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News

September 10, 2020

Pandemic Creates ‘Decade Of The Home’

People's refocus on their local community in light of the COVID-19 pandemic will be long-term, bringing about the ‘decade of the home’ and forcing retailers and consumer goods companies to tailor their products and services to drive a more local experience, says a global survey from Accenture. The continuing discomfort with public spaces and travel, coupled with growing financial fears amid widespread decline in household income, will continue to keep people mostly at home. It found 54 per cent of Canadian consumers said that the pandemic has caused them to shop in closer neighbourhood stores, with three-quarters of those respondents (75 per cent) saying they plan to continue to do so long-term and 54 per cent buying more locally sourced products and 86 per cent of those saying they plan to continue to do so long-term. It also shows 44 per cent are shopping more cost-consciously and are likely to continue doing so, with consumers overall far more likely to have increased purchases of mid-range and budget brands and reduced purchases of premium brands since the pandemic began. The report notes that some brands are reaping the rewards of adjusting their services to meet the shift in consumer demands. Yet it cautions that taking advantage of these opportunities will require ongoing and careful analysis to anticipate which of these new consumer behaviours will stick and then adapting their portfolios and financial models accordingly. “Companies must boost their analytics capabilities to understand the pandemic's impact on their businesses at a local level ??? tracking its effect on local businesses and employment and people's level of comfort in returning to pre-COVID activities,” says Kelly Askew, a managing director with Accenture Strategy. “In addition to making consumers comfortable re-engaging outside the home through strict health and safety measures, retailers should carefully assess their physical assets ??? which stores to keep open and what inventory to stock, taking into account, for example, if they should leverage some of their store footprint for micro-fulfillment to support eCommerce growth. They might also experiment with temporary spaces, such as pop-ups in local communities.”


Housing Starts Up Third Consecutive Month

The trend in housing starts was 213,144 units in August 2020, up from 204,597 units in July 2020, says the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). This means the national trend in housing starts increased for a third consecutive month with higher multi-family starts in Ontario, including Toronto, driving the national increase. However, CMHC expects national starts to trend lower by the end of 2020 as a result of the negative impact of COVID-19 on economic and housing indicators. Housing starts for all areas in Canada was 262,396 units in August, an increase of 6.9 per cent from 245,425 units in July. Urban starts increased by 7.1 per cent in August to 248,154 units and multiple urban starts increased by 9.1 per cent to 201,214 units. Single-detached urban starts decreased by one per cent to 46,940 units.


Wickham RONA Undergoes Renovation

Major renovations are currently underway at the RONA store in Wickham, QC, operated by dealer owner Rosaire Mathieu Inc. It will see nearly 4,000 square feet added to the store’s sales floor. The indoor and outdoor layout will also be transformed to provide an open space shopping environment and maximize the product offering. “Our priority is meeting the constantly evolving needs of regional DIYers and contractors, while also providing unparalleled service in a safe environment,” says Carl Mathieu, one of the store owners. “These renovations are part of our long-term vision of becoming a key destination for home improvement and landscaping projects.” Customers will see the product offering expand progressively across all departments, especially in horticulture, lighting, fashion plumbing, and exterior sidings, as well as doors and windows. In addition, a wide range of seasonal products will be available in the new open-floor section that will be set up just in time for the holiday season. The store will remain open during the renovation, which should be completed in December.


Dramatic Increase Forecast For Smart Checkouts

The value of transactions processed by smart checkout technologies, where the fixed checkout process is replaced by a frictionless model, will reach $387 billion in 2025, up from just $2 billion in 2020, says data from Juniper Research. Smart checkout technologies provide much simpler user experiences by removing traditional checkouts; embracing a ‘just walk out’ approach. The rapid growth will be driven by retailers seeking sustainable business models in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the pandemic’s impact is only an acceleration of a long-term decline in the fortunes of traditional retail. While the growth in adoption is dramatic, innovation will be limited to the convenience segment, where product lines are simpler and implementation costs are lower. These roll-outs will also be limited to larger retail chains that can afford the significant investment costs involved.


Falcon To Open Saturdays

Falcon Equipment Ltd.’s Surrey, BC, service shop will be open for bookings on Saturdays starting September 19. The Saturday shift will consist of a full team of four heavy-duty mechanics, a customer service representative, and a parts representative. Founded in 1988, it provides sales, rentals, service, and parts support to the lifting, rail, municipal, and utility industries within Canada. It has branch locations in Nanaimo and Surrey, BC; Leduc, AB; Regina, SK; and Winnipeg, MB. Falcon also works to support the surrounding areas with sales, service, parts, and rentals. Their suppliers include Palfinger, National Crane, Boss Railcar Movers, Dieci Telehandlers, Henderson Snow and Ice Equipment, and Timberland Utility Equipment.


September 9, 2020

Outdoor Renovations Top Task This Summer

Outdoor renovations remained popular this summer with pools taking the top spot when looking at year-over-year increases in service requests, says HomeStars. Pool related tasks had an increase of 177 per cent in July over July 2019. For those without pools, water features were popular, with a 500 per cent increase in service requests for pool-related tasks compared to last summer. With most of Ontario in phase three for COVID-19 re-openings, homeowners are starting to have more confidence with interior renovations. Brick or stone fireplace installation requests were up 900 per cent and gas fireplace requests were up 500 per cent over last year, as preparation begins for the colder months. Ontario was the only market that submitted service requests for home office renovations, which saw an 83 per cent increase in July compared to July of last year. Other popular requests included raising concrete foundations, installing generators, and carpet or rug dyeing.


Retailers Gather Virtually For Orgill Buying Event

Orgill, Inc. just completed its first-ever ‘e-Volution Online Buying Event,’ which brought nearly 10,000 retailers together with many of the industry’s top vendors and service providers in a completely virtual environment. The ‘e-Volution Online Buying Event’ ran from August 24 through September 4 and was open to its entire retail customer base, enabling them to take advantage of promotional buying opportunities, shop for seasonal merchandise, and browse through thousands of new products without ever having to leave their stores. “Because this is the first time we have ever held an event like this, we weren’t quite sure what to expect,” says Boyden Moore, Orgill’s president and CEO. “Now that it’s over, I can say that we couldn’t be more pleased with the results. While we knew this event could not replace the entire live ‘Orgill Dealer Market’ experience, based on the results, it was clear that customers and vendors embraced the concept.” In fact, it reports that buying activity during e-Volution far exceeded the results of any previous dealer market in the company’s history including last fall’s live event.


Strong Home Sales In Montreal

In total, 4,878 residential sales transactions were concluded in the Montreal, QC, census metropolitan area (CMA) in August, says the Quebec Professional Association of Real Estate Brokers (QPAREB). This represents a 39 per cent increase compared to August of last year and the highest number of transactions ever recorded for a month of August. Geographically, all six of the Montreal CMA’s main areas registered increases in sales in August. Vaudreuil-Soulanges, the North Shore, and Laval led the way with respective increases of 62 per cent, 51 per cent, and 48 per cent, compared to August of last year. The South Shore (+39 per cent), the Island of Montreal (+29 per cent), and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu (+17 per cent) also performed well. Single-family home sales registered the largest increase at 47 per cent followed by condominium sales (+36 per cent), and plexes (+12 per cent).


Federal Government Invests In Alberta

The government of Canada is investing $3 million to help Alberta’s construction and engineering industry innovate and grow as it recovers from the impact of COVID-19. This investment from Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) will help small- and medium-sized businesses adopt new products and technologies that improve the energy efficiency of buildings and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This funding will be directed towards an Alberta-based not-for-profit organization – the Smart Sustainable Resilient Infrastructure Association (SSRIA) – to establish a network of test buildings where firms can collaborate and test their products under different conditions. WD funding is complemented by an investment of more than $2.8 million from Alberta Innovates, in-kind support from industry, and $165,000 from the SSRIA, bringing the total project funding to over $6.3 million.


Weyerhaeuser To Enhance Oregon Timberland Holdings

Weyerhaeuser Company plans to purchase and sell timberlands to funds managed by Hancock Natural Resource Group, a Manulife Investment Management company. The company is purchasing approximately 85,000 acres of timberlands in mid-coastal Oregon in one transaction and selling 149,000 acres of timberlands in southern Oregon in a second transaction. The transactions represent an opportunity to further enhance Weyerhaeuser's western timberlands portfolio with land that is contiguous with its existing ownership.


Schluter-Systems Opens Texas Facility

Schluter-Systems has opened a distribution centre office and training facility in Texas. The 500,000-square-foot centre will carry the majority of Schluter’s 8,000 SKUs available in North America. The company has warehouses in New York and Nevada and adding a third facility will improve its service levels and shipping times, it says. The Texas facility will also act as another central training location for architectural and installation customers. It will be outfitted with a new, leading-edge warehouse management system to optimize all warehouse and distribution processes, making the picking and packing procedures more efficient.


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.


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