Hardlines Conference kicks off with ideas, networking

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ont. ― Industry leaders from every sector of Canada’s retail home improvement industry, and from across the country, gathered for day one of the 23rd annual Hardlines Conference yesterday. Under the theme, “The Power of Brand”, about 150 people are in attendance at Queen’s Landing resort in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. Speakers so far have included Darrin Noble, VP and general manager of Home Hardware’s Beauti-Tone paint division, and Russ Jones, a RONA dealer with three stores on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast.

The event kicked off with insights from one of the country’s leading brand experts, Ian Madell, managing partner and president of Level5 Strategy Group. “Your brand is the value of a promise consistently kept,” he explained.

Beauti-Tone is one of Home Hardware’s most important house brands. “Can a private label perform like a national brand in how it goes to market?” Noble asked rhetorically. “My answer is that it has to.” Steve Buckle, president of the Sexton Group, explained how his buying group supports dealers who each have their own strong brands in their respective markets.

Peter Norman, VP and chief economist for Altus Group, noted that renovation spending will continue to be relatively strong, even as new housing markets slow down.

The 23rd annual Hardlines Conference continues today. Speakers will include Charles Valois, VP central marketing for Lowe’s Canada, Catherine Vaugh, brand building manager for Canada with hardware wholesaler Orgill, Inc. and Jillian Sexton, a TIMBER MART dealer with three stores in the Maritimes.