"It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air." W.T. Ellis

Verschuren to head up Home Depot's China division

TORONTO—The woman who led Home Depot's initial international expansion has been recruited to take the helm of the giant retailer's operations in China. Annette Verschuren, president of Home Depot Canada, and at one time head of Home Depot's Expo Design Centers division, will retain her current role in Canada, but now divide her time between Toronto and the Far East. Home Depot set up offices in Asia more than two years ago, but has yet to open even one store there. Company president and CEO Bob Nardelli has told this reporter in the past that expansion there has depended on finding the right partner, and no such partner, to date, has been found. With the increase in China's economic strength has come a burgeoning middle class, one that western-based retailers are eager to educate to the ways of consumerism, including DIY. However, Home Depot is behind many of its European counterparts in developing markets in Asia. Kingfisher plc, Europe's biggest home improvement retailer, and number-three worldwide, is well established in Asia. It has 50 stores in China, 20 in Taiwan, and two in South Korea.

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Home Hardware expects new software to revolutionize reno planning

ST. JACOBS, Ont.—Home Hardware Stores Ltd. has launched home improvement planning software called HomeWorks. The package was developed for Home Hardware by RenoWorks Software Inc., a provider of digital home imaging software for new home construction and existing home renovations. By taking a stock image or a photograph of one's own home or room, the HomeWorks software can begin adding products and colours supplied by Home Hardware's own suppliers. Both homeowners and contractors can digitally visualize their interior and exterior construction and design products before starting the job. A consumer can take photos of their own home and modify them to preview the look of Beauti-Tone Paint colours, as well as actual flooring, siding, roofing, windows, doors and hardware available from Home Hardware. Home approached 33 key suppliers, including Alexandria Moulding, All-Weather Windows, BP, and Gentek, who participated by including more than 2,500 products and catalogue information on the software CD. . The beauty of HomeWorks is the ability of a consumer to see how a project will look when it's finished. "Like when buying clothes, you can try it on before you buy it," said Andrew Pantelides, national product manager, lumber & building materials, for Home Hardware. He led a presentation last week to demonstrate the new package. HomeWorks is recommended by the Canadian Home Builders Association and contains links to housing information provided by Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp.

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Home Depot admits to extensive option backdating

ATLANTA—Home Depot will move $200 million in retained earnings into the "paid-in capital" line of its balance sheet, following an internal investigation that uncovered extensive backdating of stock options to the benefit of its senior-level managers. In a release, the company stated that backdating had been "routinely" done, and estimates that as much as $200 million in expenses related to that practice had not been recorded in its financial statements between 1981 and 2000. Those practices continue to be investigated by the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Home Depot's investigation did not turn up an "intentional wrongdoing," according to the company. And some of the specific details about the backdating — for example, how many employees, past or present, were involved — could not be determined because of insufficient paperwork. But the investigation's findings found the practice to be far more prevalent than the company initially thought when it claimed previously that it had uncovered only five instances of backdating and $10 million in unrecorded expenses.

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U.S. home builders await recovery before resuming expansion

NEW YORK—Large production builders continue to believe that the housing slump in the United States could begin to subside possibly as early as mid 2007. However, seven of the industry's leading public builders told an audience of analysts and investors last week that they had stopped buying land — or even thinking about expansion — until they get a clearer picture of how the market is changing. Senior-level officials from Toll Brothers, Lennar, Standard Pacific Homes, Beazer Homes, Meritage Homes, Hovnanian Enterprises and Technical Olympic each made presentations to more than 200 attendees at the 10th annual Homebuilding Industry Conference, conducted by the New York Society of Securities Analysts. All of these companies reported dramatic declines in orders and sharp increases in their cancellation rates. In response to this downturn in buyer demand, they have reduced their staffs — in Beazer's case, by 25% — and operating expenses, and have cut back on their production and home closing estimates for the next 12 months. As the housing industry searches for equilibrium, these executives say this downturn has been different from past slumps because it's not being driven by larger economic forces such as rampant inflation. Rather, speculators, who are mostly out of the market now, have helped drive prices up exorbitantly. In virtually every case, these builders have been cutting those house prices in recent months.

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Atis buys door and window maker in Western Canada

MONTREAL—Atis Group, through its Allied Windows business unit in British Columbia, has acquired Bestway, a Calgary-based manufacturer of vinyl windows and steel doors. This is Atis's eighth acquisition in the past 27 months. Atis Group, formerly known as Focus Doors and Windows, sells under the Allied, Bestway, Laflamme, and Melco brands. With this latest acquisition, it now has nine factories, employs close to 1,600 people, and boasts revenues of close to $200 million.

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Asia Pacific Sourcing replaces Practical World next year

COLOGNE, Germany—Next year is the off-year for the International Hardware Fair/Practical World, the giant hardware and DIY show. That show went bi-annual two years ago in the face of flagging support from brand-name vendors such as Bosch and Black & Decker. In these off years, the show will be supplanted by a new show, Asia-Pacific Sourcing. Now in its second year, the next Asia-Pacific Sourcing will take place March 4-6, 2007, filling almost 35,000 square meters of space at Koelnmesse. The organizers expect to attract around 700 exhibitors from Asia, up from 546 firms from nine Asian countries in 2005. Approximately 9,000 international visitors are expected to attend. The show's exhibitors represented a more diverse range of product lines than at Practical World. (Hardlines was the only North American publication in attendance when Asia Pacific Sourcing kicked off in 2005.) Product groups will include Hardware and DIY (tools, locks and fittings, do-it-yourself materials, ironmongery, fastening technology), Garden and Leisure (garden furniture, garden equipment, barbecues, camping articles, sports goods and toys, leisure items), and Ambience (glass, porcelain, ceramics and table decorations, lighting, gift items). For more information: click here.

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New study: retail gift card use soars

OTTAWA—Canadians are turning more than ever to retail gift cards to fill their gift-giving needs. According to a new study by Statistics Canada, eight out of 10 large retailers offered gift cards for their customers, a huge increase from only two years before. During the 2003 Christmas holiday season, only 53% of large retailers had made the cards available. Just two years later, this proportion had ballooned to 82%. The study, published in Stats Canada's Analysis in Brief series, examined the growing popularity of the cards among Canada's largest food, clothing, home furnishings, electronics, sporting goods, and general merchandise retailers. Together, these retailers represent about 35% of total annual retail sales, after excluding recreational and motor vehicle dealers. Looking at all retailers, not just the large ones, 55% of total December 2005 sales came from stores offering gift cards. Leading the pack were general merchandisers, where stores accounting for 94% of that group's sales had gift cards.

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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 Hamilton to Port Hope to Huntsville, 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 Calgary 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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