead of move.


Canadian Tire Reduces Hours

Canadian Tire Corporation will reduce operating hours at Canadian Tire Retail and temporarily close its other retail stores, including Mark's/L'Équipeur, SportChek, and PartSource. The temporary closure will be in effect until April 2, at which time operations will be reassessed. During the closure period, full and part-time employees will be paid. Hours at Canadian Tire stores will be reduced to allow for enhanced cleaning and restocking. Gas+ locations will also remain open, with regular operating hours.


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