ILDC members small in number, big in sales
, Ont. — While the home improvement industry sits on tenterhooks awaiting the next step in its ongoing consolidation, one group of dealers remains fiercely independent — and determined to meet consolidation on its own terms.
With just 25 members, the Independent Lumber Dealers Cooperative is Canadaâ€™s smallest buying group in terms of members, but one of the largest in terms of sales. Collectively, ILDC members, who include Kent, Canac-Marquis, Turkstra, and Star Building Supplies, had an increase in sales in 2006, says Andrew Battagliotti, general manager of the group. Sales by the group totalled $2 billion in 2005.
While Battagliotti says itâ€™s too early to say just how large an increase his group enjoyed in 2006, he did reveal that increases were experienced by all members across the country — in spite of a continued softening of commodity lumber prices.
Meanwhile, the companies, which are typically leaders in their markets, are making their own efforts to consolidate. In 2005, Kent bought up fellow member Schurman, making it the leader in the province of Prince Edward Island in one fell swoop. More recently, Canac-Marquis, Kent and Star have all opened new outlets of their own.
TSC considers regional office in Milton
, Ont. — TSC Stores, the Ontario-based chain of farm and hardware stores, has aggressive plans for expansion, both provincially and even nationally.
To implement those plans, a new executive team was put in place last summer, headed by former Canadian Tire vice-president Dave Roussy as president and CEO and Greg Hicks, whom Roussy brought along to serve as his COO. Neither has moved to TSCâ€™s London offices, choosing instead to make the two-hour commute several times a week while working from a small interim office in Toronto.
Plans are now afoot to replace the Toronto location with a regional office at the companyâ€™s Milton store, when it opens.
Even as it expands, the company has no plans to move its distribution from London, says Hicks, unless it has difficulty recruiting people.
TSC currently has 31 stores. Hicks says eight more will be added this year. The company plans to double that number, to 80 stores, by the end of 2010, a move that will take the chain beyond Ontarioâ€™s borders.
Home Depot ponders fate of HD Supply
— The Home Depot has hired Lehman Brothers to evaluate the long-term future of its $12 billion HD Supply business, which provides products and services to professional and commercial customers.
The giant retailer said it is exploring several options for HD Supply, which has nearly 1,000 locations and 26,000 employees. These options might include its outright sale, its spin-off or an initial public offering of that business.
In a prepared statement, Frank Blake, Home Depotâ€™s chairman and CEO, said that his company had been reviewing HD Supply since November, and is considering its possible separation from that business so that it can focus on its 2,159 retail outlets, which last year generated more than $78 billion in revenue.
Blake and his management team will meet with analysts and investors on February 28, at which time HD Supply will be a major topic of discussion, although the company said it would not talk about these developments in detail until its board of directors approves a definitive transaction.
A week ago, Home Depot agreed to add David Batchelder, a principal with Relational Investors, to its board of directors, and said that four of its long-time directors would step down. Relational has been urging Home Depot to sell off HD Supply and concentrate on its retail business to improve the value of its stock price.
Home Depotâ€™s former chairman and CEO, Bob Nardelli, spent more than $7 billion to expand HD Supply through myriad acquisitions. And the single biggest question that the retailer and its financial advisor must ask now about any possible sale of all or part of that business unit has to be: to whom?
Home Depot, RONA launch new merchandising concepts
— Home Depot Canada is facing pressure as RONA inc. establishes its brand name outside of Quebec, and as it faces the imminent arrival of Loweâ€™s stores in Canada. So it has been revamping and expanding its product lines.
The latest incarnation of Home Depot in Canada features a range of merchandising, signage and customer service concepts new to Home Depot — all focusing on improving the storeâ€™s connection with customers.
But innovation is not unique to Home Depot. RONA, its biggest competitor, is heating up competition in Quebec with a new format for its contractor-oriented RÃ©no-DÃ©pÃ´t stores. A new-look RÃ©no-DÃ©pÃ´t in Rimouski has features that sharpen the storeâ€™s focus on the contractor, while attempting to broaden its appeal to the female shopper.
(For a virtual tour of the newest store formats in home improvement retailing, see the latest edition of Hardlines Quarterly Report. Click here for more info — Michael)
Mood at Builders Show belies softness of housing market
, Fla. — The International Builders Show, the annual event for Americaâ€™s builders and their trade partners, attracted just over 104,000 attendees during its four days last week, slightly less than the record 105,623 people who came to last yearâ€™s show, according to the National Association of Home Builders, which owns and manages the event.
An estimated 1,900 exhibits were crammed into 1.6 million square feet in two huge halls in Orange County Convention Center. The mood of suppliers was surprisingly upbeat, given the ongoing softness in the countryâ€™s housing market. Most of those interviewed by Hardlines
are hoping the market will start turning around by mid-year. But it is obvious that builders are using this hiatus in their business to look for new ways to improve their operations. One of the best-attended seminars at the show, for example, was one that provided tips on training job-site field supervisors.