John Caulfield, Contributing Editor
vol. xi, #15, April 11, 2005

IN THIS ISSUE: • Home Depot forges energy deal with Hydro • Canadian Tire maps out five-year plan • Housing starts up slightly in March • TruServ makes inroads with banners • Home Depot faces more lawsuits • Lowe’s sells lumber online * * * * * *

“All three wouldn't make one good man, but at my age, you can’t be too choosy.” Dale Messick (The pioneering woman cartoonist, who created the “Brenda Starr Reporter” strip. She passed away last week at age 98, but in her 80’s, she proudly sported three boyfriends at the same time)
TORONTO – Canadian Tire announced a five-year growth plan that includes achieving same-store sales of 3-4% annually for its retail division, and the installation of up to 285 new and replacement stores across all its businesses. The overarching aim of the strategic plan includes focus on sales and revenue growth, improved earnings performance, and reinforcement of a “customers for life” culture.The top priority of the strategy is to grow sales and revenues during the outlook period, in an effort to increase earnings and drive shareholder return. Among the financial highlights of the plan: Canadian Tire is anticipating compound annual growth (CAGR) of operating revenue to be between 7% and 9%; earnings before interest, income taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) are forecast to achieve a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10%-15%; and basic earnings per share growth will grow 12- 15% (CAGR). Adding new stores or enhancing existing operations will be a key driver of the effort to increase sales and revenues. From the retail side, here’s what to watch for: up to 285 new and replacement stores planned across all of Canadian Tire’s retail businesses (which includes PartSource and Mark’s Work Wearhouse). This growth will include 100 points of sale for the Canadian Tire banner, most of which will feature the new Concept 20/20 format, including 76 replacement stores and expansion of 24 existing stores. Another 175 existing Canadian Tire stores will be retrofitted to the Concept 20/20 format. Canadian Tire Retail’s incremental store count will increase by 24, from the current 457 to 481 by the end of 2009. In addition, the PartSource auto chain is slated to nearly triple in size to approximately 130 stores by the end of 2009. “As we look at the goals that we have set for the next five years, we believe there are further opportunities to unlock value from our existing businesses. We have a strong balance sheet, a unique and successful mix of businesses, and a team that is completely focused on implementing our plans to deliver long-term value for both our customers and our shareholders,” said Wayne Sales, president and CEO.
WINNIPEG – TruServ Canada continues to add members interested in a comprehensive Banner program. Following the announcement by Hardlines earlier this week of the first Country Depot members in British Columbia, TruServ will add a new True Value in Yellowknife, N.W.T., in May, and a brand new V&S general store will open in St. Peter's, N.S. in June. More openings, across all banners, are currently in the works.According to Dave Leonzio, national business development manager for TruServ Canada, a number of factors are working in TruServ’s favour. The acquisition at the end of 2004 of Sodisco-Howden Group by CanWel Building Materials has left a question mark around the fate of Sodisco-Howden’s bannered dealers. They currently operate mainly under two banners: Ace and Pro. A strike last year by Saskatoon-based Federated Co-operatives Ltd. had many of their dealers asking questions about TruServ’s programs, as well. The demise of SAAN, a chain of more than 200 stores across Canada, at the beginning of this year, has left a hole in many small-town markets for a convenience offering, adding to TruServ’s list of opportunities for growth. In addition, a number of home improvement dealers are increasing their hardlines offerings, an incentive to add the True Value banner. While Federated Co-op’s 100 home centre dealers proved to be a loyal lot after the strike ended, Leonzio says the experience provided an important boost to TruServ’s awareness of its True Value banner among those dealers. As for the SAAN stores, he says, “We will wait and see until they restructure the company. But the closure of those stores leaves a definite void that can be filled by our V&S banner in those markets.” The signing of Buckerfield’s, a six-store farm, feed and equipment chain in British Columbia, to the Country Depot program gives TruServ a presence in that province for the first time. The deal comes just as TruServ is about to open its first ground-up Country Depot in Western Canada next month in Okotoks, Alta. Finally, at the wholesale level, hardware supply agreements with buying groups such as Castle, Torbsa and Sexton Group are resulting in many of the dealer members from those organizations choosing to add the True Value banner. Sexton has been especially responsive, says Leonzio. “We’ve signed 15-20 dealers from the Sexton Group in the last year, and one from Castle.”
TORONTO – A promotional deal that is expected to cost $5.4 million was announced last week between Home Depot Canada and Toronto Hydro-Electric System Ltd. The three-year agreement was designed to provide residential, commercial and industrial electricity users in Toronto with incentives to lower their energy through discounts and promotions on related products in Home Depot stores.The program represents the first major step toward fulfilling Toronto Hydro’s mandate to reduce peak energy consumption in Toronto by 250 mega-watts. To achieve this goal, the energy distribution company will spend $39.8 million on conservation and demand management programs through to 2007. The first promotion involves a two-for-one offer on compact fluorescent lighting that will be inserted in the monthly statement of Toronto Hydro customers, starting this month. The coupons are redeemable at any of Home Depot’s 12 stores in Toronto. Home Depot will also provide energy saving programs through its commercial division, Home Depot Supply, and through its newly acquired commercial lighting division, Litemor. “Working closely with Toronto Hydro, we’ll help Torontonians reduce their energy bills by making their homes as energy efficient as possible,” said Annette Verschuren, president of Home Depot Canada, in a prepared release. “The goal of our programming goes beyond offering free product. We’re aiming to change the mindset in which Toronto residents consider energy efficiency products and help create a more energy-savvy society.” Home Depot plans to include other products in its promotions with Toronto Hydro in the coming months, including an appliance program that involves room air conditioners, another compact fluorescent light promotion, and seasonal LED lights at Christmas time.
OTTAWA – Housing starts remained healthy in March, clocking in at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 218,500, up 0.3% from 217,800 in February, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). “The high level of starts in March indicates that demand for new housing remains strong, supported by low mortgage rates and high levels of employment,” said Bob Dugan, chief economist at CMHC’s Market Analysis Centre. However, starts were lower year-over-year, suggesting that 2004 marked a peak for the Canadian housing market. In fact, for the first three months of 2005, actual urban starts were 5.9% lower than in the same period of 2004. Year-to-date single starts fell 9.4%, and multiple starts eased 2.6%. For the month of March, the seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts rose 0.4% to 190,100 units. A 2.2% increase in multiples starts was partially offset by a 1.5% decline in singles to 93,100 seasonally adjusted. In March, new construction activity was strongest in Western Canada. The seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts in British Columbia and the Prairies rose 11.3% and 9.7%, respectively. Housing starts in March fell 10.6% from February in the Atlantic region, 8.7% in Quebec, and 2.2% in Ontario. Rural starts in March were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 28,400 units.
ATLANTA – Home Depot has found itself in the middle of two new lawsuits, one involving a customer alleging false advertising, and the other, filed by Home Depot itself, against a former employee whom it alleges stole trade secrets when he opened his own specialty store.In Orlando, Fla., a homeowner is suing Home Depot over damages to her home. Roofing sub-contractors she hired through a Home Depot store two years ago left a propane torch on that burned the roof of her house. WFTY TV reported that Home Depot initially said it would replace the roof free of charge, but then reneged because the contractors were uninsured. The homeowner, Sue McNulty, points to her installed sales contract with Home Depot, which states that the dealer would provide roofers with $10 million insurance protection. McNulty told the TV station that while her insurance company has covered some of the loss, she believes that none of it should be on her policy. In Atlanta, Home Depot is suing Dale Hunt, the former executive vp-business development for its Georgia Lighting division, who in February opened his own specialty lighting operation, Masterpiece Lighting. Home Depot’s suit claims that Hunt and other former employees of its Georgia Lighting unit, which Home Depot closed last winter, lifted trade secrets. The retailer has also sought a temporary restraining order that would close Hunt’s operation. Masterpiece Lighting is currently taking special orders, and its showroom is scheduled to open in June. At one point, Hunt offered to buy back Georgia Lighting (where he worked before it was acquired by Home Depot in 1999), but Home Depot decided to fold that operation into its Expo Design Centers division. That’s when Hunt decided to go out on his own. The lawsuit, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, says Hunt quit Home Depot after refusing to sign a non-compete agreement as part of his severance package. Hunt also forfeited stock options when he quit. However, he maintains he didn’t steal anything form the warehouse giant. Home Depot declined to comment about either case.
The National Hardware Show in Las Vegas, May 16-18, will once again offer a comprehensive conference program. Join Hardlines for a world-class retail panel, “Global Retailers: Best Practices from Around the World,” on May 18 at 3 p.m.Panelists include John Herbert, general manager of the European association of DIY retailers; and Robert Collins, Director of International Sales and Retail Development, Ace Hardware Corp. We also have a commitment, from the leading home improvement retailer in England, Focus, to participate, with more to be announced.This innovative event will be followed by an international reception from 4:30-5:30 p.m. For more info, click here .  
TORONTO & ST. JOHN’S, Nfld. – Home Depot Canada opened its first Newfoundland store in St. John’s last Thursday. The store, a full-sized outlet with 102,000 sq.ft. of retail and an additional 35,000-sq.ft. garden centre, was reportedly packed on opening day. Toronto’s 12th Home Depot also opened the same day, this one in the west end at Dufferin and Steeles. WILKESBORO, N.C. — Lowe’s Cos., the industry’s second-largest dealer, disclosed that it was adding more than 2,000 SKUs of wood products and related accessories to the 20,000-plus items it makes available for sale on its website, Customers will be able to purchase a broad assortment of lumber, including bulk products such as structural framing, plywood and decking. Lowe’s claims to be the only dealer offering lumber products via the internet. In 2004, lumber accounted for an estimated 9% of Lowe’s $36.5 billion in revenue.KITCHENER, Ont. – Sears Canada opened a Sears Appliances & Mattresses store here last week. This is the first of five such stores planned to open this year. And it’s part of Sears’ “off-mall” strategy, which so far consists of seven specialty format stores, all located in Ontario. With the absence of new shopping mall growth, the Sears Appliances and Mattresses store is part of the company’s specialty format store strategy to customers as they turn their backs on traditional department stores, in favour of conveniently located power centres. TORONTO – Not to be outdone by the likes of Rona and Home Depot, which have closely allied themselves with home décor shows – and even Donald Trump’s TV ventures – Ikea has launched a show of its own. In what it calls “a bold and innovative move,” Ikea Canada is launching “Space for Living,” a 13-episode design series that will air weekly on HGTV Canada. The half-hour program premiered last Friday at 7:30 p.m. EST and combines travel, home décor, art, design and lifestyle. QUESNEL, B.C. – West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. today announced it will spend approximately $105 million to construct a new sawmill and significantly expand its administrative office here. Now in its 50th year of operation, this latest capital investment will involve a new three-line mill to replace an existing sawmill. The new mill's annual capacity will be 500 million board feet. Construction will start in late April 2005, with production expected to begin in the summer of 2006. RALEIGH, N.C. — Stock Building Supply, the largest pro dealer in North America, has acquired Davidson Industries, a two-yard operation based in Franklin, Ind., that generated US$65.5 million in revenue last year. Davidson’s operations, which include one of the larger roof and floor truss plants of any independent dealer in the U.S., fit the profile of Stock’s network of yards that primarily serve homebuilders and large contractors. HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. – Sears Holdings Corp. has announced the layoff of at least 500 workers at its headquarters here. Sears Holdings was created when Kmart Holding Corp. bought up Sears Roebuck, creating the third-biggest retailer in the U.S. ATLANTA – Joseph Galli Jr., the energetic and controversial president and CEO of Newell Rubbermaid, saw his compensation almost double last year, as his salary and bonus reached $2.7 million. That’s up from $1.4 million in 2003. The package included $338,798 in other compensation, including $204,332 for personal use of company transportation, according to a proxy statement. He also got almost $1.3 million worth of restricted stock, a form of incentive pay.
The rate of unemployment fell slightly to 6.9% in March, reports Stats Canada, as 4,400 new jobs were created. Of that, 34,000 were part-time, enough to make up for the loss of 29,500 full-time positions that were lost in March. For the first three months of the year, employment was up only 0.2%. The sectors with the strongest growth were retail and wholesale, and educational services. The biggest losses were in accommodation and food services and manufacturing.
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