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January 10, 2022 | Volume xxviii, #2
  • Tony Cioffi named president of Lowe’s Canada
  • TORBSA focuses on growth with new members—and a key new hire
  • Former Home Depot exec shares stories, insights in new Hardlines podcast
  • B.C. association tackles hiring woes with new data and research

PLUS: Peavey cancels in-person Ace trade show, Lowe’s Canada raises money for Movember, contribution to sport by Home Hardware, TORBSA launches product knowledge sessions, WRLA postpones its buying show, building permits increase, and more!

Tony Cioffi named president of Lowe’s Canada

Canada’s number-two home improvement retailer has a new boss. Tony Cioffi has been appointed president of Lowe’s Canada. He replaces Tony Hurst, an American who had been sent up at the beginning of 2020 to steer the Canadian division.

Hurst returns to the U.S. as SVP of pro, services and international for Lowe’s Cos. Cioffi will report to Hurst in his new role.

Cioffi actually had the top job temporarily following the departure of former Lowe’s Canada president Sylvain Prud’homme, who left the company in October 2019. As interim president, Cioffi kept the company on track while a new CEO of the parent company, Marvin Ellison, got a handle on the Canadian operations. During that time, Cioffi reported directly to Ellison.

Cioffi joined Lowe’s Canada in 2016 as SVP, finance, as well as group financial officer. He then served as interim president before being named SVP, stores, a position before this latest promotion. Before joining Lowe’s Canada, Cioffi held leadership roles at ADT Canada and Bell Helicopter Textron Canada. In addition to that, he served as president and CEO of the Reader’s Digest Association (Canada).

TORBSA focuses on growth with new members—and a key new hire

TORBSA, the Ontario-based buying group, has experienced a lot of growth over the past 12 months. Once content to hold a role as a small, boutique-type group with a couple of dozen members, mainly in Ontario, it has since set its sights higher.

“We’re trying to grow the business,” says TORBSA president Paul Williams. He refers to the trend of ongoing consolidation within this industry, where “there’s a real emphasis on growing at the buying groups—not just with us, but our competitors as well.”

Most recently, the group has added ADSS Building Supplies as a new shareholder member. With locations in Edmonton and Calgary, ADSS distributes gypsum, steel framing, and insulation products for commercial and residential markets. The company began buying with TORBSA effective Jan. 1.

And the group expects to sign another dealer in that province before the end of this month. “We’re not done in Alberta,” says Williams.

Last fall, the group announced the signing of JDS Building Supply in Saskatoon. Under company founder Justin Scheuer, JDS services the commercial and residential stucco and exteriors markets across Saskatoon and surrounding areas.

Earlier in 2021, the group signed two more dealers in the Greater Toronto Area—still its area of greatest member concentration. In June, it added Peridot Supply in Brampton, Ont., which has a focus on the commercial and residential roofing markets across the GTA. And in April, TORBSA has announced the addition of RB Building Supply in Brampton, Ont.

But movement can go both ways. Another member dealer, Matériaux de Construction Létourneau, has tendered its resignation from the group. Létourneau, with locations in Sherbrooke and Waterville, Que., marked an important incursion into that province when it joined in 2020. However, its membership will end on Feb. 20. Williams says that dealer had a good experience with TORBSA, and relations between both sides remain amicable. “Quite simply, a new opportunity presented itself for Létourneau. Nevertheless, our relationship has stayed positive.”

Finding the right fit to help it grow in Quebec took some searching, but just before Christmas, TORBSA announced the appointment of John Longo as business development manager for eastern Canada. Longo brings more than 20 years of experience to the role, having worked at BMR, Lowe’s Canada, and RONA. “His phone is ringing off the hook thanks to his wealth of connections,” says Williams.

Growth is coming from existing members as well. Pro Con Building Supplies, based in Brampton, Ont., has opened a third location—with a fourth on its way. “We have expanded both the commercial door and hardware division and our commercial waterproofing and roofing division in Mississauga that will be fully functional by April 2022,” says Steve Guglietti, vice president of Pro Con.

A brand new location will open May 1 in Oshawa as well, Guglietti told Hardlines. “This new location is 38,000 square feet and we will have the same product offering that is available in Brampton and Mississauga, with an 8,000-square-foot showroom that showcases all of our product lines, including masonry, drywall, doors, roofing, specialty insulation, and many other products.”

Williams at TORBSA expects the year ahead to be an interesting one. He attributes that to the upheaval in the industry, with everything from hiring and succession to supply chain disruptions forcing dealers to examine their businesses more closely. When they do, they often have to confront what’s not working with their current business relationships. “I think people are looking for that opportunity to flip the switch and reset. They’re realizing that there are other opportunities out there.”

Former Home Depot exec shares stories, insights in new Hardlines podcast

Jim Inglis can count himself as one of the pioneers in the retail success story that is The Home Depot. As a former executive VP of merchandising for the company, Inglis worked closely with its founders. The combination of a bigger store and lower prices than the home improvement industry had ever before seen had Inglis hooked.

He shares his experiences as our latest guest on the Hardlines podcast, What’s in Store, which is out later this week.

After serving for 13 years in a series of executive positions with The Home Depot, Inglis went on to consult for some of the top home improvement retailers in the world. They include Sodimac in South America and Hornbach in Europe. Now, he’s the author of a new book, Breakthrough Retailing: How a Bleeding Orange Culture Can Change Everything.

Inglis recalls fondly his decision to join Home Depot. In the early 1980s, the big box was considered an outlier, and not a very viable—or credible—one at that. “I asked around the industry about this new thing called Home Depot, and was told, ‘boy, stay away from those guys. They’re crazy,’” he says. “So it was a big leap of faith to finally join the Depot. But certainly it was a very good decision and was a great ride.”

He speaks of the founding father of Home Depot, Pat Farrah, with fondness. “Every new concept in retail requires a merchant prince. For Home Depot, Pat was the merchant prince. He was that spark of creativity and ingenuity.”

If Farrah was “the creative genius,” the two other founders, who built the business over the longer term, likewise had their roles. Arthur Blank was “the financial genius,” while Bernie Marcus was “the ombudsman,” he says. “Bernie was the guy that would always be listening to the customers. He’d be listening to the vendors. He’d be listening to the financial community. He’d be listening to the employees. As a result, he created an environment where we were responsive to our customers, responsive to our stores. That was his contribution. Each of those gentlemen had a very specific role in creating that culture.”

Later in the podcast, Inglis talks about Home Depot’s entry into Canada. The Canadian industry had been watching closely the rise of Home Depot and several companies were developing big boxes of their own. One, in particular, was best poised for success. Aikenhead’s had been developed by a former Home Depot exec. “we determined that we could enter Canada faster and more profitably if we purchased Aikenhead’s.”

(The next episode of our podcast series, What’s in Store, will go live on Wednesday. Don’t miss this fascinating discussion with Jim Inglis, as he talks about the importance of corporate culture, the vendor-merchant relationship—and much more. Click here to sign up for our podcasts.)

B.C. association tackles hiring woes with new data and research

As dealers, and all industries for that matter, face the challenge of hiring and keeping staff, the Building Supply Industry Association of British Columbia is trying to dig deeper into the situation to get some clarity for its members.

According to BSIABC president Thomas Foreman, his association contracted a consulting firm, R.A. Malatest & Associates Ltd., to conduct data collection and analysis. The result was a new report, Sector Engagement and Labour Market Study for B.C.’s Building Supply Sector.

Foreman calls it “a comprehensive study intended to provide the sector with much-needed information with respect to job vacancies and hiring challenges, recruitment and retention issues, compensation practices, and education and training needs.”

The project is being conducted with financial support from the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training.

During the spring of 2022, the project will move into phase two. This will involve collecting detailed workforce data from industry members throughout B.C. via a survey.

Foreman urges companies that may be contacted, either by email or phone, to share details about their workforce.

“We urge you to please complete this survey. We look forward to sharing the findings of this research with all BSIABC members, and our findings will only be as good as the data you share with us.”

People on the Move

Milynn Bruneau has joined the national lumber trading team at TIMBER MART as a commodity trader for Ontario. She will be responsible for securing commodity products for TIMBER MART members in that province. Bruneau’s experience within the industry includes management roles at the dealer level with M. Daoust Building Supplies and, most recently, panel trader at AFA Forest Products. Working remotely, she reports directly to TIMBER MART’s VP of forest products trading, Bruno Baldessari.

West Fraser Timber Co. has announced several changes to its management team. Sean McLaren, currently the company’s president for solid wood, will become COO. Kevin Burke, currently VP, North American engineered wood products and renewable energy, moves to the position of SVP, wood products. Keith Carter, VP, Western Canada operations, will become SVP, Western Canada.


...  that our publication, HR Advisor, is a monthly e-newsletter to help you manage and support your team during these crazy times? In our latest issue, we look at truck driver shortages, effective management of remote workers, and the hiring challenge of the “Great Resignation.” If you’re not already receiving HR Advisor, click here to sign up for free!


Peavey Industries will not hold its in-person trade show and Ace Canada buying that was slated for later this winter. A virtual show will instead take place from Feb. 28 to March 4, the same dates the company originally planned to welcome dealers and vendors to the Toronto Congress Centre. This will be the fourth virtual trade show for Peavey, which acquired the Ace licence in Canada just as the pandemic broke out in North America.

Lowe’s Canada raised $73,328 for the fund-raising initiative Movember, through its PROvember campaign. The initiative was aimed at Lowe’s pro customers.

A $70,000 contribution by the Home Hardware Return to Sport Matching Grant helped more than 500 youth sports teams get back into action this fall after being sidelined by COVID-19. The matching grant was developed in partnership with FlipGive, a shopping rewards app for teams. In addition, a dozen Home Hardware dealer-owners in northern Ontario banded together over the holidays to provide more than 2,700 shoeboxes of gifts for Operation Christmas Child.

TORBSA is launching a series of product knowledge sessions, sponsored and hosted by the buying group’s vendor partners. The sessions will run weekly beginning on Jan. 19. They will also be recorded and made available to members.


The Western Retail Lumber Association has postponed its 2022 Showcase. Due to the current health situation, the event will take place in early spring instead of in January. Exhibitors will begin to arrive on March 28, with the show taking place on March 31 and April 1. Hotel bookings will be rolled over automatically.

Under the BMR banner, Novago Cooperative is extending its agreement with JRTech Solutions, an electronic shelf labels distributor, to equip additional BMR hardware stores with the latest generation of Pricer Power+ electronic shelf labels in 2022. The first implementation process will begin with the deployment in four stores. Depending on the success, Novago will migrate the rest of its stores to Pricer’s technology.


The value of building permits increased 6.8 percent to $11.2 billion in November. Seven provinces reported increases, led by Alberta at 20.6 percent. Construction intentions in the residential sector rose 12 percent while the non-residential sector declined 3.4 percent. Permits for single-family homes rose 3.3 percent, reflecting strength in Ontario and Quebec. (StatCan)

U.S. investment in construction rose by 0.4 percent in November. Spending on single-family homebuilding, which was up 0.6 percent, drove the increase. Year-over-year, spending was up 9.3 percent. (U.S. Commerce Dept.)


Fully one-third of Canadian Tire’s revenues now come from its private-label or owned brands.


“I am extremely proud to have been part of the Canadian team for the past two years and to have the chance to continue working with a talented group of people in my new role I want to thank everyone for all the work they have done, especially in the context of the pandemic. I look forward to working with Tony Cioffi in his new role. He is a very capable leader who will no doubt keep driving excellence for Lowe’s Canada.”

—Tony Hurst, who leaving his post as president of Lowe’s Canada to move back to the U.S., now as EVP of pro, services, and international for Lowe’s Cos.

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