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February 1, 2021 | Volume xxvii, #5



  • Pascal Houle’s move back to BMR’s parent company is part of a wider reorg
  • WRLA’s product showcase goes online, supported by an app and magazine
  • Survey reveals job dissatisfaction amidst expectations of more growth in 2021
  • At 101 million rotisserie chickens, Costco’s growth under COVID is startling

PLUS: Another RONA store in Quebec, wholesaler takes on BMR banner, Richelieu posts strong Q4, Canac aims to help Quebecers keep New Year’s resolutions, 3M reports Q4 earnings, Lowe’s Canada is hiring, SONOpan and Bryan Baeumler, retail sales rise in November, sales of existing U.S. homes and more!

Pascal Houle’s move back to BMR’s parent company is part of a wider reorg

BMR Group has confirmed that CEO Pascal Houle will leave his position later this month to become head of operations with parent company Sollio Groupe Coopératif (formerly La Coop fédérée). BMR has a job posting on LinkedIn to replace Houle in the CEO role.

Houle takes on his new role on Feb. 25, immediately following Sollio’s annual general meeting. He will report to Sollio CEO Gaétan Desroches.

Houle started his career in 1998 as manager of his local co-op in Laurierville, Que., and was named management advisor for La Coop fédérée in 2000. In 2013, La Coop began its takeover of BMR and at the time Houle was put in place as VP retail. He then became EVP for BMR.

Early in 2015 La Coop completed its acquisition of all assets of BMR, creating a combined entity that was second only to RONA in Quebec’s retail home improvement arena. At that time, Houle stepped into the CEO role at BMR. The merger gave La Coop a total of 350 building centres and hardware stores, operating under the Unimat and BMR banners.

In anticipation of next Houle’s move, some other changes have occurred at the management level at BMR in recent months. Before Christmas, Antonio Di Pasquale joined as VP, supply chain and operational excellence. He leads the development and optimization of BMR’s processes and strategies relating to procurement and demand planning.

Bruno Baldessari, was named vice president, merchandising and vendor relations last summer. At the same time, Jonathan Gendreau, formerly VP of marketing and strategy, was given the title of VP, strategy and network development; and VP of retail Martin Lecomte was named VP, retail and network performance.

At the dealer level, BMR continues its efforts to expand the BMR brand. Through the latter half of 2020, it successfully added new members, all in Quebec. Most recently, a wholesaler in Shippagan, N.B., signed on as an associate member under the BMR Express banner. The company has its eye on further expansion, especially into Ontario. In fact, BMR is currently searching for a senior operations advisor to serve dealers in the Outaouais region and Ontario.

WRLA’s product showcase goes online, supported by an app and magazine

As the pandemic has changed life as we know it, the regional trade shows that typically provide huge opportunities to bring people together have had to settle for online events. The Western Retail Lumber Association (WRLA) had to do just that with its show.

WRLA’s Building & Hardware Showcase was held Jan. 18 to 29, offering a mix of product specials and presentations, including sessions from Dupont, Taiga, and other suppliers. And rather than flying to Calgary or Winnipeg, attendees had only to download an app and refer to the latest copy of the WRLA’s magazine, Yardstick, which provided a directory of products and events.

The first educational session was “Political Power Hour,” which featured talks from provincial ministers. Discussions surrounded strategies to raise the economy post-COVID-19. 

Bronwyn Eyre, Minister of Energy and Resources in Saskatchewan, highlighted the new provincial home renovation tax credit. The provincial government has also introduced a PST rebate, which will cover up to 42 percent of PST on a new home with a maximum of $350,000. “We hope that these two new tools, for both contractors and homeowners, are something that will be effective as we move into a greater economic recovery,” said Eyre.

With the promotion of home improvement comes environmental concerns. During a session called “Building Materials for the New Carbon Economy,” environmentally friendly building expert Chris Magwood presented improvements the industry can make. Buildings contribute to almost half of global fossil fuel emissions, delegates learned, but this number can go down with the right materials. Magwood pointed out that using code-compliant materials results in lower emissions than high-intensity materials.

“The materials that we choose, and the carbon footprint of those materials, is every bit important as energy efficiency,” said Magwood. Other topics like health concerns and waste were also addressed during the session.


Survey reveals job dissatisfaction amidst expectations of more growth in 2021

Despite the disruptions caused by a worldwide pandemic, more than two-thirds of companies in the hardware and home improvement industry reported growth that met or exceeded expectations in 2020.

This is just one of the findings from a new survey of business conditions by executive search guru Wolf Gugler, of Wolf Gugler Executive Search. The survey was done in the final months of 2020, with the majority of responses coming from Canadians.

Of the one-third who saw results fall short in 2020, reasons provided included lack of face time with customers, supply chain holdups, and staff absence due to personal illness or illness of a family member.

Looking at the hiring climate for 2021, the survey is fairly positive. When the pandemic struck in early 2020, it didn’t result in immediate staff cuts, but many cuts did result through attrition during the year. While downsizing may increase year over year, more companies are planning staff additions.

“Actually, we’ve experienced a reduction in new candidates coming to us because of downsizing,” says Gugler. “We have, though, seen the time to re-employment increase for those that were cut in early 2019.”

The survey also helped identify how companies will respond as lockdown measures are lifted. Fully 70 percent of respondents indicated they would continue to work from home, with just 30 percent saying they will be office based.

“This is no surprise, really, with the current pandemic situation,” says Gugler. “Many client companies of ours have accommodated employees to work remotely. They’ve included the provision of computer equipment and internet services, allowing flex hours to help employees manage childcare needs and staying connected via video meetings.”

Looking ahead, respondents were largely upbeat about their prospects for 2021, with 69 percent expecting results this year to exceed 2020. Twelve percent said results would be lower, while 19 percent expected performance to be the same as last year. “When sales were down, the primary reason given was inventory and logistics issues,” Gugler adds. “This dovetails with the increase in the need for competent inventory and business analysis staff, a role that we see a high demand for.”

Sadly, only 18 percent say that they love their current employer. (Disclaimer: nobody from Hardlines participated in this survey. At least I hope not!—Editor)

At 101 million rotisserie chickens, Costco’s growth under COVID is startling

Costco posted record results in its financial report for fiscal 2020, issued last month. The warehouse club retailer is the world’s seventh-largest publicly trader retailer according to a 2020 Forbes list, but recently it has ranked as high as third place. With big boxes deemed essential in most regions, Costco has been able to remain open through the pandemic, although departmental restrictions have varied by jurisdiction.

Costco’s Canadian net and comp sales up five percent in 2020.

Like retailers from Amazon to IKEA, Costco has been investing in optimizing the “last mile” of each delivery order’s journey to a customer. That effort included the acquisition in 2020 of Innovel, now rechristened Costco Logistics. Under the terms of the $1 billion transaction, announced last March, Costco Logistics continues to deliver bulky and big-ticket items not only for Costco but also for Sears, Kmart, and other third-party customers.

The explosion of online grocery ordering could afford Costco an opportunity to consider its stance on expanding its omnichannel. Back in November, EVP and CFO Richard Galanti said, “We’re not everything to everybody, and we’re still reluctant to do the buy online and pick up in-store other than for a few bigger-ticket, small-sized items, like jewelry.”

During its recent shareholders’ meeting, by contrast, CEO Craig Jelinek confirmed Costco has partnered with Instacart to offer two-day grocery delivery as well as same-day delivery for fresh items. Costco offers the service to non-members but at a premium of at least 10 percent.

“It makes more sense for the person buying through Instacart to do it through Costco and have a Costco membership,” Jelinek told the meeting. He added that the wholesaler is “probably about a year out” from offering members the capability to check inventory levels at local warehouses.

Costco’s food courts did a brisk business during the year, even with seating areas closed. More than 150 million hot dog and soda combos were sold in 2020. In fresh groceries, produce sales were up 16 percent and meat sales up by 21 percent, with 101 million rotisserie chickens sold during the year.

People on the Move

Jay Heubner, president and GM of Ace International, will retire March 1 after 38 years at Ace Hardware Corp. Heubner joined Ace’s IT department in 1983 and was soon named a director. Heubner’s successor, David Goh, will take up the president and GM positions on April 5. A former CEO of 7-Eleven Singapore, he is currently managing director at Robinsons Retail Holdings, a Filipino retail conglomerate. While Heubner was based in Panama, Goh will be based in Singapore.

At Lee Valley Tools, Jason Tasse has been appointed president, in addition to his current role as COO. CEO Robin Lee will continue in his roles as chairman of the Lee Valley Group of Companies and as CEO and president of Veritas Tools. Tasse’s record during his 25-year tenure at Lee Valley has included leading key systems implementations, strategic planning, digital transformation, and the development of the company’s 150,000-square-foot distribution centre.




... that the latest issue of our sister publication, Hardlines Home Improvement Quarterly, is now available online? In the Q1, 2021 digital edition of HHIQ, learn what dealers are doing to confront COVID, find out how a younger generation is breathing new life into their stores, and read why Peavey’s Doug Anderson took over Ace Canada—and how he’ll make it work. Plus: our interview with Marianne Thompson, the top merchant at Home Hardware. Click here to read more!


Karine Anctil, owner of the RONA store in Rivière-du-Loup, Que., has acquired a building centre in La Pocatière. The site will reopen under the RONA banner in the spring.

BMR has welcomed the hardware division of Shippagan Enterprises Ltd as an associate member under the BMR Express banner. The fourth-generation family business is a wholesale distributor serving the commercial fishing and aquaculture industries in Shippagan, N.B. The hardware store has 15 employees and a total sales area of 7,000 square feet.

In Quebec City, a local notary, François Thifault, has acquired the RONA Quincaillerie Crémazie in his neighbourhood. The 1,500 square-foot store has served the community for over 75 years and has been an affiliate merchant under the RONA banner since 1997.

Canac’s latest new publicity campaign is aimed at helping Quebecers keep their New Year’s resolutions—by literally setting them in concrete. “At Canac, we wished to begin the year under the banner of solidarity,” explained marketing director Patrick Delisle. “Because everyone experiences moments outside the ordinary, we wanted to extrapolate our slogan, ‘Canac helps for real,’ to make a real difference in the lives of some Quebecers who are making resolutions.” (Click here to view one of the segments. In French only, but heartwarming in any language!)

Lowe’s Canada has launched its spring hiring campaign in preparation for the home improvement industry’s busiest season. The company aims to fill over 7,000 full- and part-time positions throughout its network of Lowe’s, RONA, and Réno-Dépôt corporate stores. It will hold a series of national and regional hiring events over the next two months. National events will take place exclusively online, while regional events will let candidates complete their first interview online or in person.


Richelieu Hardware Ltd. posted Q4 sales of $319 million, up 20.4 percent from the previous fourth quarter. Net earnings rose by 41.2 percent to $0.48 per share. In Canada, Richelieu recorded sales of $215 million, an increase of $35.9 million. For the fiscal year 2020, sales reached $1.13 billion, up 8.3 percent over 2019. Net earnings rose 28.2 percent to $85.2 million. In Canada, sales of $730 million were up 6.4 percent from $686 million in fiscal 2019.

3M Co. reported Q4 earnings of $1.4 billion, or $2.38 per share, up 43 percent from a year ago. Net sales increased by 5.8 percent to $8.6 billion. Lower costs and higher demand for protective equipment, including N95 masks, helped to boost results. In the consumer category, earnings rose by 10.7 percent to $335 million. In Canada, sales were up by two percent in local currency.

SONOpan has entered into a multi-year North American endorsement relationship with Bryan Baeumler. The HGTV host will be the exclusive ambassador of SONOpan with its Noise STOP Technology. He will be involved in SONOpan’s marketing initiatives including website, social media, instore signage, radio, and TV.


Lindsay O’Handley passed away on Jan. 8, in his 75th year. A well-known member of the Canadian power tool and OPE industry, he was the national sales manager at Ryobi Canada from 1995 to 2002. Prior to that, he served as national accounts manager and district sales manager in Alberta and Southern Ontario for Delta/Porter Cable from 1977 to 1990. Lindsay also spent eight years in the U.S. as a product manager and regional sales manager for McGraw-Edison and Sabre Chain Co.


Retail sales in November rose at their fastest pace since September, up 1.3 percent to $55.2 billion. This was the seventh consecutive monthly gain. The increase was led by higher sales at food and beverage stores, along with an uptick in e-commerce sales. Sales of building and garden materials rose by 2.2 percent, the fourth straight monthly increase. Sales were up in seven of 11 subsectors, representing 53.4 percent of retail trade. In volume terms, retail sales rose 1.2 percent in November. (StatCan)

Sales of existing U.S. homes rose 0.7 percent in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.76 million units. Increases in the Northeast and South were tempered by a decline in the West, while sales in the Midwest were flat. Year-over-year sales soared by 22.2 percent. (National Association of Realtors)

Housing starts in the U.S. rose 5.8 percent in December to an annualized rate of 1.669 million units. On a year-over-year basis, activity was up 5.2 percent. Single-family homebuilding saw a 12 percent spike, with an annualized rate of 1.338 million units. Building permits for the month were up 4.5 percent to a pace of 1.709 million units. (U.S. Commerce Dept.)


A PwC survey indicates that about 27 percent of employees currently work onsite in Canada. Of those working at home, only one in five say they want to return to an office setting post-pandemic.


“I live and work in the Montcalm district, and the RONA Quincaillerie Crémazie store is part of what makes this neighbourhood so vibrant and inviting. Thanks to the current staff’s expertise and RONA’s tailored support, my team and I will be able to continue providing excellent service to the community.”
—François Thifault, a notary who purchased the local hardware store in his community in Quebec City.



Classified Ads

Nicholson and Cates Limited is a distributor of premium quality building materials. We attribute much   of our success to the strength of our people, our service and product selection. We are hiring to fill two positions to join our team - Marketing Coordinator and Inside Sales Representative.

Marketing Coordinator - responsible for a wide range of functions and will assist in the development and implementation of the company’s marketing strategy.

Inside Sales Representative - responsible for supporting the sales team, order entry, customer service, providing product knowledge and generating sales.
Both positions are full-time permanent positions, working out of our Burlington, ON head office.
For more information on these positions visit
Interested candidates, please send your resume to We thank all applicants for their interest, however only qualified candidates will be contacted for interviews.

Thriving, established lumber yard for sale in the North Perth (ON) area.

– 3-acre property with 4,750 square feet of store and 30,000 square feet of storage buildings.

– A large part of the yard is paved.

– Growing population in the region.

– Potential for business growth.

– Quality pool of loyal contractor customers.

– Currently runs as an independent yard and belongs to the Sexton Buying Group.

Please inquire through Daryl or Wayne Smith; 519 291 4488


Looking to post a classified ad? Email Michelle for a free quote.



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