Hardlines Weekly Newsletter


February 2, 2015 Volume xxi, #5

“Aren't we all striving to be overpaid for what we do?” —Will Farrell (American actor and comedian, 1967- )


Castle’s Ken Jenkins says dealers well-positioned as oil, dollar fall

CALGARY — Lowering oil prices and a falling dollar threaten to make the year ahead a challenging one for the retail home improvement industry, but one retail leader believes that independent dealers are well-suited to cope with what might be a rocky ride ahead.

HARDLINES caught up with Ken Jenkins, president of Castle Building Centres Group, at the recent WRLA Buying Show in Calgary, where he shared his confidence in the resilience of independents.

“Dealers don’t overreact when conditions change, he said. “They understand there are going to be cycles and they prepare well for those cycles.” They don’t over-expand during good times and they contract well when times get lean.” This kind of flexibility gives them an advantage over the larger chains and big box retailers, he added.

Jenkins expects that the upside of the falling Canadian dollar will give manufacturers, especially in Central Canada, an advantage, while Canadian tourist dollars could stay here at home, boosting renovation spending.

“I believe honestly the oil issue will be a relatively short-term dynamic, but that being said independents are, I think, very well positioned to deal with the challenges of fluctuating market conditions.”

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WRLA makes pitch for unified national association

CALGARY — The Gala Dinner that highlighted the recent Buying Show of the Western Retail Lumber Association featured awards, tributes—and an unexpected message. While onstage addressing the audience of close to 1,000, Rob Hauser, chair of the WRLA, departed from the usual association business to address a larger issue: the notion of a national entity to represent the industry.

“A national association, recognizing regional differences, could benefit the industry,” he said.

There are currently five regional associations for building supply dealers and suppliers: ABSDA in Atlantic Canada, AQMAT in Quebec, LBMAO in Ontario, WRLA in the West, and BSIA in British Columbia. In addition, NRHA Canada provides training and services to dealers across the country. A single organization could provide lobbying and a unified voice for industry concerns, he said.

In many cases, he continued, the associations duplicate services—a costly process that could be centralized. He cited an observation by Retail Council of Canada (an organization with 9,000 members which oversees the entire sector) that, “associations in Canada are seriously challenged.”

The regional associations already come together loosely in an umbrella group called the Canadian Retail Building Supply Council. It meets once a year to share ideas and concerns, but takes no stands on national issues. And CRBSC’s efficacy may be waning: it didn’t even hold a meeting in 2014.

Hauser told the audience that he sees the potential to organize a national entity with regional offices to reflect the needs of the different parts of the country, supporting one or two strong regional buying shows.

However, Thomas Foreman, president of the Building Supply Industry Association (BSIA of B.C.)—and this year’s head of the CRBSC—is not convinced. WRLA has not, he feels, reached out in good faith. “That message seems to be contrary to the message that the other associations have been getting.”

The idea of a national organization has been hotly debated behind closed doors for years. Dave Campbell, president of the LBMAO, says, “I think there would be some benefit. Some of us have been vocal about trying to strengthen the position of the CRBSC on a national basis, but without consensus, it isn’t going to work.” He also acknowledges the different concerns of dealers in various parts of the country. “At present, we are all strong regionally with our own regional challenges.”

However, Houser remains optimistic. “Plans for discussions will take place in the near future,” he said.

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Quebec soirée honours Gala winners

LONGUEUIL, Que. — Retailers and suppliers from across the Quebec home improvement industry gathered in Quebec on January 24 for a “Gala Reconnaissance” awards soirée at the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City.

The event was hosted by the Quebec industry association AQMAT and overseen by Richard Darveau, president and CEO of AQMAT; the evening also marked the 75th anniversary of association.

“The Gala Reconnaissance is a testament to the dynamism and leadership that characterize our association,” said Guillaume Saillant, president of the board of AQMAT and director of sales for JRTech Solutions. “The whole process leading to this event reflects our values of fairness and transparency to to all our members,” he added.

Eight manufacturers and eight retailers were awarded at the third annual Gala Reconnaissance by AQMAT: Groupe Isolofoam; Duchesne & Fils; Marcil Centre de rénovation; Home Hardware Quincaillerie-Pierre Machabée; Groupe Matériaux Godin-Castle; Drakkar International; Quincaillerie Mésy-TIMBER MART; Metrie; Produits forestiers Ampro-Mur Design; A. Richard Tools; King Materials; Matériaux Lavoie-TIMBER MART; Émile Bilodeau & Fils-TIMBER MART; BMR Dionne & Fils; and Polyform. Missing: Quincaillerie A. Pouliot-TIMBER MART.

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Lowe’s Canada to hire 2,000 for spring and summer

TORONTO — Lowe’s Canada plans to hire about 2,000 seasonal employees for the busy spring and summer selling seasons. The company will also host its first ever National Hiring Day on Saturday, March 7, at all 37 Lowe’s locations across Canada.

The company is not only hiring for positions at its stores, but also for its Regional Distribution Centre in Milton, Ont., and for three new stores set to open later this year: in Lethbridge, Alta.; Saskatoon; and Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. Positions include customer service associates, cashiers, loaders, stockers, and sales specialists.

Late last year, Lowe’s announced plans to open 25 new stores in Canada over the next three years.

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ANALYSIS: Buying shows are no longer just about buying

CALGARY — While many vendors at the latest Buying Show of the Western Retail Lumber Association will measure the success of the show solely on the number of orders written, more and more vendors we spoke with at the show are focusing on using that venue as a way to strengthen the larger customer relationship.

A number of dealers, as well, at the show admitted that special buys are becoming less of an incentive. They talked instead about the importance of networking and product knowledge in an age when orders can be made online easily and tight margins preclude any real deals in many product categories. In fact, a survey conducted by WRLA indicated that the top reason for attending the show was for “new product ideas,” while special buys rated second.

While many suppliers, especially of commodities, indicated that their measure of the success of the newly located show would be the volume of orders, and orders only, many booths were emphasizing in-store displays and product knowledge that will help dealers sell their products better.

For example, the Ply Gem Canada booth featured lots of windows and siding, but it also had interactive displays to demonstrate the thermal ratings of different window glass along with siding samples. The goal of Ply Gem’s presence at the show, said Andrew Thompson, the company’s director, brand marketing for windows and doors, was to help dealers create a better experience in their stores for selling Ply Gem products. That included interactive displays presenting house styles that customers can identify as similar to their own, and develop their own home improvement ideas from there. “We’re really trying to show the dealers that, ‘we can help you grow your business.’”

The notion of a strong in-store experience, which helps make one’s store a destination for shoppers as well as an alternative—or next step—for customers searching for products online, is the message of retail futurist Doug Stephens, who was onsite offering 20-minute seminars for dealers right at the Ply Gem booth.

Jay Fafard, VP of business development for Madero Doors & Hardware, agrees wholeheartedly with this approach. Much of his marketing efforts go not just to pushing product but to educating customers and giving them reno ideas. The Saskatoon-based manufacturer and supplier is adding a design centre to its facility there and to its DCs in Winnipeg and Calgary. That kind of approach to marketing was carried over at the WRLA Buying Show, as well, where he said the emphasis was on interacting with dealers to help them sell better.

In the face of online technology and squeezed margins for products, all trade shows are evolving to become less about buying and more about interacting with customers and offering new product ideas.

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To apply, go to: http://careers.sherwin-williams.com/jobs/18890