"The important thing is not being afraid to take a chance. Remember, the greatest failure is to not try. Once you find something you love to do, be the best at doing it." Debbi Fields (founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies)

Home Depot gets serious about decorating

MISSISSAUGA, Ont.—Home Depot is getting serious about décor and home enhancement products, as a new store just west of Toronto will attest to. The store features a beefed up seasonal department that represents a wide range of Christmas decorations, but also features furniture and fireplaces suited to the season. "Home Depot is positioning itself in core Christmas," said Gino Digioacchino, Home Depot's vice-president merchandising, during a recent walk through the store with Hardlines. Gift cards are featured prominently on an end cap as soon as you enter the sales floor. The cards come in a range of designs and looks. "The gift card is becoming a really popular item," said Digioacchino, "and it's being tested in 10 stores across Canada during Christmas." (Home Depot is on a hot track: Wal-Mart has reported that its gift card sales are up 30% this holiday season vs. last year's.) The appliance department typically fills 880 square feet of the sales floor. At this new store, that has been expanded to 3,000 square feet. According to Karol Allen, who was recently promoted to director of merchandising – softlines, the product range is not only bigger it's better in many cases, with more upscale offerings, including feature-oriented product lines and avant garde colours such as burgundy. (A full tour of the new Home Depot will be featured in the next issue of our sister publication, Hardlines Quarterly Report, along with a closer look at the new Réno-Dépôt from RONA, and the new Wal-Mart Supercentre. — Michael)

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Lowe's buyers welcome new vendors

MARKHAM, Ont.—Lowe's affirmed its commitment to the Canadian market, and to Canadian vendors, when it met with a group of them recently in a series of one-on-one meetings. The "open to buy day", organized by Hardlines, was a chance for the Lowe's Canada buying team to connect with some new faces — and reconnect with some familiar ones. The new team has been meeting with vendors since early in the summer, especially with those already listed with Lowe's in the U.S. But Canada's newest arrival to the retail home improvement scene was looking for a way to connect quickly and effectively with a range of potential new suppliers. Hardlines was approached to make the connection, resulting in an "Open to Buy Day" that drew companies from across the country to meet Lowe's buyers and merchandise directors. When Hardlines spoke with the buyers such as Bernie Snider at day's end, they all reported finding a number of new vendors whom they intend to invite back for a second meeting. (Hardlines will host its sixth annual "Meet the Buyers Seminars" next spring. Vendors will learn the secrets of doing business with Canada's leading home enhancement retailers from the buyers themselves! A limited number of one-on-one buyer meetings will also be available at these events. Mark your calendar now: Toronto March 27, 2007; and Montreal March 29, 2007. — Michael)

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BMR CEO recalls growing pains

QUEBEC CITY—As BMR the group poises to celebrate its 40th anniversary next year, the company's president and CEO, Yves Gagnon, need look back no further than two years ago for a turning point in BMR's history. That was the year that the privately owned buying group's hardware distribution centre in Longueuil, Que., was destroyed by a fire. And it was the beginning of a year-long struggle to get the company back on its feet quickly. "In Longueuil, where we live, there are about half a million people. I think about one million people came to watch that fire," recalls Gagnon. He can smile about it now, but at the time the devastation posed a huge challenge for the company and for him personally. Admitting BMR had no contingency plan, that evening of the fire, from midnight until 3 a.m., he and his team hammered one out. Somehow, the company's computers and data were saved and BMR's suppliers jumped in, shipping product direct as much as possible while temporary quarters were found. Now, says Gagnon, the company, like a razed forest, has come back stronger and healthier than before. That strength is being translated into stronger merchandise programs, increased imports and private label, and aggressive expansion plans. That expansion is coming from within its own ranks of 160-plus home improvement dealers, mainly in Quebec, as they expand and add stores of their own. Last year those dealers topped $1 billion in sales collectively, many of whom were recognized at a private reception earlier this month in Quebec City for investing in their businesses. One invested more than $1 million in refurbishing his store; another financed expansion to the tune of $5.5 million. But another important part of BMR's expansion is now dealer recruitment, something that is taking the group outside of its traditional trading area in the province of Quebec. The group announced the signing of 32 dealers over the past 12 months, including four from Ontario. "We are growing by about $100 million per year only," says Gagnon. "But we only want quality dealers. We aren't going to make a deal just to make a deal."

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Home Depot joins forces with design firm to develop products

ATLANTA — Home Depot is about to launch a new brand of home safety products called Home Hero. The development of that brand is the result of a new partnership with Arnell Group Innovation Lab. That partnership, known internally as "Orange Works," is working with specific vendors to develop proprietary products for Home Depot's stores. One of the goals of this alliance is to get products into the market faster. Orange Works has a mission to "get closer to consumers' needs and wants, and [create] innovative products that will embody high levels of functionality, next-generation technology, consumer appeal, style and design," according to a prepared statement. In its first brand venture, Orange Works cooperated with Kidde, the home safety manufacturer, and the products to be launched include an ergonomically designed fire extinguisher.

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U.S. acquisition will make West Fraser number-two producer

VANCOUVER—West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. has entered into an agreement to acquire 13 sawmills from International Paper, marking a significant expansion of West Fraser's presence in the United States. The 13 mills, which are located in North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas, employ approximately 2,200 people and have a combined annual production capacity of 1.8 billion board feet of lumber. The deal is valued at approximately US$325 million, subject to some conditions, including U.S. regulatory approvals and customary conditions, and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2007. West Fraser currently owns two sawmills in the U.S. located in Huttig, Arkansas and Joyce, Louisiana which employ approximately 400 people and have a combined annual production capacity of 420 million board feet. All of the mills produce lumber from southern yellow pine, used extensively in treated wood and strength applications such as treated decks, trusses and joists. Orchard lumber, produced by the company's western Canadian sawmills, is used in house framing. Upon completion of the transaction, West Fraser will be the second largest lumber producer in North America with combined Canadian and U.S. production capacity of approximately 6.2 billion board feet.

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National Hardware Show showcases "sneak preview"

NEW YORK—In a trendy loft space in downtown Manhattan, the organizers of the National Hardware Show hosted a preview last week of some of the products and innovations it aims to offer on a much larger scale in Orlando, Fla., May 8-10, 2007. The event offered a venue for more than a dozen vendors to showcase a range of products from both the U.S. and Canada, including "JacPac", a compact pneumatic driver system from Supplierpipeline (demonstrated here by Supplierpipeline's director of sales, Marianne Thompson). The event also provided the opportunity for the Hardlines team to solidify its commitment to co-locate our Hardlines Conference with Reed's new National hardware Show Canada, which will be held Oct. 15-17, 2007. Hardlines's own Beverly Allen (centre) is shown (l-r) with: Sonya Ruff-Jarvis, Rob Cappiello and David Tobin of Reed Exhibitions. Michael McLarney (not shown) was likely at the buffet table.

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Loblaw sees slight improvement in general merchandise

TORONTO—At Loblaw Cos., Canada's largest food retailer, efforts to get its general merchandise lines on track have gone slowly, according to the company's latest financial results. Overall sales for the third quarter increased 4.6%, up by $400 million to $9.0 billion. Besides an increase in its core grocery business, Loblaw saw increases reflected in a number of other categories, including general merchandise and pharmacy. Nevertheless, the company admits that, "Since the beginning of 2005 and throughout 2006, the financial performance of Loblaw Cos. Ltd. has been uncharacteristically poor." In addition, its supply chain remains beleaguered, as distribution service levels for general merchandise have yet to reach satisfactory levels.

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Hardlines Marketplace

Don't miss the products and services on the Hardlines web Marketplace ( https://hardlines.ca/html/marketplace.html ) And check out Hardlines Classifieds on the web ( https://hardlines.ca/html/classifieds.html )


Wolf Gugler & Associates Limited

Two Great Canadian Client Opportunities!

Branch Manager—Calgary

Due to an impending retirement, a leading innovator and manufacturer of exterior home beautification and protection products requires an energetic Manager to take on the challenges of maintaining a regional business and achieving branch sales objectives. You'll be responsible for sales, distribution and people. You're familiar with the Installer, Remodeler and Retail marketplace, including lumberyards and buying groups. Supervisory experience in the building products field is ideal. Strong Customer presentation skills and computer literacy are essential and you thrive managing in a team environment. Competitive compensation and benefits package are offered.

Account Manager—Southern Ontario

A well established leader in their categories with over 2200 skus is adding to their Ontario sales team. Do well, and a path to national accounts management is yours. Covering a territory from HamiltonàPort HopeàHuntsville, call on all RONA bannered stores and some independents generating drop-ship orders. You'll have a significant existing customer base to leverage on, in addition to a new product line.  You can demonstrate a successful record of sales to home improvement retailers. Salary, commission, bonus and car allowance make this financially rewarding in addition to an excellent career opportunity. To apply, please contact Wolf Gugler in strict confidence at (888) 848-3006, or email your resume to him at resumes@wolfgugler.com, quoting either Winnipeg Branch Manager or Ontario Account Manager. Wolf Gugler & Associates Limited, www.wolfgugler.com. Offices in Canada and the U.S. (11.27_12.11)


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