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Summer Reading Issue: August 12, 2019 | Volume xxv, #31

SUMMER PUBLISHING SCHEDULE: Please note that Hardlines is published only once in August. There will be no issues on 19 and 26. We resume our regular publishing schedule with our September 2 edition.



  • Gypsum, a buying group and art for hospitals: Ken Sexton leaves a unique legacy
  • Home Depot begins rolling out hip new signage in its Canadian stores
  • Canadian Tire reports healthy second quarter, makes another acquisition


  • Founder of Home Improvement eRetailer Summit shares insights, possibilities
  • U.S. home improvement spending reaches $425 billion

Summer Insights

  • Dealer faces challenge, writes self-help book when he comes out the other end
  • Giving back to their communities pays back for retailers

PLUS: Home Depot focuses on home décor online, Lowe’s gears up for U.S. layoffs, Oldcastle acquires Abbotsford Concrete Products, Sobeys to eliminate plastic bags, Bunnings develops online sales, Lowe’s opens DC in Pennsylvania, 3M Co. and Saint-Gobain settle, Tractor Supply’s Q2, CanWel’s quarterly profits, Canfor posts operating loss, Energizer reports Q3, Spectrum Brands, Armstrong World Industries and much more!

Gypsum, a buying group and art for hospitals: Ken Sexton leaves a unique legacy

SPECIAL REPORT — Ken Sexton died last month, just a few days shy of his 91st birthday. A prolific founder of businesses, he started Kenroc Building Materials, a buying group and tool distributor Builders Choice Products. He also owned the patents to Pan-Brick, a panelized brick product.

Kenneth Graham Sexton grew up in a boarding house in Toronto’s Little Portugal neighbourhood but headed west as a young man on a junior chamber of commerce trip. Seeing opportunity in the region, he stayed, getting his start at an Edmonton car wash.

Sexton sensed a change coming in the 1960s as wall plastering by hand was giving way to gypsum-based prefab drywall. He quit his job as a manager at Bird Building Supplies in Calgary, sold the family cottage and took out a $3,000 bank loan to start Kenroc. Its original Calgary location fit only three people, according to Brian Kusisto, Sexton’s son-in-law and president of parent company Sexton Building Materials since 1996. When a customer came, someone had to step outside to make room.

From those humble origins, Kenroc expanded to 16 locations across Western Canada, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017. By then, Sexton had stepped back from the day-to-day operations of the business.

Sexton Group was founded in 1985, with the original three members joining forces to negotiate gypsum and lumber prices. By the end of its first year, the buying group had grown to 34 members. In 1990, having doubled in size, it launched its own product line, Builders Choice.

In 2003, Ken Sexton was honoured with two industry achievement awards from the Western Retail Lumber Association. Three years ago, the Sexton family finalized its succession plan and Ken’s voting shares were transferred to the next generation.

A multi-talented individual who was largely self-taught, Sexton never finished high school, but his curiosity extended to diverse subjects. His record collection counted more than 300 albums by jazz great Oscar Peterson and he learned to play the piano in his 60s. He enjoyed debating with top legal minds and travelling to destinations as far-flung as Egypt and Japan.

Concerned by bare walls in Regina hospitals, he simply began hanging paintings on his own initiative. That guerilla action spurred the Hospital Art Foundation, which has placed more than 3,000 donated paintings in the area’s health care facilities. When his daughter Joan died from cancer in 2003, he began donating to liver research.

Ken Sexton leaves his wife of more than 60 years, Bette, son Jim and his wife Carole, son-in-law Brian Kusisto and three granddaughters.

Home Depot begins rolling out hip new signage in its Canadian stores

TORONTO — There’s a new look in the aisles of the Home Depot store in the Leaside area of Toronto’s east end. That look is the result of a new signage package, one that relies on pictographs to describe the areas of the store.

Working with its U.S. parent, the Canadian division has adopted a concept that was developed with two agencies, WD Partners and BGI. Called “Clean, Simple, Intuitive” (CSI), the new look aims to improve customer experience by making navigation of the store easier, while creating a consistent look and feel. With CSI signage, customers see an icon-based wayfinding system in Home Depot’s signature orange pantone.

The new signage has the added benefit of being suitable for customers who don’t speak English.

“It’s really important to us that we are always improving the shopping experience for our customers. This new signage is a part of that continuous improvement,” says Erika Botond, a spokesperson for Home Depot Canada.

The company has actually been testing this signage since 2016, when it was installed at two other Ontario stores, Ancaster in Hamilton and the Caledonia location in Toronto. Home Depot Canada plans to convert all 182 of its stores. According to Botond, the company expects to have about 35% of its stores converted to the new CSI signage by the end of 2019.

Canadian Tire reports healthy second quarter, makes another acquisition

TORONTO — Canadian Tire Corp. said its second-quarter results reflect “continued momentum” with retail sales growing as the company pursues its acquisition strategy.

Consolidated retail sales for the quarter rose $53.6 million or 1.3%, a 2.3% increase when petroleum is excluded. Consolidated revenue grew by 5.9%, or 7.9% excepting petroleum. For the Retail segment, revenue increased 5.7% (7.8% without petroleum).

Retail sales by Canadian Tire stores increased by 2.1% and comparable sales were up 1.9% in the second quarter. SportChek’s retail sales were up by 3% and its comparable sales by 3.7%. The Mark’s banner saw a 2.7% increase in retail and 2.6% in comparable sales. Sportswear brand Helly Hansen, which Canadian Tire acquired last year, drew revenues of $98.6 million for the quarter.

At the same time, Canadian Tire Corp. announced that it has reached a deal to purchase Party City’s Canadian business in a $174.4 million cash transaction. The New York-based party supplies chain currently boasts 65 Canadian stores in seven provinces. CTC plans to add to that number as well as carrying Party City products in its 503 Canadian Tire stores nationwide. The company estimates it can become “Canada’s number-one party supply destination” and double Party City’s Canadian sales to $280 million by 2021. It hopes the acquisition will attract families and millennial shoppers and help strengthen Canadian Tire’s “micro-seasonal” offerings.

“CTR has an unbeatable store network, retailing capabilities and customer loyalty,” Jim Harrison, CEO of Party City Holdco Inc., said in a release. “These assets, combined with our wholesale supply agreement, positions them well to grow the Party City brand in Canada.”

Founder of Home Improvement eRetailer Summit shares insights, possibilities

TRUMBULL, Conn. — Sonya Ruff Jarvis is the founder of the Home Improvement eRetailer Summit, an important forum for home improvement retailers and suppliers who want to grow their online business. The fourth annual eRetailer Summit will be held November 6 to 8 at the Hotel Monaco Chicago in Downtown Chicago. Here, Ruff Jarvis answers some questions about the opportunities available online.

Internet marketing is widely used by retailers and suppliers across the country. Why, then, is an event like the Summit still relevant?

Currently, there is no face-to-face online retail event that’s focused on helping the home improvement category capitalize on the organic expansion of e-commerce in this sector.

Annual online sales of home improvement and garden products are growing at double-digit rates. But the home improvement market, in general, lags in optimizing the internet as a distribution channel. Currently, this is one market where the biggest e-commerce player, Amazon, is not winning, probably because that player has yet to focus on these products in a big enough way. Consequently, there are across-the-board opportunities for retailers and suppliers that compete proactively in this arena.

The Home Improvement eRetailer Summit is relevant because it’s designed exclusively for the home improvement online retail sector. It is a curated environment, managed through an invitation-only process, that creates an intimate and concentrated opportunity for attendees.

What are these opportunities for home improvement dealers and suppliers for online marketing and selling?

Incremental growth. Taking advantage of the internet as a distribution channel clearly offers revenue gains for the home improvement and lawn and garden categories, especially since online shoppers are looking for more of these types of purchases online.

Expansion. Retailers and suppliers have the chance to expand their brand and mind share with consumers. It’s worth noting that something like 60% of purchases start with online research.  

Diversification. Online retailing gives suppliers and retailers a straighter shot to hit a new shopper target: millennials. CouponFollow conducted a research survey in January 2019 that showed millennials make 50% of their purchases online. Retailers and manufacturers are missing out on this gigantic market segment when they don’t engage in online retail in some way, shape or form.

What new twists can attendees expect from the upcoming Summit in November?

We are making a strong effort to invite more bricks-and-mortar home improvement retailers that are interested in initiating e-commerce or expanding their online retail presence. We want to hear their unique perspectives.

(For more info and to request an invitation to the eRetailer Summit, contact Sonya directly.)

U.S. home improvement spending reaches $425 billion

BOSTON ― The U.S. home remodeling market has grown by more than 50% since the end of the worldwide recession, and home improvement spending reached $425 billion in 2017.

According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University’s “Improving America’s Housing 2019” report, roughly 80% of the U.S.’s 137 million homes are now at least 20 years old. Another 40% are at least 50 years old. This amount of aging homes has helped boost home improvement sales.

“The aging of the housing stock has been a boon to the remodeling industry, with spending surpassing investment in homebuilding every year for over a decade, and contributing 2.2% to U.S. economic activity in 2017,” says Abbe Will, associate project director of the Remodeling Futures Program.

Key factors affecting home improvement spending include a “steady uptick” in home prices and the rising age of homeowners, according to the report. Rising home prices equate to greater equity, the report says, “which provides owners both the incentive and the means to undertake more and larger products.”

In addition, older homeowners are increasing spending on repairs intended to help them age in place and not leave their homes. The report indicates households 55 and over account for nearly half of all current home improvement spending.

Young homeowners are undertaking more home improvement projects, especially in markets where homeownership is more affordable, including in the Midwest and across the Southern U.S.

“Over the next decade, the strong preference of older homeowners to age in place and the increasing difficulty of building affordable housing in many markets will continue to hinder the construction of new homes,” says Kermit Baker, director of the Center’s Remodeling Futures Program. “The remodeling industry will therefore retain its critical role in helping the country meet its housing needs.”

Dealer faces challenge, writes self-help book when he comes out the other end

LLOYDMINSTER, Alta. ― There’s no shortage of self-help books geared to entrepreneurs. But when Jeff Hilderman, VP of store operations at the Home Hardware Building Centre in Lloydminster, Alta., hit a wall, none offered a practical way out. Clone Yourself was born out of his struggle to overcome a dark chapter of his career.

“Like many entrepreneurs, I had bought into this notion where you have to work really hard, wear all these hats, do everything yourself,” says Hilderman. “But after a while burning the candle at both ends, I hit this point where I no longer felt successful.”

On paper, says Hilderman, “everything looked great.” By the mid-2000s, the business had racked up “numerous awards and a faithful following.” But all was not well: “I was barely holding it together—working 60, 70 hours a week, with most of that time spent putting out fires and micromanaging my team.”

Rock bottom came around 2008. “I experienced my best and worst days. In June, I became a father for the first time. Shortly thereafter I lost my sister to complications from Crohn’s disease. By 2009, I completely broke down. I developed an anxiety disorder, had panic attacks every day ... I knew I had to make some changes.”

After struggling to find relief through books, workshops and professional groups, Hilderman had what he called an epiphany.

“I realized all these things from the business were funnelling back to me. I was the bottleneck of my business.” By training someone to handle the day-to-day operations that were sucking up his attention, he was free to focus on the big picture. One epiphany led to another as he realized others were in need of the advice he’d learned the hard way.

Hilderman’s plan encompasses three blocks of 30 days each, geared toward defining corporate culture, grooming a “clone” and handing off the reins to them. In short chapters, he takes the reader through the steps of identifying and training that person. The process begins with a review of current time usage and habits, including keeping daily logs, as well as checking negative internal attitudes.

Hilderman has since founded All-Star Academy to offer leadership coaching, and his sense of positivity has returned. “There are people out there who understand your vision, share your passion, can run your business for you. But it’s going to happen if you wait: you have to make the conscious decision to move from ‘me’ to ‘we’.”

Giving back to their communities pays back for retailers

NATIONAL REPORT — From the smallest independent to the biggest national chain, Canada’s top home improvement retailers have always put a huge emphasis on philanthropy. Last year, it continued to be an important business across the board.

Peavey Industries’ CEO Doug Anderson found a creative way to give back to the Western communities his chain serves—getting dropped into the Rocky Mountains with no way to get out until he raised enough funds for the air ambulance non-profit, STARS. Peavey also teamed up with STARS to develop and sell licensed merchandise to support the organization, which relies on donations and government contributions to provide rapid and specialized emergency care and transportation for critically ill and injured patients in rural areas.

Last spring, Federated Co-operatives Limited invested in giving back to its communities. The company allocated $2 million in grants to fund 24 community-improvement projects such as a learning garden at the public library in Victoria, B.C.; an inclusive playground in Airdrie, Alta.; the Children’s Discovery Museum in Saskatoon; and a multi-use trail network near Dauphin, Man.

After the tragic bus crash in Saskatchewan that killed 13 and injured 16 players and coaching team members of an adolescent hockey team, FCL created a fund to support survivors’ mental health. The initiative falls in line with the co-operative’s five-year commitment to donate up to $1.5 million for community-based emergency response efforts.

On the East Coast, Kent, the big-box chain with 49 locations across Atlantic Canada, teamed up with the Canadian Association for Community Living to sell wooden deck chairs in 20 of its locations to help support of intellectually disabled adults.

For the larger national chains and big boxes, a lot of their charitable work is channeled through their company foundations. Home Depot Canada continues to direct a good deal of its charitable resources to youth struggling with mental health or housing insecurity. This year, it’s expanding its commitment to prevent and end youth homelessness to $50 million over the next three years, after fulfilling its pledge of $20 million last year.

And Lowe’s Canada’s annual Heroes fundraising campaign donated $1.1 million to more than 260 organizations in 2018. The company says the Heroes campaign aligns with its mission statement of helping people love where they live, by donating to bringing inspiring projects to life and taking concrete steps to improve the lives of the communities it serves.

(This is an excerpt from a larger article that appears in the latest issue of our sister publication, Hardlines Home Improvement Quarterly. HHIQ is mailed to 11,000 dealers and managers across Canada four times a year. Free to retailers and managers, you can get your own subscription by clicking here!)



...that the latest edition of our newest publication, Hardlines Dealer News, is scheduled to go out this week? Featuring news and stories about retail best practices and outstanding dealers across the country, Hardlines Dealer News is a monthly e-newsletter designed to help dealers and managers run their businesses better. And it’s available at no charge. Click here now to get your free subscription today!


ATLANTA — Home Depot is focusing on home décor in its online channel to appeal to women, an executive explained to Business Insider. The strategy is aimed at reaching the homeowners behind the projects of Home Depot’s pro clientele. “From all of our history, when you look at the categories we play in—in décor, paints, rugs and all the other categories—the ‘she’ customer is making most of the decisions, even if they’re utilizing that pro to help them with the renovation,” said Jeanine Huebner, senior VP, hardlines.

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Lowe’s Cos. is gearing up for major layoffs from its U.S. operations. The company did not specify how many workers would be affected, but they number in the thousands. Assembly, maintenance and facility service jobs are among those being contracted out to third parties. “We are moving to third-party assemblers and facility services to allow Lowe’s store associates to spend more time on the sales floor serving customers,” a spokesperson said. Lowe’s Canada told Hardlines that it is unaffected by the cuts.

ISSAQUAH, Wash. — Costco had net sales of $11.43 billion in July, an increase of 7.9% from $10.59 billion last year. For the 48-week year to date, the company reported net sales of $137.56 billion, up 8%. Comp sales were up 5.6% for the month and up 6.2% year to date.

TORONTO — Loblaw’s clothing line Joe Fresh has teamed up with grocery chain Hy-Vee to offer its products in stores in seven Midwestern U.S. markets. The store-in-store concept is being tested at locations in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Nebraska. 

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Lowe’s has opened a 1.4-million-square-foot distribution centre in Pennsylvania. The facility will ship large products such as appliances and lawn and garden items on a daily basis to Lowe’s cross-dock facilities. The retailer has more than 130 stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, New Jersey and New York that will receive product from the new facility. It’s part of a $1.7 billion investment Lowe’s is making in its supply chain over the next five years.

STELLARTON, N.S. — Grocery giant Sobeys Inc. says it will remove plastic grocery bags from all its Sobeys grocery stores by the end of January 2020. The change, starting with its IGA stores on the island of Montreal, will take 225 million plastic grocery bags annually out of circulation at Sobeys’ 255 locations across Canada. The company will then phase out plastic grocery bags and introduce paper bags in all its other banners, including Safeway, FreshCo and Foodland.

MELBOURNE — Australian DIY retailer Bunnings is working to make most of its inventory available for online purchase by year’s end. The company is currently carrying out a trial of a transactional site in the states of Tasmania and Victoria, with about 60,000 products on offer. Customers have the choice of home delivery or click-and-collect in store. Previously, Bunnings offered only a selection of bulkier items through e-commerce.

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. — Tractor Supply Co. reported that its Q2 net income rose 5.8% to $219.2 million from $207.3 million a year ago, while diluted earnings per share increased 6.5% to $1.80 from $1.69. Net sales for the quarter increased 6.3% to $2.35 billion from $2.21 billion in 2018. Comparable store sales rose 3.2%, driven by general merchandise categories. During the quarter, the company opened 15 new Tractor Supply stores and one new Petsense store.


VANCOUVER — CanWel Building Materials had profits of $7.8 million in its second quarter, down from $14.7 million in the same quarter of 2018. Revenues increased by 0.9% to $385.7 million, compared to $382.1 million a year ago. These improvements in the quarter were partially offset by the impact of construction materials pricing, which continued a downward trend until late in the quarter. For the first half of 2019, net earnings were $7.5 million, down from $21.2 million in the comparable period of 2018.

VANCOUVER — Canfor Corp. posted a Q2 operating loss of $49.7 million, an improvement of $20.2 million from the $69.9 million loss reported for Q1, but a sharp decline from profits of $169.8 million a year ago. The improvement reflected higher lumber segment earnings that included a full quarter of the Vida Group of Sweden’s results following completion of that acquisition in Q1.

ATLANTA — Oldcastle APG has announced its acquisition of Abbotsford Concrete Products. Founded in 1989 by Clifford Leach, Abbotsford Concrete has established itself in the hardscapes industry in Western Canada under the direction of sons Chris and Bob Leach. With the acquisition, Oldcastle adds two production facilities to its network.

ST. LOUIS — Energizer Holdings reported Q3 earnings of $0.37 per share. Sales of $647.2 million for the quarter represented a 64.8% surge from the same period last year, when sales came to $392.8 million. Organic net sales were up 3.6%, or $14.2 million, helped by a positive impact from acquisitions.

MIDDLETON, Wis. — Spectrum Brands reported that net sales fell 0.7% in Q3 to $1.02 billion, dragged by unfavourable currency exchange rates. Operating income was down 14% to $92.8 million as a result of higher distribution costs. The consumer goods conglomerate posted a net loss for the quarter of $24.7 million, compared to a $398.9 million profit in the same period last year. 

GLEN ALLEN, Va. — Hamilton Beach is bringing back Toronto nutritionist Miranda Malisani for a second season of the manufacturer’s online cooking series. The “Make It with Hamilton Beach” videos are designed to help amateur cooks prepare meals using Hamilton Beach products.

LANCASTER, Pa. — Armstrong World Industries reported Q2 earnings of $1.27 per share, adjusted for one-time items. Earnings were up from $1.01 per share in the second quarter of 2018. Revenues reached $272 million, up from $248.6 million a year ago.

SAINT PAUL, Minn. — 3M Co. and Saint-Gobain have arrived at a settlement in a long-brewing patent dispute. The conflict centred on Saint-Gobain’s Norton Paint Systems brand of paint-spraying technology. 3M initially filed a patent infringement suit in France and Germany against the chemicals giant, which then countersued. According to a statement from 3M, the settlement includes the “resolution of all disputes and a release of Saint-Gobain’s NPS products under 3M’s paint spray technology related patents.”

SEATTLE — Weyerhaeuser has reported Q2 net earnings of $128 million, or $0.17 per diluted share, on net sales of $1.7 billion. The results compare with net earnings of $317 million, or $0.42 per diluted share, on net sales of $2.1 billion for the same period last year. Excluding an after-tax adjustment of $5 million for special items, the company reported net earnings of $123 million, compared with $332 million for the same period last year and $80 million for the previous quarter.

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. — Stanley Black & Decker reported Q2 adjusted earnings of $2.66 per share. Earnings overall rose 3.5% from Q2 of last year. Revenues increased to $3.8 billion, compared to $3.6 billion a year ago. The gains were primarily driven by higher volume, price changes and acquired assets, partially offset by adverse effects of foreign currency movements.


Sales of existing U.S. homes declined by 1.7% in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.27 million units. The median price rose 4.3% from a year ago to an all-time high of $285,700, pushed up by a shortage of properties. Compared to June 2018, sales were down 2.2%, the 16th consecutive year-on-year decline. (National Association of Realtors)


“Retailers that want to sell home improvement and lawn and garden products online must help manufacturers understand their sales approaches so they can work together for the benefit of their customers.”
—Sonya Ruff Jarvis, founder of the Home Improvement eRetailer Summit. Now in its fourth year, it’s being held in Chicago November 6 to 8.



Classified Ads



Taymor Industries Ltd. is now recruiting for a Sales Representative – Hardware & Home Improvement (AB/SK).

Family owned since 1948, Taymor is a leading designer and manufacturer of architectural hardware.

If you would like to review a detailed job description for this role please visit our company careers webpage at https://www.taymor.ca/en/career/sales-representative-independent-retail. Please send questions and resumes to careers@taymor.com.


 Experienced Store Manager required for large building centre with over 100 employees in Selwyn (Peterborough, On.). Please refer to www.chemonghomehardware.ca for full details. 

Located in Barrie, Ontario, Can-Save is a progressive building materials distributor, doors and kitchen & bath manufacturer. We currently have an immediate opening for an Outside Sales Territory Manager for our Southern Ontario/West GTA territory. For further details, please visit www.cansave.ca.


Career Opportunities Available!

Product Manager, DAP (contract)

We’ve been retained by DAP Canada, an RPM company to search out an experienced Product Manager to cover a maternity leave, targeted to begin in October. Reporting to the Canadian Marketing Manage, it’s very much a traditional PM role assisting in the execution of the product road map in place. You’ll provide immediate marketing support and forward-looking items, with daily liaison and regular travel to the US parent in Baltimore, MD (valid passport required)

Success requirements for this role:

  • STRONG computer skills; fluency with digital tools and adaptable to product development software, e.g. Artflow.  MS Office strengths.
  • Confident, assertive; collaborative, share ideas with others. Relationship builder; can also work autonomously.
  •  Ideally, you’re skilled in product development, road mapping and project management, ensuring a smooth flow from concept to commercialization. Marketing/business education preferred.

This is a contract role (up to 75 weeks); competitive salary and a substantial retention bonus paid at the contract’s end. 

Familiarity with retailers including Home Depot, Rona/Lowe’s, Canadian Tire, Walmart is advantageous. 

Interested? Please reply in confidence through our web site. Video cover letters are a bonus. Wolf Gugler Executive Search, specializing in talent recruitment for hardware/housewares retailers and their suppliers.

Looking to post a classified ad? Email Michelle for a free quote.




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