December 2, 2013, Volume
“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” —Mark Twain (American author and humourist, 1835-1910)
HOLIDAY PUBLISHING SCHEDULE: HARDLINES is published monthly in December, so this is our last issue. We will resume our regular publishing schedule in the New Year, returning January 6. As always, of course, the World Headquarters remain open right up until Dec. 20 … well, maybe late on the 19th. Okay, not that late.
HARDLINES EXCLUSIVE: BMR CEO talks about La Coop deal
QUEBEC CITY — Groupe BMR and La Coop fédérée have finally confirmed a deal that will combine the home improvement assets of the two companies. However, surprisingly, La Coop will take only a minority interest in BMR, and not, at this time, make an outright acquisition, despite being flush with cash following two solid years of performance, combined with a desire to grow its home improvement retail side.
Nevertheless, the new arrangement enables the two companies to rationalize their buying functions and combine distribution facilities. It has also resulted in putting the leadership of the combined entity under the control of BMR president and CEO Yves Gagnon. He is expected to continue in this role for the next three years.
HARDLINES spoke with Gagnon at his group’s annual hardware buying show, held in Quebec City last month. Although reluctant to say too much more about the deal—at least not until after January 1, when the acquisition goes into effect—he did share some insights.
Branding for the new, combined entity is among the details which remain outstanding. BMR’s nearly 190 dealers fly the BMR banner, while La Coop has been promoting its hardware and home improvement outlets under the Unimat name. “We have to work it out,” says Gagnon. “We have to do the business plan.”
Nor could Gagnon shed much light on the potential merging of buying offices. La Coop is turning to BMR for its expertise in LBM, while “they are strong in hardware,” Gagnon says of his new partner.
La Coop is technically part of the Independent Lumber Dealers Co-operative (ILDC), until January 1. As a matter of good form, he says, the company has agreed to withdraw from that buying group’s vendor negotiations, which take place around this time.
But the two companies are not waiting until the beginning of next year to start learning from each other. A number of Coop dealers were seen walking the BMR show, accompanied by executives, including La Coop CEO Claude Lafleur, “just to see how we do it,” Gagnon said.
Gagnon reiterated that all major decisions are on hold until the first of the year. He does expect lots of changes to take place on the Coop side, as it prepares to merge the two companies and rationalize the distribution centres. “They are two very different cultures.”
Overall, Gagnon admits, “It’s a big challenge.”
(In the latest segment of HTV, our Trusty Editor offers his analysis of the Quebec home improvement market. Click here to view the segment on Hardlines TV)
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Spotlight on the ORA Winners: Chad Sonnenberg, Young Retailer of the Year
HARDLINES is proud to present the Outstanding Retailer Awards, honouring some of the finest dealers in this country. The awards were given at a Gala Dinner on October 23 during the 18th Annual Hardlines Conference in Toronto. We’ve focused on a different winner each week—concluding this week.
l-r: Robert Boulanger, Key Account Manager for Techniseal, sponsor of the Young Retailer of the Year award; Chad Sonnenberg, RONA Dealer and winner of the award, with his wife Amy; Beverly Allen, publisher of Hardlines, which hosts the Outstanding Retailer Awards; and Lee Harney, Director of Market Development for RONA.
TORONTO — Chad Sonnenberg, the owner of two RONA stores in Northern Ontario, RONA Elliot Lake and RONA Massey, has won the 2013 Outstanding Retailer Award in the category of Young Retailer of the Year.
Sonnenberg was recognized at the Outstanding Retailer Awards Gala Dinner, held this fall during the 18th Annual Hardlines Conference. He was present to accept the award before an audience of retailers and suppliers from across Canada. The Outstanding Retailer Awards have been recognizing and honouring the best in home improvement retailing across Canada for more than two decades. The award was sponsored by Techniseal.
Sonnenburg has built and expanded his business based on exceptional customer service, proving himself a canny marketer while helping his local community. He also invests in training his staff to make them feel part of the team. These qualities made him the 2013 Outstanding Retailer Award winner for Young Retailer Award.
“Chad Sonnenberg impressed the judges with his dedication to hard work and the courage to take chances,” said Michael McLarney, Editor of HARDLINES. “Despite his age, he has grown his business successfully. Chad was buying his second store before many young people buy their first house.”
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Canucks go nuts for Black Friday
SPECIAL REPORT — Canadians may have celebrated their Thanksgiving weekend in October, but they’re catching up with their neighbours in another observance: Black Friday, the notorious day of bargains which follows on the heels of the American holiday. A few short years ago, Black Friday was virtually unknown as a retail event in Canada. Now, thanks to the growth of online shopping, which has no borders, and to the growing field of American retailers in Canada, the occasion is gaining in popularity here.
Target, the latest arrival from the U.S., offered its Canadian customers Black Friday specials in all departments, with some items marked down by as much as half. Sears Canada promised equally deep savings, which continued through the weekend and ended with special online discounts on “Cyber Monday.”
Without a public holiday here, Canadian Tire got a jump on sales with a “Red Thursday” promotion the day before Black Friday.
While more and more retailers are bringing the experience of Black Friday to Canadians’ own backyards, the day will also remain a popular one for cross-border shoppers. A survey by polling company Acccenture found 60% of respondents still planned to shop in American stores on Friday, either travelling in person to such destinations as Buffalo and Detroit, or online from the comfort of home. Retailers in Canada will have to step up their game if they want to compete seriously with the big price savings in the U.S., Accenture warned.
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Consumers still unsure about spending
TORONTO — Canadian consumers have been experiencing a “slow decline” in confidence, according to the latest Canadian Consumer Confidence Index by TNS Canada.
The overall index fell in August to 94.6 from a high of 97.7. Further decline to 93.3 followed in September before rising slightly to 93.7 in October. TNS cites slow economic growth as the main reason for the slump, offset partly by stock market gains in the same period.
The “Present Situation” index, which measures sentiment about current economic conditions, fell dramatically before leveling out again in October at 96.5, just as Canada signed a key trade agreement with the European Union. The “Expectations” Index, measuring consumers’ six-month outlook, reflected the wider decline, while the “Buy” Index, which tracks enthusiasm for “big ticket” purchases in the present climate, fell from 91.3 in September to 86.6 in October.
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