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News

September 22, 2020

Retailers Continue To Struggle Post Pandemic

Many categories within the retail sector are still strained and struggling to survive the COVID-19 pandemic, says the Retail Council of Canada (RCC). “After a big leap in June, the 1.2 per cent month-over-month decline in core retail in July suggests that the retail recovery is slowing, consistent with what we have seen over the past couple of days with numbers coming out of the UK and U.S.,” it says. Individual retail formats continue to rebound at varying paces. Areas that had done well during the early stages of reopening fell back somewhat, including building materials and garden supplies. As well, there continues to be a slight reduction in eCommerce demand since consumers were able to physically return to shopping in bricks-and-mortar stores in all provinces across Canada for the full month of July. eCommerce was 4.8 per cent of total retail sales in July compared to 5.4 per cent in June (these percentages do not include eCommerce sellers such as Amazon or Wayfair). Looking ahead, there are several challenges that will test retailers including a possible second wave of COVID-19, along with holidays such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and the lack of consumer traffic in most city centres across Canada.


Wholesale Sales Have Third Monthly Increase

Wholesale sales grew for a third consecutive month in July, rising 4.3 per cent to a record high $65 billion on the strength of higher sales in the motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts and accessories subsector, says Statistics Canada. Excluding the motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts and accessories subsector, wholesale sales increased 1.8 per cent and wholesale sale volumes grew 4.2 per cent. It says the wholesale sector has demonstrated considerable resiliency as the Canadian economy started to reopen in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. July's sales were 0.6 per cent higher than the pre-COVID-19 level in February 2020. The recovery from the COVID-19-induced drop has been widespread in the wholesale sector, as most subsectors' sales have reached pre-pandemic levels. Provincially, wholesale sales were higher in eight provinces in July than February. Ontario and Prince Edward Island were the only provinces that had not returned to pre-COVID-19 levels. Wholesale inventories fell 0.4 per cent in July to $90.1 billion, their lowest level since April 2019. It was the third consecutive decline for stocks of wholesale goods. The inventory-to-sales ratio fell to 1.39 in July from 1.45 in June, the third consecutive decline, and also the lowest level since October 2018.


Walmart Commits To Zero Emissions

Walmart is doubling down on addressing the growing climate crisis by targeting zero emissions across the company's global operations by 2040. Along with its Walmart Foundation, it is also committing to help protect, manage, or restore at least 50 million acres of land and one million square miles of ocean by 2030 to help combat the cascading loss of nature threatening the planet. It is building on its long-standing commitment to climate action by raising its ambition to zero emissions by 2040, without the use of carbon offsets, across its global operations by harvesting enough wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources to power its facilities with 100 per cent renewable energy by 2035; electrifying and zeroing out emissions from all of its vehicles, including long-haul trucks, by 2040; and transitioning to low-impact refrigerants for cooling and electrified equipment for heating in its stores, clubs, and data and distribution centres by 2040.


More Women Employed In Construction

The number of women working in the U.S. construction industry last year surpassed its previous peak in 2006, says the National Association of Home Builders. While during the 2008/2009 financial crisis, the number of female construction workers dropped by nearly 30 per cent, the numbers have now come back to pre-recession numbers with the past three years seeing significant increases after a seven-year period where there was no growth. In 2019, the number of female construction workers hit 1.2 million, a six per cent increase from 2018. This is especially important because labour shortages are one of the key issues facing the industry, it says.


Paint Provides Thermo Barrier

Bisaten Thermo Paint & Primer, manufactured in Italy recently introduced to the Canadian and U.S. markets, is a durable, washable paint that is non-toxic, free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and packaged in recyclable containers. This product also provides a thermo barrier with 3M technology. It is available in a range of colours inspired by the Italian countryside and coastline. The company is currently working with distribution channels in Canada and can provide large orders through its distributor.


Herron Joins Roseburg

Kara Herron is strategic marketing manager with Roseburg Forest Products. Previously, she was a brand marketing leader at Mimaki USA.


September 21, 2020

Building Materials Lead July Retail Sales Decrease

Retail sales rose 0.6 per cent to $52.9 billion in July, led by higher sales at motor vehicle and parts dealers and gasoline stations, says Statistics Canada. Following four increases in five months, sales at core retailers (which excludes motor vehicle and parts dealers and gasoline stations) decreased 1.2 per cent in July, led by sharply lower sales at building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers (-11.6 per cent). Overall, the recovery in total retail sales has been V-shaped, with sales in June and July rebounding from the record low observed in April. The period of depressed retail sales in the second quarter of 2020 coincided with a 13.7 per cent decline in household spending (nominal terms) and an increase in the household savings rate to 28.2 per cent as physical distancing measures left Canadians with fewer places to spend. However, with the gradual resumption of business activities across the country, retail sales in June and July were able to recover and surpass February's pre-pandemic levels. Based on respondent feedback, approximately three per cent of retailers were closed during July. The average length of shutdown was one business day. Sales rose in British Columbia (+2.1 per cent) on higher sales at gasoline stations. Retail eCommerce sales were $2.8 billion in July, accounting for 4.8 per cent of total retail trade.


Shop-Vac Closes Doors

The Shop-Vac Corporation shut down its Williamsport, PA, facilities on September 15. It closed due to a planned sale falling through and the company is suffering due to economic conditions resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Founded in 1953, it is a maker of wet-dry vacuum cleaners for residential as well as industrial use.


July U.S. Housing Permits Up

More single-family housing permits were issued in the U.S. in July this year than last year. The National Association of Home Builders says there was a year-over-year increase of 5.8 per cent. In July of this year, 525,623 permits were issued, an increase of the 496,726 single-family permits issued in July 2019.


Beauti-Tone Paint Announces Colour of the Year

Beauti-Tone Paint has announced its 2021 colour of the year. ‘Dancing in the Rain’ (C20-5-0644-0) is a soft blue that it intended to offer hope and comfort in one exquisite hue from the ‘Colour Trends 2021 Colour Collection.’ The pastel colour brings a sense of tranquility and clarity, allowing consumers to centre their thoughts and focus on relaxation, it says. This colour is suitable for all rooms, whether it’s a kitchen, bedroom, or basement. The ‘Colour Trends 2021 Colour Collection’ is a collection of hues that are approachable and full of character. Finding influence from the world around, it is designed to push inner boundaries towards nature and connect with the creative spirit within. It features 12 colours and is available exclusively at Home Hardware, Home Building Centre, and Home Hardware Building Centre locations across Canada.


Holmes Group Partners With IMPROVE Canada

Mike Holmes and the Holmes Group have partnered with IMPROVE Canada. This strategic partnership includes live-appearances, co-branded digital content, and a marketing campaign. It will include joint social media activities with the goal of increasing awareness and appointment bookings. The marketing campaign will consist of posts across the social media channels of Mike Holmes, Sherry Holmes, and Mike Holmes Jr., as well as Facebook Live broadcasts, Twitter Chats, and new blog content – all generated to reach a highly engaged audience. Mike Holmes will also launch a podcast from Improve Canada. The Holmes team will be talking to local designers, builders, and suppliers on topics that will help homeowners make better decisions regarding their home.


PayBright Launches Canadian Campaign

Instalment payment plan provider PayBright has launched its first major consumer campaign in the Canadian market. The 'Break Up the Cost' campaign promotes buy now, pay later as a smart and financially flexible way for Canadians to pay for their favourite products and services. Developed by PayBright's agency, Round, along with partners Rebel Media and Rachael Collier PR, 'Break Up the Cost' comes to life through a full-scale digital advertising, influencer, and public relations campaign. Under the line, ‘Buy This, Pay Like This,’ the ads feature PayBright's retail partner products being split into pieces to communicate how PayBright works. The campaign runs across digital and social media channels nationally.


September 18, 2020

Customer Safety, Business Survival Top Concerns

When the global pandemic arrived in Canada, dealing a blow to businesses across every industry, survival became the top priority, followed closely by keeping customers safe. For many, that meant creating or enhancing online processes to address both concerns. However, ensuring a positive customer experience (CX) fell in terms of priorities, says a study by TMG International. When the coronavirus struck in March and many businesses and provinces went into lockdown, companies struggled to maintain or improve their customer experience – with some even deciding it was not a priority in the face of the challenges of keeping their business afloat or dramatically and quickly changing service delivery, it says. Customers, however, prioritized safety with all interactions. That could explain why retail eCommerce sales almost doubled to a record $3.9 billion in May, compared to $2 billion in February. eCommerce was able to innately join CX with personal safety, demonstrating that customer experience is even more important than ever. John Bardawill, managing director of TMG International, says, "From now on, everyone will be looking at every interaction with a business through the lens of personal safety and companies need to quickly become familiar with the term CFP – customer fear perception. " To survive COVID, businesses need to understand that the customer's experience needs are evolving daily, but are still focused on reducing risk associated with the virus; have a firm understanding of how CFP is driving customer behaviour like never before; and identify opportunities that will lower the potential health risks for consumers and make it easier to access services.


Slower Sales Forecast For Holiday Season

Holiday retail sales in the U.S. are likely to increase between one and 1.5 per cent, says Deloitte in its annual holiday retail forecast. Overall, Deloitte’s retail and distribution team projects that holiday spending will result in sales between $1,147 billion and $1,152 billion during the November-January timeframe. The firm also forecasts that eCommerce sales will grow by 25 per cent to 35 per cent, year-over-year, during the 2020-2021 holiday season, compared to sales increasing by 14.7 per cent in 2019. eCommerce holiday sales are expected to generate between $182 billion and $196 billion this season. The upcoming holiday retail season will be marked by unparalleled uncertainty, it says. Holiday sales will play out in one of two possible scenarios this season, a relatively stable year-over-year sales increase (zero per cent to one per cent) or a more significant jump (2.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent), both of which are lower than in years past and will be driven by a K-shaped recovery. The formal forecast increase (between one per cent and 1.5 per cent) is a result of melding both scenarios.


Builder Confidence Jumps On Single-family Homes

U.S. builder confidence in the newly-built, single-family home market jumped six points to 78 in August on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. Anything above 50 is considered positive sentiment. The index is now at the highest level in the 35-year history of the monthly series and matches the record set in December 1998. Builder sentiment plunged to 30 in April, when the coronavirus pandemic shut down the U.S. economy, but it recovered quickly as consumers suddenly sought more space in less urban areas. However, rising lumber prices could slow the market’s momentum this fall. The cost of lumber is soaring not only because of increased demand but because mills shut down in April and May and did not expect to see the kind of strong demand they’re seeing now.


Weyerhaeuser Timberlands Affected By Wildfires

The wildfires in the Pacific northwest U.S. have reached Weyerhaeuser’s Oregon timberlands, although it is too soon to assess the affected acreage or potential business impact. The company says it will evaluate conditions on the ground when it is safe to do so and will provide more information as appropriate. Weyerhaeuser manages approximately 1.6 million acres of forests in Oregon and 1.3 million acres of forests in Washington. The company operates three mills in Oregon and two mills in Washington, one building materials distribution centre in each state, and several nurseries, orchards, and offices across both states.


Bosch Power Tools Gives Back To Trade Workers

Bosch Power Tools is launching a campaign that will recognize and acknowledge trade workers for their tireless efforts and give them the thanks they deserve. With ‘Always Essential,’ Bosch plans to meet these essential workers where they are, giving back through giveaways and worksite activations. Over the coming months, teams from Bosch will meet trade workers on their turf at worksites around Canada and the U.S. with giveaways and other gear to say ‘thank you’ to the indispensable individuals who are the backbone of the trade industries.


GoCo Offers Business Communication Solutions

GoCo, a provider of business communications technology, managed network, and security solutions, has began to simplify access to business communications technologies for Canadian businesses. The GoCo model provides businesses of any size with a suite of solutions that are simple for business leaders to implement and use, even with little-to-no IT expertise. The platform combines the strengths and expertise of bluArc, BroadConnect Canada, Infra-Solutions, Netrium, Radiant, and Ubity to provide simple and scalable solutions for unified communications, managed connectivity, and network security. Backed by TELUS, GoCo already serves more than 4,400 businesses, 100,000 unified communications users, and 27,500 managed network sites, supporting a roster of customers including Tim Hortons, Shell, and La Vie en Rose.


September 17, 2020

Walmart Imposing Fees On Vendors

Walmart Canada has begun to impose additional charges on its vendors, says a Financial Post report. It is imposing a 1.25 per cent charge on the cost of all merchandise sold to the merchant as well as a further five per cent levy on merchandise sold online. The charges will reportedly assist in funding the retailer’s Canadian operations refresh with funds put toward store revamps, supermarket delivery, and distribution hubs. Adam Grachnik, a representative for Walmart Canada, is quoted as saying, “We launched the initiative because the Canadian retail industry is evolving and the way we work with suppliers needs to change, too.” The move comes as Walmart plans to spend $3.5 billion to improve retail locations in Canada and modernize technology in its retail locations.


Chemong HHBC Receives ‘Store of the Year Award’

Chemong Home Hardware Building Centre in Selwyn, ON, was awarded the annual ‘Walter J. Hachborn Store of the Year Award.’ The award is part of the ‘Home Hardware Proud of My Home Achievement Awards and Celebration’ which was held during Home Hardware Stores Limited’s ‘2020 Virtual Fall Market’ on September 13. The award was presented to Terry Jenkins, Randy Kingdon, Mike Kingdon, and Fred Sweeting, dealer-owners of the building centre, for epitomizing the values on which Home Hardware was co-founded by Walter J. Hachborn over 50 years ago – value, service, and dependability. In addition to providing superior customer service and expert advice, Chemong Home Hardware Building Centre demonstrates extensive leadership qualities and retailing excellence. The dealers and staff are considered leaders within Home's network as well as within their community. The award is presented to the top finalist in the ‘Proud of My Home Award’ category. Six stores received recognition in this category. They are Hornepayne Home Hardware in Hornepayne, ON, for ‘Best Home Hardware Under 6,000 Square Feet;’ Zak’s Home Hardware Building Centre in Hague, SK, for ‘Best Home Hardware Building Centre Under 15,000 Square Feet;’ Parry Sound Home Hardware in Parry Sound, ON, for ‘Best Hardware Store Over 6,000 Square Feet;’ Ryan Buck of Buck’s Home Building Centre in Bridgewater, NS, as ‘Best Young Retailer;’ and Orillia Home Hardware Building Centre in Orillia, ON, with the ‘Paul Straus Public Relations Award.’


Manufacturing Sales Rise

Manufacturing sales increased for the third consecutive month, rising seven per cent to $53.1 billion in July on higher sales of motor vehicle and parts, says Statistics Canada. Nevertheless, manufacturing sales remained 5.4 per cent below February's pre-pandemic levels. Excluding the transportation industry, manufacturing sales grew 3.3 per cent. Sales rose in 13 of 21 industries, representing more than two-thirds of total sales in the manufacturing sector. Capacity utilization rates rose as many industries continued to ramp up production. Manufacturing sales in constant dollars increased 6.1 per cent, indicating a higher volume of products sold in July.


U.S. Construction Times Continue Upward Trend

Continuing the upward trend from the past seven years, the average length of time for multi-family construction in the U.S. as the end of 2019 was 17.3 months, says the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). This trend results from regulatory challenges and the skilled labour shortage, it says. For buildings with 20 units or more, it took 19 months to complete from the date of authorization. Buildings with 10 to 19 units took 18.7 months, five- to nine-unit building construction took 16.6 months, and two- to four-unit construction finished in an average of 14.3 months. These times range depending on the region, with the northeast taking the longest and mid-west the shortest.


Visa Canada Expands Click to Pay

Visa Canada has expanded Click to Pay in Canada, a service that allows consumers to make secure, swift purchases across various merchants and platforms. Click to Pay is based on the EMV Secure Remote Commerce industry standard. Following a successful initial rollout in the U.S., Visa is now transitioning Visa Checkout merchants in Canada for consumers who choose to shop via web, mobile, app, or connected device. With this platform, the checkout process eliminates the need to manually key-in personal account numbers and passwords each time customers checkout. It is also interoperable with the EMVCo tokenization specification and with the 3-D Secure specification to bring more security methods to emerging and existing digital payments channels.


Interfor to Sell Gilchrist, Oregon Specialty Sawmill

Interfor Corporation plans to sell its specialty sawmill located in Gilchrist, OR, to Neiman Enterprises Inc. The Gilchrist sawmill, which specializes in ponderosa and lodgepole pine boards, has been curtailed since mid-June of this year due to COVID-19 related economic factors. Prior to its curtailment, the mill produced approximately 80 million board feet of lumber per year. Neiman, based in Hulett, WY, is a privately held, third-generation family business with pine board sawmill operations in Wyoming and South Dakota and a stud mill in Colorado. Neiman intends to restart the mill in the near future.


Sampson Rejoins Dow

John Sampson is senior vice-president, operations, manufacturing, and engineering for Dow. Previously, he was executive vice-president, business operations for Olin Corporation. Prior to joining Olin in 2015, Sampson had a long career with Dow, beginning in 1983 in Louisiana in polymers research and development.


September 16, 2020

Business Priorities Not Aligned With Consumers

The impact of COVID-19 pandemic has caused both businesses and consumers to shift their priorities, but they aren’t necessarily prioritizing the same things, says Experian’s ‘Global Insights Report.’ There has been a 20 per cent increase overall in consumer online transaction activities and as many as half of consumers globally expect their spending online to increase in the next 12 months. Additionally, 41 per cent of customers would give an organization more business if they felt they were treated fairly during the pandemic. At the same time, only 32 per cent of businesses have made operational adjustments to meet new consumer demands to date, but are planning to make strategic adjustments to give consumers greater access to goods and services and manage customer relationships. The study also says that 53 per cent of businesses believe their operational processes have mostly or completely recovered since COVID-19 began. However, consumers aren’t feeling as confident in the economy, as one-third of consumers globally have reported a decline in household income and those having difficulty paying their bills has doubled since the start of the pandemic. Consumers, regardless of income, have responded to the economic downturn in three ways ??? reducing discretionary spending, building an emergency savings account, and tapping into financial reserves. Sixty-five per cent of consumers believe their country has not yet recovered from the economic impact of the pandemic.


Home Sales Vary Across Canada

Home sales increased a further 6.2 per cent in August, rising to another new all-time monthly record, says the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA). Unlike the previous two months in which activity was up right across the country, sales in August were up in about 60 per cent of local markets. Gains were led by the Greater Toronto, ON, Area (GTA) and British Columbia's Lower Mainland. With ongoing supply shortages in many parts of Canada, it is interesting to note that the GTA and Lower Mainland also saw a considerable amount of new supply become available in August, it says. Actual (not seasonally adjusted) sales activity posted a 33.5 per cent year-over-year gain. It was a new record for the month of August and the sixth-highest monthly sales figure of any month on record. Transactions were up compared to last August in almost all Canadian housing markets. So far this year, some 341,463 homes have traded hands over Canadian MLS Systems, up 0.8 per cent from the first eight months of 2019. Yet, "it will come as a surprise to many that as of the end of August, home sales in 2020 had fully caught up to where we were at that time last year; however, that is somewhat of a low bar as the first half of 2019 wasn't really anything to write home about," says Shaun Cathcart, CREA's senior economist. "A more useful comparison would be to ask where are we now versus where we thought we'd be before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19, and on that score there is still a lot of catching up to do.” Despite some record monthly highs and lows this year, with eight months now in the books and activity showing signs of moderating in September, 2020 is looking like it will go down as a fairly middling year overall – weaker than in a non-COVID world but quite a bit better than expected back in April, he says.


CTC Seeks Customer Experience Insights

Canadian Tire Corporation (CTC) is partnering with Medallia to gain insights into the complete customer experience across its family of companies, including Canadian Tire Retail. The Medallia ‘Experience Cloud’ will provide insights into the customer experience across all channels and brands and identify strengths and areas of improvement in real-time. The platform delivers role-based insights, engaging the entire CTC ecosystem to take action to drive operational excellence. CTC operates more than 1,700 retail and gasoline outlets across Canada, offering multi-category assortments in automotive, hardware, sports, leisure, housewares, and apparel.


Construction Input Prices Edge Up

Construction input prices edged upward by 0.6 per cent in the U.S. in August over the previous month, says the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). Its analysis of the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ producer price index data shows non-residential construction input prices increased 0.3 per cent for the month. Softwood lumber input prices are a major contributing factor to the increase. They were up by 16 per cent month-over-month and are up 45 per cent compared to August 2019. A handful of categories experienced price declines in August, the largest of which were in steel mill products and prepared asphalt, both down -1.7 per cent.


IRWIN Launches National Tradesperson Program

IRWIN, a manufacturer of hand tools and power tool accessories, has kicked off its 10th annual ‘National Tradesperson Day’ program, celebrating the Canadian men and women who help build the country and keep it running. Celebrated on the third Friday of September, this year’s event will take place on September 18. For 10 years, IRWIN employees and retail partners have personally thanked tens of thousands of tradespeople and celebrated their unsung contributions across the country. This year, IRWIN kicked off its annual celebration of Canada’s tradespeople in August with thank-you messages across social and digital media, radio, and television. In September, different trades will be featured on social media and tradespeople at jobsites across the country will receive thank-you gifts from Irwin. As well, it will once again be running a contest to choose the ‘2020 Tradesperson of the Year.’ This year, the finalist will be awarded a grand prize of $15,000 in cash and tools.


Stud Finder Analyzes Complex Data

Zircon, a manufacturer of the stud finders, has launched the next generation of wall scanning technology with the launch of its SuperScan ‘Kx’ series of advanced wall scanners. Each features ‘Target Control Technology’ and is tuned to find wood studs. These scanners analyze complex data streams and simultaneously filter the results, helping users avoid all things metallic, such as plumbing, conduit straps, brackets, or ducts hiding in the wall, virtually eliminating ‘false positive’ stud indications.


Nover Leads SCHOCK North America

Marc Nover is CEO of SCHOCK North America, a wholly-owned subsidiary of SCHOCK GmbH, a global manufacturer and inventor of quartz/granite composite kitchen sinks. In this role, he will be responsible for leading all aspects of the business in North America, including developing strategic direction and fueling a corporate-wide initiative of significant growth. He has more than 30 years of experience in the kitchen and bath manufacturing, most recently as president of Blanco America.


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