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News

September 8, 2020

Government Offers More Relief For Western Business

The government of Canada has taken action to support small businesses affected by the pandemic with the $962 million Regional Relief and Recovery Fund (RRRF.) Nearly doubling the budget of Canada's Regional Development Agencies, the RRRF supports businesses that have been unable to get access to other federal relief measures, and might be in danger of falling through the cracks. In western Canada, Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) is delivering, in collaboration with the Community Futures Pan West Network, over $300 million to protect jobs, support businesses and help them play a role in the economic recovery. Through its two RRRF funding streams, WD provides repayable, interest-free funds to eligible western firms seeking up to $40,000, as well as funding of up to $1 million in support to cope with financial hardship resulting from COVID-19. Most of the firms supported are small businesses with fewer than 100 employees, including many local start-ups.


Fraser Valley Sales Setting Records

Fraser Valley, BC, had its second highest number of property sales and the highest number of new listings in August within the last two decades, says the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board (FVREB). It processed a total of 2,039 sales in August, a decrease of 2.9 per cent compared to sales in July, but an increase of 57.2 per cent compared to the 1,297 sales during August of last year. The previous high was 2,298 sales in August 2005, There were 3,309 new listings in August, a 6.8 per cent decrease compared to July and a 40.4 per cent increase compared to August of last year. August’s new listings were 28.9 per cent above the 10-year average for the month, the highest in the last 10 years. Last month finished with 7,404 active listings, an increase of 0.9 per cent compared to July’s inventory and a decrease of 7.9 per cent year-over-year.


Gift Card Use Skyrockets

The use of digital gift cards has grown dramatically since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis in the U.S., says a survey by Rise.ai, a provider of AI-driven customer re-engagement solutions. Initial income from digital gift cards in sampled U.S. stores rose by 198 per cent in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the first quarter this year and by 101 per cent compared to the second quarter of 2019. Initial income rose by 39 per cent in April, 128 per cent in May, and 154 per cent in June, in comparison to the same months last year. The number of digital gift cards sold in the second quarter of 2020 rose by 115 per cent compared to the year before and by 194 per cent compared to the first quarter of 2020.


IPEX Opens Illinois Distribution Centre

IPEX, a manufacturer of thermoplastic piping systems, has opened a distribution centre southwest of Chicago, IL, in Joliet. The facility, operated by LeSaint Logistics, has a starting size of 50,000 square feet with a possible expansion to beyond 200,000 square feet, which significantly increases IPEX’s available warehouse space in the region and brings it closer to customers and end-users. “A major part of our growth strategy in the U.S. includes increasing our warehouse sizes in order to carry more SKUs and provide a larger product offering for our customers,” says Travis Lutes, president and COO, IPEX.


U.S. Small Business Need More Stimulus Measures

Data indicates that small business owners are increasingly pessimistic about the coronavirus and need continued economic stimulus measures in the U.S., says Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation (NRF). Its ‘Small Business Pulse Survey’ shows that even though issues have eased as the economy has begun to reopen, optimism has declined. The survey initially found 30 per cent of respondents thought it would take at least six months for their businesses to recover from the pandemic, while 25 per cent thought recovery would take only two or three months. In June, the number expecting recovery to take six months rose to 44 per cent and only 10 per cent thought it could come in two or three months. By the week ending August 15, 48 per cent expected recovery would take six months and only 4.1 per cent though it might be possible in two or three. Only 8.5 per cent said their business had already returned to normal levels.


Haddad Joins BB&B

Wade E. Haddad is senior vice-president, real estate and construction, at Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. He will lead the company's recently announced store optimization strategy. Previously, he was senior vice-president, real estate and store development, with Ascena Retail Group.


Sales Edge Up At Toro

The Toro Company had third quarter net sales of $841 million, edging upward slightly by 0.3 per cent from net sales of $838.7 million in the third quarter of 2019. Sales for the first three quarters of 2020 were $2.54 billion, rising 5.6 per cent from sales of $2.4 billion in the first three quarters of 2019. Its net earnings jumped 46.8 per cent to $89 million for the third quarter compared to earnings of $60.6 million for the same period a year ago. Residential segment net sales for the third quarter were $205 million, up 38.3 per cent compared with $148.2 million in the same period last year. The increase was attributed to strong retail demand for zero-turn riding and walk power mowers and the company's expanded mass retail channel.


September 4, 2020

Toronto Home Sales Rebound

The Toronto Regional Real Estate Board (TRREB) is reporting the strong rebound in Greater Toronto, ON, Area (GTA) home sales continued with a record result for the month of August. It reports 10,775 residential sales in August, up by 40.3 per cent compared to August 2019. Sales were up on a year-over-year basis for all major home types, both in the city and surrounding GTA regions. The low-rise market segments, including detached and semi-detached houses and townhouses, were the drivers of sales growth. Condominium apartment sales were up on an annual basis for the second straight month, but to a lesser degree. Both the number of new listings entered into MLS System during the month and the number of active listings at the end of the August were up on a year-over-year basis. While new listings were up strongly for all home types, growth in new condominium apartment listings far outstripped growth in the other market segments.


No Sign Of Recovery Yet For Small Business

Fewer customers and reduced spending per customer are holding back small business recovery, says a survey results by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Its weekly ‘#SmallBusinessEveryDay’ recovery dashboard shows the majority of businesses are still reporting lower than normal sales. Challenges to getting back to normal sales include fewer customers (58 per cent), customers spending less on average (48 per cent), and operational challenges such as online sales, shipping, and interrupted supply chains (27 per cent). Government restrictions (20 per cent) and not being able to find staff (18 per cent) are also causing lower than normal revenues.


Mobile Coupons Can Entice Customers

While 65 per cent of consumers are shopping more at Amazon and less at their favourite stores, research from CodeBroker shows 75 per cent of survey respondents indicated that mobile coupons and special offers are key to bringing them back inside and online at their usual shopping destinations. ‘Consumer Shopping Habits During The COVID-19 Pandemic’ found retailers can also encourage shopping by making shopping safe by requiring mandatory mask-wearing in stores; offering high-value mobile/digital coupons; and providing free shipping on returns. The key takeaway for retailers hoping to drive sales and retain customers long term is the role digital coupons can play in prompting consumers to choose them rather than Amazon. “The results suggest opportunities for retailers to compete against online retailers like Amazon through both physical and online channels,” says Dan Slavin, CEO of CodeBroker, a developer of mobile marketing solutions. “As retailers grapple with ways to protect and build business during and after the pandemic, considering the role that high-value coupons delivered via mobile can play in their marketing efforts holds significant promise.”


BB&B Realigns Organizational Structure

Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. (BB&B) is undergoing a major realignment of its organizational structure to further simplify its operations, support investment in its strategic growth plans, and provide additional financial flexibility. The changes will help fund a number of growth initiatives to enhance the omni-always shopping experience in-store and online, building on the recent introduction of buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup services, in addition to supporting plans to launch an array of new customer-inspired owned brands in 2021 and deliver an end-to-end transformation of the company's supply chain.


Ruby Has Expands Canadian Fulfillment Capacity

Ruby Has, an eCommerce fulfillment company with a national footprint in the U.S., will move its Mississauga, ON, fulfillment centre to a new, larger facility, which represents a 300 per cent increase in capacity for its Canadian operations. The facility will feature state-of-the-art automation technology. The move is driven by the company's overall growth and that of its customers, as well as a strong trend in the industry.


Clayton, Dubilier & Rice To Acquire Epicor

Private investment firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice plans to acquire Epicor Software Corporation, a global provider of industry-specific enterprise software to industrial-focused sectors, from global investment firm KKR. Over the past four years under KKR’s ownership, Epicor’s executive team, led by CEO Steve Murphy, has driven growth through a combination of organic investments and strategic acquisitions. CD&R operating partner Jeff Hawn will serve as chairman of the Epicor board upon close of the transaction, expected later this year.


September 3, 2020

Consumer Shifts Show No Signs Of Changing

The vast majority (70 per cent) of Canadian consumers report a shift in product preferences at the start of the pandemic that doesn't show signs of changing, says the ‘EY Future Consumer Index’ survey. From luxury brands to high-tech gadgets, 55 per cent of Canadian consumers are ditching the latest trends and decreasing spending on non-essential goods and services. "The consumer was evolving long before the pandemic and the current landscape has only accelerated those changes," says Lokesh Chaudhry, consumer co-leader at EY Canada. "We're now seeing new preferences play out across the country as consumers ramp up online purchases, look for contactless transactions, and pay closer attention to the environmental impact of international supply chains." While affordability and health and safety are prominent drivers of current consumer behaviour, social and environmental impact of products is quickly rising. Shoppers increasingly want to know where and how products are made and sourced, and about the real cost of what they buy. Preferences for how consumers shop is changing, too, as more look for seamless - and safe -  experiences, leading 55 per cent of shoppers to turn to cashless payments as well as contactless purchasing and delivery options. Grocers have perhaps felt this shift the most, with 41 per cent of Canadians who were slow to adopt online grocery shopping pre-pandemic, now depending on the service, making it the third largest household spending category.


Vancouver Real Estate Market Remains Active

Home buyers and sellers remained active across Metro Vancouver, BC, in August, with home sale and new listing activity outpacing the region’s historical averages. The Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver (REBGV) says that residential home sales in the region totalled 3,047 in August, a 36.6 per cent increase from the 2,231 sales recorded in August 2019 and a 2.6 per cent decrease from the 3,128 homes sold in July. Last month’s sales were 19.9 per cent above the 10-year August sales average. The total number of homes currently listed for sale in Metro Vancouver is 12,803, a 4.4 per cent decrease compared to August 2019 (13,396) and a six per cent increase compared to July (12,083). For all property types, the sales-to-active listings ratio for August is 23.8 per cent. By property type, the ratio is 23.7 per cent for detached homes, 30.5 per cent for townhomes, and 21.6 per cent for apartments.


RPM Acquires Abrasives Manufacturer

RPM International Inc. subsidiary Rust-Oleum has acquired Ohio-based Ali Industries, LLC, a manufacturer of sandpaper and other abrasives. Ali Industries, which is commercially known as Gator Finishing Products, offers finishing products for power sanding, hand sanding, cutting and grinding, and floor sanding. Its products are used on many surfaces, including wood, metal and paint. They are sold under brand names, including Gator, Finish 1st, and Zip Sander. The company’s abrasive products are manufactured in the U.S. and distributed across North America through home improvement centres; mass merchandisers; and hardware, paint, and automotive supply stores.


Canfor Subsidiary Closes Acquisition

Further to Canfor Corporation’s previous announcement, its 70 per cent owned subsidiary, Vida Group, has completed the purchase of three sawmills located in Sweden from Bergs Timber.


Home Appoints Senior Directors

Darrin Sayles is senior director of sales and operations with Home Hardware Stores Limited. Previously, he was senior director of retail sales and operations with Carter’s. Dale MacPherson is senior director, store operations support. He will oversee construction and real estate, while continuing to provide support and oversight for the dealer application process.


Sales Up At Dollarama

Dollarama Inc. had sales of $1,013.6 million for the second quarter of fiscal 2021, an increase of 7.1 per cent compared to sales of $946.4 million in the second quarter of fiscal 2020. The increase in sales is attributable to the growth in the total number of stores and an increase in comparable store sales. Comparable store sales, excluding temporarily closed stores, grew 5.4 per cent, consisting of a 41.7 per cent increase in average transaction size and a 25.7 per cent decrease in the number of transactions. Gross margin was 43.9 per cent of sales in the quarter compared to 43.7 per cent of sales last year. Net earnings were $142.5 million compared to $143.2 million.


September 2, 2020

Businesses Turning To Digital Services

As COVID-19 continues to stress businesses financially and operationally, small business owners across North America are turning to digital services to improve cash flow and modernize their payments ecosystems. Citing speed, security, and transparency, more than half (57 per cent) of small businesses say they’ve increased their use of digital services for business-to-business (B2B) payments since the start of the pandemic, says a study by Mastercard. It shows 38 per cent of small business owners in the U.S. and Canada are experiencing cash flow issues associated with late payments and slow processing times for cash and cheques. While the challenges of traditional, physical payments existed before the pandemic, these pain points were magnified by widespread lockdowns and social distancing measures. Now, 48 per cent of small business owners say their business is one missed payment away from going under. To address these challenges, 64 per cent are actively trying to steer clients away from using cash and cheques. Online card payments saw the greatest increase at 60 per cent. As well, positive sentiment, increased customer satisfaction, and continued exploration suggest small businesses plan to stick with digital business payments, even as the pandemic subsides. The study shows 70 per cent are willing to invest in the technology required to advance their payment systems.


Single-family Homes Lead New Construction

The recovery of Toronto’s new construction home industry is being led by single-family homes, says the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD). Year-over-year sales soared 187 per cent last month – the best July performance for detached, semi-detached, and town homes since 2009. Although condo sales remained four per cent below July 2019, that was a substantial improvement from June, and still 19 per cent above the 10-year average. The number of new condos sold this year to date is down 28 per cent, while single-family home sales have risen 51 per cent.


Indigo Launches Private Label Home Products

Indigo has unveiled its home brand OUI. Inspired by the natural world and contemporary art, it is a collection of home décor, tabletop, and wellness products. The brand features a curated, comprehensive assortment. It consists of organic ceramic dishes, ridged ceramic serveware pieces, and a line of flat-pack storage solutions.


U.S. Pending Home Sales Gain Ground

Pending home sales in the U.S. gained ground for the third consecutive month, says the National Association of Realtors. The ‘Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI)’ rose 5.9 per cent to 122.1 in July. Year-over-year, contract signings rose 15.5 per cent. While home buyers missed most of the spring buying season due to pandemic-induced lockdown measures, buying activity is now robust from pent-up demand, it says.


Lawson To Acquire Partsmaster

Lawson Products, Inc. will acquire Partsmaster, a maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) solutions provider based in Texas. The acquisition is a step in Lawson’s growth strategy and will expand the company’s sales team and customer base. It says Partsmaster is a strong strategic fit with a similar vendor-managed inventory (VMI) business model, similar product margins, and a complementary product offering. The acquisition is expected to be accretive starting in fiscal 2021 and expanding further into 2022 as it becomes fully integrated.


Graham Joins Bonaventure

Brittany Graham is territory manager for Nova Scotia and Newfoundland with Bonaventure Agency Inc. Previously, she was a business development representative in the consumer products industry.


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