John Caulfield, Contributing Editor
 vol. ix, #48 December 15, 2003

IN THIS *PRE-HOLIDAY* ISSUE: * Lowe's reorganizes regional divisions * Woodworkers Warehouse hits Chapter 11 * Canadian Tire shakes up buying teams * Home Depot banks on smaller stores * IRLY expands its independent dealer sales * Rona chief remains acquisition-minded * Matreco Hardware team grows with addition of ex-Ace buyer NOTE: starting this issue, U.S. stories are reported in USD$; Canadian stories in CDN$

* * * * * * PUBLICATION NOTE: This is the last issue of Hardlines until January 5, 2004. The World Headquarters remains open, however, until December 23. Have a happy holiday, from all of us here at the World Headquarters of Hardlines! — Michael, Beverly, Nancy & Phyllis * * * * * * CALENDAR ALERT — dates to mark now for 2004:
  • Cologne International Hardware Fair/DIY'Tec, March 14-17 (including the Amazing Hardlines Canada Night Reception, March 14, kindly sponsored by Koelnmesse;
  • Our mind-blowing Meet the Buyers Seminar on April 28;
  • International Hardware Trends, two seminars by Hardlines at the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas, May 10-12;
  • The Hardlines Conference Series, September 8-9, including the Hardlines Gala Dinner on the evening of the 8th, and introducing the addition of the Outstanding Retailer Awards (see story in this issue)
"Genius is the highest type of reason, talent the highest type of understanding." — L.P. Hickok (American journalist)
LYNN, MA — Woodworkers Warehouse, the beleaguered tool specialty dealer, began court-ordered liquidation proceedings of its stores and merchandise on December 9, one week after the company had filed for Chapter 11 protection under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. Great American Group, a Los Angeles-based asset management firm, has taken over the company's assets and started conducting the liquidation of 93 stores and $28 million of inventory, which is expected to conclude no later than Jan. 31, 2004. The dealer's stores, which average around 5,000 sq.ft., are located mostly in strip malls. It also has a 99,000-sq.ft. distribution facility in Amesbury, MA. Woodworkers Warehouse employed just under 600 workers. As part of its court-ordered bankruptcy proceedings, Woodworkers Warehouse has agreed to accept returned merchandise that had been sold within 30 days of its bankruptcy filing. Attorneys General in several of the states where Woodworkers Warehouse operated stores estimate that up to $680,000 worth of gift certificates and credit slips could be outstanding, and have urged consumers to redeem them as quickly as possible. This was the second time in three years that Woodworkers Warehouse has filed for bankruptcy protection. The first time was on August 11, 2000 under its former corporate name, Trend-lines. It emerged from that bankruptcy 14 months later with a new business model and a new $30 million line of revolving credit. The company had disposed of its Golf Day stores, catalogue and website. However, Woodworkers Warehouse's reorganization strategy never appeared to take hold; in fact, its last annual report warned investors that its stores were not generating enough cash flow to sustain the business. Part of that strategy also called for the company to issue new common stock to unsecured creditors, but its stock was not listed or traded at the time of its Chapter 11 filing. One of the retailer's trade creditors — toolmaker Porter Cable — rejected delivery of 1,180,480 shares on December 16, 2002 as remuneration for more than $4 million merchandise it had shipped to its stores. For the year ended March 3, 2003, Woodworkers Warehouse sales were actually up 2.2% to $113.7 million from 24 stores in New York, 11 in Pennsylvania, 17 in Massachusetts, 12 in New Jersey, seven in Connecticut, seven in Maine, three in Delaware, two in Rhode Island and one in Vermont. However, the company reported a net loss of $4.5 million that year. The red ink continued to flow through the next six-month period, during which Woodworkers Warehouse reported a $2.2 million loss for the 26 weeks ended August 30, 2003 (compared to a $3 million loss for the same period a year earlier), on sales that were off 3.5% to $51.1 million.
MOORESVILLE, NC — Lowe's Cos. plans to develop two new divisions that will oversee its store operations in the Northeast and the West, two areas of the United States where the retailer is targeting its expansion. The company has appointed two veterans within its organization, who are currently regional vice president, to run these divisions, which go into effect January 1, 2004. Rick Damron, who joined Lowe's in 1981 and had been supervising its store operations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, is now senior vice-president of the company's Northeast division. Robert Wagner, who has been with Lowe's for 27 years, and oversaw its stores in Washington and Oregon, now will be senior vice-president for its Western Division. The company did not disclose whether it planned to set up local offices for either of these two divisions, although the announcement about the formation of the Northeast division came only days after Lowe's agreed to build a 1.36-million-sq.ft. distribution center in Plainfield, CT. As part of its operational realignment, Lowe's has re-formed three other divisions to cover the South Central, North Central and Southeast parts of the country. They will be run, respectively, by Mike Brown (who was senior vp-operations for the company's former Western division), Nick Canter (senior vp-operations for what had been the company's Northern division) and Greg Wessling (who was senior vp-operations for the chain's Southern division). In a prepared statement, Lowe's senior executive vp-operations Larry Stone explained that the retailer decided to sub-divide its operations so that it could execute with greater efficiency "key initiatives in the stores" as well as maintain "its high customer service standards." Stone did not elaborate. Lowe's operates more than 925 stores in 45 states, and plans to open 140 stores next year. Interestingly, it is dividing its operations into more business units at a time when its main rival, Home Depot, has been consolidating its operations. Home Depot recently announced plans to merge its Northwest division into its Western division, forming a 355-unit, 46,000-person operation.
TORONTO — Home Depot's store in the town of Lethbridge, AB is not the chain's biggest store by any means. But that's just why it's so important. Weighing in at only 80,000 sq.ft., compared to a typical footprint of 105,000 sq.ft., it offers a blueprint for Home Depot's move into smaller markets. Including the garden centre, the Lethbridge store is only about 95,000 sq.ft. in total. "We're testing that store size because we can get into so many markets with that size," says Home Depot Canada president Annette Verschuren. The store sacrifices some floor space typically devoted to LBM, but aside from that, it looks like a typical Home Depot big box. "When you walk it, you can't tell the difference," Verschuren says. The store, in the heart of Canada's beef country, has felt the impact of mad cow disease, which has hammered the beef industry, but Verschuren is undaunted and plans to keep opening the smaller-sized outlets. The latest store, number 102 in Canada, is one of them. It's a 95,000-sq.ft. (plus 15,000-sq.ft. garden centre) operation in Courtney, BC, on Vancouver Island. It opened last Thursday. Verschuren erected 13 stores this year, and expects to open another 14 in 2004.
MONTREAL — Watch out for more acquisitions, major dealer signups — or both — from Rona inc. in 2004. Robert Dutton, president and CEO of Rona, says the 540-store chain will continue to look for more opportunities to consolidate the marketplace. He expects to announce a significant addition to the Rona business by the second half of the year, implying a large operation in Western Canada will either be taken over or signed up as a Rona member. He notes that 50 dealers from the West were at the Rona show in Montreal in early November. Western expansion will be supported by the opening of a new distribution centre in Edmonton, AB in spring of 2004. The company remains on track for organic expansion, as well. Its next big box opening under the Rona Home & Garden banner will take place in Edmonton, AB on February 12, 2004 and summer openings will occur in Kitchener/Waterloo, ON and in Regina, SK. He promises another store for the national capital region by the third quarter with an opening in Hull, QC, across the river from Ottawa. Dutton says he is awaiting approval by the board of directors of two or three more land acquisitions for a total of up to seven new big box stores by the end of 2004. Another five traditional home centres will also be built next year, under Rona's Home Centre banner. The focus for these stores, says Dutton, will be Ontario and the West. In addition, he expects all the Building Box stores in Ontario, which were part of Rona's acquisition of Réno-Dépôt, will be converted to the Rona Home & Garden banner by the end of the first quarter.
SURREY, BC — Consolidation amongst home improvement wholesalers in Canada has been nothing but good news for Irly Distributors Ltd. This Western-based buying group has its own distribution facility to serve its 54 members and 82 stores. But in recent years, Irly's fastest growth is coming from sales to dealers outside the group — through its Western Hardware & Building Materials Wholesale division. That Irly has its own distribution and sells beyond its membership makes it somewhat unique. Only Groupe BMR in Quebec could ever make the same claim, although AWARD in Atlantic Canada is about to open a facility of its own, as well. And BMR, TruServ Canada and even Cooperative fédérée in Quebec have recently established strategies for selling beyond its own membership. But while these are startups for these organizations, Irly established Western Wholesale as a spin-off business years ago. Stuart Joule, who is executive vice-president and general manager of both Irly and Western, says Western's wholesale business is filling a vacuum caused by the exit of other Western distributors over the years — everyone from Marshall Wells to Smith-Barregar. And while a number of distributors, including Sodisco-Howden Group and TruServ, supply dealers from London, ON and Winnipeg respectively, delivery times through the mountains make for long waiting times. Western's sales efforts are supported by two salespeople on the road, Joule says. "There's a lot of Friday afternoon shopping," he notes, from dealers wishing to stock up for the beginning of the next week, and can't afford to wait for a shipment to come from back east. "Independents need to get product quickly, and at a competitive price in smaller quantities. We sell him in the quantities he wants in the time frame he wants."
TORONTO — The Canadian industry will have two shows to deal with in 2004, as both the Canadian Hardware and Building Materials Show and the new LBMAO Winter Buying Show will take place only a week apart. And watch for Hardlines at the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas, where we'll present a seminar series on international retail trends. But before that, Hardlines will be at two trade shows in Ontario, kicking each one of them off with a breakfast event. The first is the Hardlines Industry Breakfast at CHS, which will be held Sunday morning, February 1, 2004 at the National Trade Centre on the CNE grounds in downtown Toronto. There we'll host a special Industry Breakfast. This Editor will emcee a celebration of the show and its contribution to the industry over the years. In addition, the Grand Opening Breakfast will pay tribute to many of the individuals who have made their mark in hardware/home improvement retailing over the years. The following week we head down to London, ON to participate in the first-ever LBMAO Winter Buying Show. This time, we'll team up with Hardware Merchandising magazine at a free breakfast and seminar for dealers on Saturday, February 7. We'll offer lots of tips on selling to two important customer groups — women and contractors. Hardlines has just finished a major survey of women's home improvement shopping habits, in association with ACNielsen. We'll report on this ground-breaking survey in this seminar. Hardware Merchandising, through its sister publication, Canadian Contractor, will offer insights into growing sales to the important pro/builder customer.
Forget perishable poinsettias and gift baskets, discard the tacky ties and scarves, pass on the fleeting office party. Give a gift that will be appreciated every Monday morning for an entire year - a subscription to HARDLINES. Just send us your gift list, along with contact information - address, phone number, fax and especially e-mail addresses - we'll do the rest! Gift recipients will be eligible for all our regular subscriber perks - daily news updates, personal access to HARDLINES website and archives, special subscriber rates on our other products (Who's Who, Retail CD, etc.), and special rates for all of our conferences. We'll send a welcome gift card indicating this "gift of knowledge" is from YOU! HERE ARE OUR RATES: A primary subscription is only $219.00 per year. Secondary subscribers within the same company pay only $34.00 - these subscribers must be physically working at the same office location. Branch offices get a special rate of $135.00 for their primary subscriber and the usual $34.00 for subsequent subscribers at the same location. Regional Sales Managers working basically on their own but affiliated with the home office, also have a special rate of $68.00 per year after a primary subscription has been purchased. Volume Discounts Available - Call Nancy Wright (416) 489-3396 REMEMBER: Santa & Hardlines only take Christmas orders until December 24, 2003.
Canadian Tire Retail's buying team has a new organizational structure, including a new a title, "line of business director," reflecting the hardware and sporting goods retailer's renewed focus on core product categories. David Roussy is heading up the newly organized team as senior vice-president marketing, which includes heading up merchandising. He was formerly vice-president automotive (and led retail brands for CTC before that).Reporting to David Roussy: Reg McLay, now vice-president business development for CTR, which puts him in charge of developing new products, including overseas sourcing ... Peg Hunter, now divisional vice-president product and program development. She was formerly general merchandise manager of housewares ... Pamela Griffith-Jones, formerly general merchandise manager for sporting goods, is now vice-president leisure ... Laila Zichmanis is now vice-president of home products. Reporting to Reg McLay in business development: Ed Johnston, leading global sourcing effort as divisional vice-president for global sourcing. He was most recently general merchandise manager of hardware. He will be focused on the global pipeline, including the Far East. Exclusive products are key to CTC, and Mike De Paul is on Ed's team now as import manager. He was formerly global sourcing manager ... Fareed Ansari is director of category management. Reporting to Peg Hunter in leisure: Brian Murphy, line of business director for outdoor recreation ... Mike Ross is now line of business director for lawn and garden ... Michael Santos is now line of business manager for sports. Reporting to Laila Zichmanis in home products: line of business director for home décor and repair is John Jobin, who was previously running value-added services in Canadian Tire Direct ... kitchen and consumables line of business director is Greg Breedon, formerly lead category manger for kitchen ... Tony Whitehouse leads the tools business is line of business director for tools ... Mike McGinnis is now line of business manager for electric and home organization. He was formerly category manager for storage and organization. No head of automotive has yet been named to replace David Roussy. But the auto team comprises: Greg Hicks in charge of auto parts marketing and operations...Tom Mondoux is director of auto service ... Rob Szekszer is director of car care and accessories ... line of business manager for tires and batteries is Tony Del Vasto. Pam Pike, formerly category manager for lighting has left Canadian Tire, taking on a director of maketing job for a tech company on the West Coast.
Canadian Tire 42.60 27.85 39.29
Canfor 11.68 7.60 10.45
Costco 39.02 27.00 35.91
Goodfellow 14.25 9.75 14.00
Home Depot 37.89 20.10 34.65
Hudson's Bay 12.97 7.75 11.00
Lowe's Cos. 60.42 33.37 55.05
Rona Inc. 28.95 11.75 28.75
Sears Canada 21.50 13.60 16.26
Sodisco-Howden 3.35 1.28 2.90
Taiga Forest 8.10 6.00 7.70
Wal-Mart 60.20 46.25 52.50
West Fraser 39.05 29.25 37.25
ATLANTA — Home Depot has successfully completed a share buyback totalling $1 billion. With lots of cash still on hand, the Home Depot board has now approved another $1 billion buyback. At the end of the third quarter, the giant retailer had $5 billion in cash. In the past two years, Home Depot has repurchased $3 billion of outstanding shares and this new authorization brings the total capital committed for share repurchases to $4 billion. MOORESVILLE, NC — Lowe's Cos. intends to buy back up to $1 billion of its common stock. The buyback represents about 2.3% of Lowe's 786 million shares outstanding. Companies use buybacks to increase earnings per share by reducing shares outstanding. The repurchase program also will allow Lowe's to offset the effect of employee stock options. VANCOUVER — Canfor Corp., Canada's largest lumber producer, has come out squarely opposed to a proposal to settle the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber dispute out of court. The company claims it's already over-paying under the current tariff, and any broad-based settlement would not credit this. The settlement framework provides no recognition for the preliminary Department of Commerce decision that Canfor's CVD rate should be 12.24% as opposed to the industry rate of 18.79%. Canfor has therefore over-paid duties by approximately $60 million of which only 52% will be returned under this proposal and 48% will go to its US competitors under the Byrd amendment. TORONTO — Jerry Zucker, a U.S. industrialist who heads up South Carolina-based InterTech Group., has bought up 10% of Hudson's Bay Co., sparking rumours of a takeover. The move sent HBC's stock price up almost 15% last week. Zucker would reportedly keep HBC intact, holding on to current management and strategy, if he decided to bid for the retailing operation. TORONTO — CSA International, a leading certification and testing organization, today announced that Ace Hardware Corp., the giant retailer-owned hardware distributor in the U.S., now formally recognizes the CSA certification mark on electrical, mechanical and gas-fuelled products. This is an important step in CSA's effort to establish itself as a truly North American certification body. Hardlines broke the story just weeks ago of CSA's success in getting recognition by UL for CSA-approved electrical components. LONDON, UK — Wal-Mart's supermarket chain here, Asda, has made a bid to buy 70 of Safeway Plc's stores for almost $3.48 billion. The offer is being regarded as an effort to thwart a rival offer by Asda's smaller competitor, William Morrison Supermarkets Plc, whose existing bid has been cleared by regulators to bid for the whole of Safeway, as long as it sells off 53 of the stores to competitors. TORONTO — Masonite International is buying up the residential door business of Stanley Works for $160 million. The cash deal is expected to add about $200 million in sales to Masonite's business, which was worth $1.62 billion last year. BOISE, ID — Boise Cascade has received approval of its acquisition of OfficeMax Inc., with 72.49% of the outstanding shares represented. The deal was valued at about $1.4 billion. ISSAQUAH, WA — Costco Wholesale Corp. had net sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2004 of $10.31 billion, up 14% from $9.01 billion during the first quarter of fiscal 2003. Same-store sales were up 11%. Net income for the first quarter of fiscal 2004 increased 10% to $160.2 million, or $.34 per diluted share, from $145.7 million, or $.31 per diluted share, during the first quarter of fiscal 2003. DELSON, QC — For the first quarter ending November 30, Goodfellow Inc. had net earnings of $3.4 million on sales of $118.9 million. That compares to earnings of $0.41 million on sales of $128.0 million for the first quarter last year. Sales were down 7% due to the low dollar exchange rate on U.S. exports, combined with the impact of the tariffs on softwood sales.

Eric Roberts is no longer with Osram Sylvania; a mutual parting last week. No replacement named yet.

Stephanie Burns has been named CEO at Dow Corning, effective January 1, 2004. Burns, 48, replaces Gary Anderson, who will stay on as chairman. Dunc Wilson has joined Quincaillerie Matreco Hardware. He actually started last month, but has no official title, reporting to Yves Gagnon, president of QMH. He's working on negotiating deals for the three groups involved in the new hardware distribution company, namely Groupe BMR, AWARD and TIM-BR Mart Ontario. Joseph C. High has been appointed senior vice-president, human resources at Owens Corning, effective January 1, 2004. Formerly vice-president human resources for ConocoPhillips, he replaces Ed Mirra, who has retired after 41 years at OC. Torlys has appointed Cam Bowen to the newly created position of national contract sales manager, leading a team of eight builder consultants focused on growing the construction/commercial portion of Torlys's business … Chris McNamara has joined Torlys as a flooring consultant for its Western Region. Based in Winnipeg, he is responsible for the Torlys retail floorcovering dealer network and the builder market throughout Manitoba and parts of Northwestern Ontario … Stephen Aked has been named Ontario region sales manager. He was formerly a flooring consultant for the Western Region … Aked replaces André Tesolin, who has been promoted to vice-president, operations … Steeve Guimond has joined the company as a retail flooring consultant, responsible for the Torlys dealer network in the Gaspé and Northern New Brunswick. He is based in Edmunston, NB. … Lucie Pelletier will be developing retail dealer sales in the Montreal area. She has seven years of retail sales experience in the floorcovering industry, most recently with Armstrong World IndustriesSerge Crevier has also joined, as builder flooring consultant in Quebec. He was previously Quebec district manager for Armstrong World Industries. (905-612-8772) Ed Healy has been promoted to Canadian retail sales manager for Planters' Pride, a division of ITML Horticultural Products, a leading North American supplier of pots and containers to the horticultural industry. Planters' Pride is the flagship retail brand of the retail horticultural division of Kord Products Inc. and ITML, which acquired Kord in 1999. (905-791-2600)

Retailers enjoyed a merry start to the holidays with a rise in retail sales in November, says the U.S. Commerce Department. However, rising unemployment is putting a damper on the numbers, especially as retail got a big lift from auto sales. Retail and food services were up 0.9%, at $322.4 billion. But excluding automotive, the increase was only 0.4%. Retail and food service sales were up 6.9% from November 2002. Excluding automobiles, year-over-year sales increased 6.5%.

Wholesale inventories in October were $291.2 billion, up 0.5% from September and up 1.9% from one year ago, reports the U.S. Commerce Department. Sales were $246.8 billion, up 2.0% from September and up 6.6% from October 2002.

Housing starts in Canada fell to 213,000 seasonally adjusted in November, from 237,300 in October, reports CMHC. Urban single starts increased 3.5% to 104,400 units seasonally adjusted, an increase reflected in all regions of the country except in the Atlantic region. Year-to-date actual starts have exceeded last year's level by 6.5%. In November, urban single starts increased 3.5% to 104,400 units seasonally adjusted, from 100,900 units the previous month. This increase was reflected in all regions of the country except in the Atlantic region where urban single starts decreased slightly. Canada-wide, year-to-date actual urban single starts are 3.2% lower than the same period in 2002. Urban multiple starts dropped 25.2% to 82,700 units in November from 110,500 units in October. Year-to-date actual urban multiple starts increased 19.7% over the same period in 2002.

Canada's New Housing Price Index rose 0.4% in October, down slightly from September's increase of 0.5%. Year over year, this index of contractors' selling prices rose by 5.0%. Victoria, BC led the way with an increase of 1.0%, followed by Calgary (+0.9%), Regina (+0.8%) and Edmonton (+0.8%).

Despite attempts to lure them out earlier, shoppers still tend to wait until the last minute, says a new report from Statistics Canada. But when they get around to it, they spend big. Last year, Canadians spent $30 billion in retail stores in the month running up to Christmas. That's 10% of total annual retail sales, or about 1.5 percentage points above the monthly average.


"The Saturday morning breakfast with Hardlines/Hardware Merchandising will be fun and informative. The comedy duo of Steve Payne and Michael McLarney has proven in the past to be witty and a bit provocative. I sometimes think they have missed their calling…" — Dave Campbell, president of the Lumber and Building Materials Association of Ontario, referring to the education program being put on to kick off the LBMAO's new dealer show in London, ON February 7-8, 2004.

****HARDLINES MARKETPLACE**** Dont' miss the products and services on the Hardlines web Marketplace: And check out Hardlines Classifieds on the web: HELP WANTED

SALES & MARKETING REPRESENTATIVE, EASTERN ONTARIO/WEST QUEBEC Wood specialty Products - Flooring Division Goodfellow Inc., a leading Canadian Wholesale Distributor / Manufacturer CANDIDATES SHOULD BE: -Sales and marketing oriented; -Self motivated and require little supervision -Well organized and disciplined -Willing to transfer to other Canadian Divisions -Preferably bilingual (French / English) but not a prime requirement BENEFITS include Salary and profit sharing; Full company program (medical/dental/pension) Our company offers very good opportunities for advancement and promotion. Please send resume to: Branch Manager, Goodfellow Inc, Ottawa; Email: or fax at: (613) 244-0488


SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE GREATER TORONTO AREA Colonial Elegance is the Canadian leading manufacturer and distributor of staircase components, mirror doors and other building material products related to Home Renovation Centers. You are the candidate we need, if you have a minimum of 1 year service experience and can work under minimal supervision. You know how to establish strong relationships with customers and have the aptitude for representing & servicing our current customers. As a member of the Ontario sales and service team, you will regularly visit our customers, be fully responsible for the service of our range of products, complete product set-up and resets and conduct product knowledge training sessions in one of our exclusive territories: GREATER TORONTO AREA We offer a competitive compensation and benefit package. Please submit your resume with confidence to:

COLONIAL ELEGANCE INC. Att: National Sales Director 3800 Du Tricentenaire Blvd. Montreal, QC H1B 5T8 Fax: (514) 640-4307 e-mail:

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