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News

June 29, 2020

Delayed Projects To Cause Housing Start Loss


Roughly 500 construction projects in the Greater Toronto, ON, Area (GTA) have been delayed because of COVID-19, and these holdups will result in the loss of about 9,000 housing starts over the next 18 months, says a survey by the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD). The residential construction industry was granted essential workplace status under Ontario’s emergency orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the industry was only able to complete homes that were near completion and work on important infrastructure projects such as hospitals. Overall development and building projects across the region were delayed. “Disruptions to the supply chain negatively impacted the ability of the industry to secure vital building materials,” says Dave Wilkes, president and CEO, BILD. As well, “worksites had to appropriately adjust to COVID-19 protocols and social distancing rules negatively impacted productivity and some municipalities had to adjust to working remotely. This slowed processing of planning and building applications and stalled developments and construction projects.” BILD says the delay will setback occupancy of over 8,000 units by the end of 2021, potentially exacerbating an already existing shortage of housing in the City of Toronto, reduce construction activity, and see the loss of 10,000 jobs per year.


Technology Would Help BC Businesses Recover


Businesses in British Columbia need to enhance the skills of workers and adopt information and communications technology (ICT) to overcome the damage incurred over the past three months from the COVID-19 pandemic, says the Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia (CPABC). As a result of necessary containment measures, BC’s unemployment rate hit 13.4 per cent in May and economic forecasts for the province predict a steep economic contraction in 2020. The damage incurred over the past three months will have a persisting impact on the long-term health of BC’s economy. CPABC recommends the BC government establish programs that would help businesses implement ICT. It says these investments would improve business productivity in the short- and long-term, and are critical for getting the province’s economy back on track. The adoption of ICT is critical in facilitating a shift to remote work, continued business operations, and online services. Small businesses make up over 98 per cent of BC businesses, but many face barriers investing in technology. It is critical for the BC. government to encourage further adoption of ICT by providing input tax credits for investment into technology over the next three years.


AfterShip Offers Free Shipping Software


AfterShip, a shipping and tracking platform for online retailers, is making Postmen, its eCommerce shipping API, free with no limit on shipping volumes. Postmen is a scalable shipping solution that allows eCommerce companies to automate and optimize their shipping processes with 60 couriers worldwide. Because of COVID-19, businesses around the world have had to temporarily close their brick-and-mortar stores, forcing them to rapidly adjust operations. The shift away from in-person retail has led to unprecedented demand for eCommerce shipments, and many companies have needed to scale and adapt to a very different retail environment. Postmen API helps companies of all sizes mitigate this challenge and reduce costs by seamlessly integrating courier selection, cost and delivery time estimates, and the printing of shipping labels into their existing shipping infrastructure at no added cost to the shipper. Since February 2020, AfterShip has seen an 85 per cent increase in shipping volume, instead of the typical decrease in volume that occurs in the months after the holiday retail season.


CN Investing $305 Million In Alberta


As part of its strategic investment to support growing demand and enable supply chains, CN will invest approximately $305 million across Alberta in 2020. The investment will include expansion projects such as the construction of double track to allow more trains to pass on CN’s mainline. The maintenance program will focus on the replacement of rail and ties as well as maintenance work on track infrastructure. The investments will create greater capacity, which supports reductions in its customers’ transportation supply chain GHG emissions, by encouraging the use of rail for long haul needs. This reduces emissions, traffic congestion, accidents, and burdens on public transportation infrastructure. Moving freight by rail instead of truck reduces GHG emissions by 75 per cent. The company will also continue to invest in important safety-enhancing technologies, such as the Autonomous Track Inspection Program and Automated Inspection Portals. CN has forest products distribution centres in Calgary, Edmonton, and Edson, AB.


June 26, 2020

May GTA New Home Market Quiet

The Greater Toronto, ON, Area (GTA) new home market saw another slow month in May, says the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD). With 866 new homes sold, it was the lowest May for total new home sales since tracking started in 2000. May’s total new home sales were down 81 per cent from May 2019 and 76 per cent below the 10-year average. Single-family homes, including detached, linked, and semi-detached houses and townhouses (excluding stacked townhouses), accounted for 438 new home sales, down 55 per cent from last May and 68 per cent below the 10-year average. Sales of new condominium apartments, including units in low-, medium-, and high-rise buildings, stacked townhouses, and loft units, at 428 units sold, were down 88 per cent from May 2019 and 80 per cent below the 10-year average. With few projects launching in May, total new home remaining inventory decreased slightly from the previous month, to 13,647 units. Remaining inventory includes units in preconstruction projects, in projects currently under construction, and in completed buildings.


PayPal Rolls Out QR Code Touch-Free Payments

PayPal has launched QR code payments in Canada for small businesses to accept touch-free mobile payments from their customers using the PayPal app. From local stores to hair salons and farmers markets, this functionality in the PayPal app allows customers to buy or sell in-person, safely, and securely without needing to purchase any new equipment. Local business owners who have not yet implemented a touch-free payment method can create an individual QR code and hang it in their shop window or next to the cash register. Customers can go to the PayPal app, click 'Send' and tap the QR code symbol. The camera will open, and customers can scan a seller's QR code and follow the prompts to complete the transaction. To continue helping small businesses, PayPal is waiving the standard seller transaction fees incurred on sales conducted using a QR Code through September 30.


Royal Building Products Partners With One Click Contractor

Royal Building Products, a Westlake company, has expanded its virtual selling capabilities through a partnership with One Click Contractor throughout Canada. The partnership will support the virtual sales process as the company shifts into the peak sales season for exterior building products. One Click Contractor is an all-in-one virtual sales software solution. Contractors can run their entire sales process – from measuring to payment – without setting foot in a customer’s home. One Click Contractor also enables contractors to keep all the important information related to each job in one place, allowing them to focus on doing the job right instead of being buried under a mountain of paperwork.


CN Investing $235 Million In Quebec

CN will invest approximately $235 million into its operations across Quebec in 2020. The investments include various information technology projects, Positive Train Control, the replacement of rail and ties, as well as the maintenance of level crossings, culverts, signal systems, and other track infrastructure. The investments will create greater capacity, which supports reductions in its customers’ transportation supply chain GHG emissions by encouraging the use of rail for long haul needs. This reduces emissions, traffic congestion, accidents, and burdens on public transportation infrastructure as one freight train can replace over 300 trucks from roads. Moving freight by rail instead of truck reduces GHG emissions by 75 per cent. The company will also continue to invest in important safety-enhancing technologies, such as the Autonomous Track Inspection Program and Automated Inspection Portals. As well, CN, Hutchison Ports, and the Port of Quebec are working together to pioneer an intermodal container terminal. This state-of-the-art terminal is set to become a cornerstone of the deep-water, year-round Port of Quebec. The new terminal will have capacity for 700,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) and will be exclusively served by CN. The opening is scheduled for spring of 2024. CN transports more than $250 billion worth of goods annually for a wide range of business sectors.


Szekszer Moves Up At Home Hardware

Rob Szekszer has been appointed vice-president, merchandise hardlines with Home Hardware Stores Limited. He joined the company in 2019 as director, merchandise hardlines. He has nearly 25 years of experience in the home improvement retail industry.


June 25, 2020

Retail Sales Take The Plunge, Mostly


April retail sales show the deep impact of COVID-19 on retail sales, says Ed Strapagiel, a retail consultant. Total unadjusted retail sales were down 13.7 per cent year-over-year for the three months ending April, and down a whopping 32.8 per cent for the month of April alone. Considering all the store closures, however, this was pretty much as expected. Retail sales are likely to be even worse in May. The food and drug sector registered record sales increases due to COVID-19, up 9.4 per cent year-over-year. Supermarkets and other grocery stores sales were up 17 per cent for the quarter. Store merchandise retail sales, on the other hand, were down 13.7 per cent and 33.2 per cent for April alone year-over-year. While overall there were major declines in location-based retail sales, there was a huge increase in eCommerce sales. In April, eCommerce retail sales were up 120.3 per cent year-over-year. It appears that bricks and clicks stores have gained more from eCommerce than pure play operators. eCommerce represented about 4.1 per cent of total Canadian retail sales for the 12 months ending April while in April alone, eCommerce represented a record 9.5 per cent.


Americans Renovating More Than Ever


It appears U.S. homeowners want to love their home again, says a survey by online consumer lending provider LightStream. Americans are doing more renovations than ever with 77 per cent of homeowners planning to renovate their homes in 2020. They are also spending more on their renovations with the average spend per renovation up 27 per cent from 2019 to $11,473. Millennials are renovating the most with 92 per cent planning home improvement projects this year. This compares to 78 per cent of Gen Xers and 69 per cent of Boomers. As for the most popular renovation project, outdoor renovations have surpassed kitchen and bath remodels, with nearly half (47 per cent) of homeowners planning an outdoor renovation in 2020. Most homeowners (83 per cent) aren’t entirely happy with their current living space and 65 per cent have an area in their home that they don’t like to see. Homeowners are most embarrassed about – and most excited to remodel – the bathroom, bedroom and basement.


IPG Releases Social Distancing Tape Line


Intertape Polymer Group (IPG) has released a product line of social distancing tape. The line features products designed for businesses entering the reopening phase while abiding by social distancing guidelines. The indoor marking tape is designed to adhere to hard indoor surfaces and maintain clean removability, while the outdoor marking tape is durable enough to withstand foot traffic and resist elements. The line offers retail packaged products ready for prominent shelf placement. The full assortment consists of blue and orange indoor tape (1.41 inches by 60 yards) and red and yellow outdoor tape (1.88 inches by 60 yards). These products are intended to mark 6-foot distance points for directing foot traffic and facilitating safe line formation.


Canada Invests In Net-Zero Energy Buildings


The Government of Canada will invest over $2.4 toward the construction of energy-efficient residential buildings across Canada. The funding will support a project led by the Canadian Home Builders' Association (CHBA) that will enable seven housing builders to construct net-zero energy and net-zero energy ready residential buildings in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario. Buildings and homes contribute approximately 17 per cent of Canada's greenhouse gas emissions. Net-zero energy buildings are designed and constructed to produce at least as much energy as they consume on an annual basis. The project is looking to demonstrate it is possible to construct net-zero energy ready housing with reduced cost and construction time, which will in turn inspire energy-efficient changes throughout Canada's construction industry. The investment is part of the government's commitment to fight climate change, advance for a clean energy future, and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Federal funding is provided through Natural Resources Canada's Green Infrastructure program, which aims to accelerate the deployment and market entry of next-generation clean energy infrastructure in Canada.


June 24, 2020

Consumer Confidence Begins Bounce Back

As Canadian provinces move further ahead with their reopening plans, consumer confidence is following along, says the ‘Bloomberg Nanos Canadian Confidence Index.’ The index, a composite measure of financial health and economic expectations, jumped to 45.4 last week from 42.9 a week earlier. That’s the largest weekly gain since 2013. “Consumer sentiment expectations on the Canadian economy are on the rise with a U-shaped trend line beginning to emerge,” says Nik Nanos, chief data scientist, in the report. “Perceptions of the future strength of the Canadian economy – although still net negative – have improved 10 points in the last four weeks.” Sentiment has now been rising for eight-straight weeks, reflecting increased optimism about the economy as provinces begin allowing retailers to open and people to congregate in larger groups. However, despite the multi-week uptick in consumer confidence, sentiment will likely take a long time to get back where they were pre-COVID, says the report.


Canada Begins Recovery From Recession

An 8.2 per cent decline in the Canadian economy this year will mark the worst annual contraction on record. However, despite the quick and pronounced economic fallout from the pandemic, recovery is underway, says the ‘Canadian Outlook Summary’ by the Conference Board of Canada. The report forecasts a brighter outlook for 2021 with an anticipated rebound of 6.7 per cent and 4.8 per cent in 2022. “This rebound is more in line with a ‘U’-shaped recovery as opposed to a ‘V’ recovery that would have seen growth increase at a faster pace,” says Alicia Macdonald, associate director of economic forecasting. “It reflects the tremendous uncertainty that will be a fact of life in the world economy over the next year or so as economies grapple with the continued health risks associated with the virus.” Factors that will affect recovery include employment, which will remain nearly 1.1 million lower for 2020 as a whole than in 2019. With many Canadians out of work, consumer spending will take a hit. After an 11.3 per cent drop in consumer spending in the first quarter of 2020, a staggering 57.5 per cent drop is expected in the second quarter. Business confidence will also take time to recover. With global demand drying up, exports are forecast to contract by 14.3 per cent in 2020. Unsurprisingly in this uncertain environment, firms are reluctant to invest in new capacity, and the report anticipates an 11.3 per cent drop in private sector investment this year.


Employment, Income Declines Impact Housing Outlook

Significant employment and income declines, coupled with uncertainty over the future trajectory of the virus and employment and income conditions, will lower demand for housing in 2020, says the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) in its ‘Housing Market Outlook – Special Edition’ (HMO). CMHC forecasts housing starts, sales, and prices for Canada's major housing markets are likely to remain below their pre-COVID-19 levels over the forecast period. The precise timing and speed of the recovery in major markets is highly uncertain and will vary considerably. “COVID-19 has had unprecedented impacts on Canada's urban centres,” says Aled ab Iorwerth, deputy chief economist, CMHC. “Short-term uncertainty will lead to severe declines in sales activity and in new construction. As the virus is overcome, cities will bounce back, but there is significant uncertainty with respect to the path and timing of the recovery.” Sales and construction have dropped and will continue to drop across Canada's major markets. Resale activity and average house prices will fall across all markets but the rate and magnitude of declines of both will vary.


Lowe’s Canada Wins ENERGY STAR Award

Lowe’s Canada has received the ‘2020 ENERGY STAR Canada Special Recognition Award’ recognizing its commitment to energy efficiency. Lowe’s Canada offers thousands of products with a smaller environmental footprint, including hundreds of ENERGY STAR certified products, through its ECO program that has been implemented in its Lowe’s, RONA, and Reno-Depot corporate stores, as well as in participating RONA dealer-owned stores. In addition to participating in various energy savings rebate programs, Lowe’s Canada works with suppliers to promote and continuously offer more ENERGY STAR certified products, such as appliances, lighting, and air conditioners. To facilitate the choices of consumers who want to reduce the environmental footprint of their projects, the products are readily identifiable in store and online. In addition, various home improvement guides on the company’s websites highlight the environmental and energy efficiency benefits of these products. As well, the company has undertaken a large project to significantly reduce the energy consumption of its corporate stores and distribution centres across the country by installing building management systems and LED lighting systems.


BMR Group Shifts Media Investment

BMR Group will devote close to 95 per cent of its media investment over the next 12 months to local media. In these particularly difficult times, coupled with the trend of digital media eating away at media revenues, the group says it was only natural to go even further and enhance its commitment to support the local economy and local communities. In the past three years, BMR has already invested nearly $25 million in the local media industry. These investments should increase significantly with the signing of new agreements with local partners. The media plan for the next 12 months will be based on the use of local digital platforms and traditional media that are already part of the group's strategies.


June 23, 2020

Public Health Measures Impact Building Construction

Investment in building construction plunged 45.9 per cent to $8.4 billion in April compared with the previous month, says Statistics Canada. Previously, the largest national decline on record for the current series (which dates back to 2010) was a 3.9 per cent decrease in August 2017. Both the residential (-49.2 per cent) and non-residential (-38.8 per cent) sectors reported record declines. Investment decreased in all provinces and territories, with Ontario (-$3.2 billion) and Quebec (-$2.5 billion) reporting the largest declines. Public health measures put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 severely impacted the construction industry as the largest provinces in the country shut down all non-essential construction sites. Declines in the residential sector varied by province, however, at a national level, the declines were felt more sharply in single family homes (-54.7 per cent) than in multi-family dwellings (-43.5 per cent). Residential renovations largely ground to a halt across the country, with the exception of certain activities such as emergency and exterior repairs, as many projects were cancelled or deferred to comply with public health requirements. On the other hand, new residential construction was able to progress across most of the country in April. Excluding Quebec, new residential construction increased 11.7 per cent on an unadjusted basis compared with April 2019, as construction firms adapted to public health requirements such as improved on-site sanitation, physical distancing, and staggered work schedules. Investment in the non-residential sector plummeted 38.8 per cent to $3 billion in April compared with the previous month.


Lowe’s Canada Corporate Stores Support Local Charities

To help their local children’s hospital and food bank cope with the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 23 Lowe’s and RONA corporate stores in Calgary and Edmonton, AB, came together to present the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation and Edmonton’s Food Bank with a donation of $11,000 and $12,000, respectively. The funds will help these organizations provide medical and food relief to local residents impacted by the current crisis. As well, RONA and Reno-Depot corporate stores on Montreal, QC’s South Shore and in the West Island presented a check of $15,000 to two local food banks. Moisson Rive-Sud and The Depot Community Food Centre were recently presented with cheques in the amount of $10,000 and $5,000, respectively, to help them provide emergency food aid to local residents facing food insecurity. Over the past few weeks, many Canadians who lost their jobs in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis have turned to food banks, which have seen an increase in food aid requests. The donations were made possible because of the philanthropic investment of $1,000,000 that was announced by Lowe’s Canada in April to support its associates and communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Maibec Officially Acquires CanExel

Maibec has officially acquired the CanExel brand and production facility located in East River, NS. Both the brand and the facility have been owned by LP Building Solutions (LP) for over 20 years. The transaction, poised to strengthen Maibec's reputation in custom exterior siding systems, aligns well with its expansion strategy to become the manufacturer and supplier of choice for residential and commercial construction and renovation in Canada and the U.S. CanExel will now be sold under the name Maibec CanExel. The deal is part of LP's Siding business' strategy to focus exclusively on supporting demand for its strand-based siding products.


Falcon Equipment Adds To Its Lineup

Falcon Equipment Ltd. is now the exclusive dealer of Beauroc Inc. throughout British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Beauroc was founded in 1985 and manufactures premium dump bodies for class 3-8 dump truck bodies, landscape bodies, and multipurpose bodies. Its dump bodies heavy-duty for strength but lightweight for maximum payload. The bodies are available in steel and stainless in a variety of product models. In conjunction with this partnership with Beauroc, Falcon Equipment is now also a Parker OEM. Parker will become a standard product offering, complementing the Falcon Equipment builds.


Cooler Makes Tools Mobile

DEWALT has launched its TSTAK Mobile Cooler. The cooler allows users to take their tools and other equipment with them wherever they go. It has an organizer lid with fixed dividers for organizing drill bits and accessories and a large volume body that can store hand or power tools. The cooler is made from a plastic that's strong enough to hold up to professional use. It can be stacked on top of any other TSTAK module, and has an ice retention capability of three days. It also features seven-inch all-terrain wheels, an integrated metal bottle opener, and the lid top has two can holders.




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