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January 25, 2021 | Volume xxvii, #4



  • Lowe’s CEO shares initial concerns he had about acquisitions, which included Canada
  • BSIA hosts a virtual show, anticipating continued market strength into the new year
  • NHPA offers leadership training to help you tune your team through COVID
  • Housing sales surge in December, expected to continue into 2021

PLUS: Lee Valley honoured, new TIMBER MART dealer, Castle adds to its ranks, Rust-Oleum’s Chris Hatfield to retire, Derby adds Western sales manager, RONA dealers add Quebec store, Amazon grows in Montreal and more!

Lowe’s CEO shares initial concerns he had about acquisitions, which included Canada

Lowe's president and CEO Marvin Ellison spoke last week at “Retail’s Big Show,” the virtual conference of the National Retail Federation in the U.S. Speaking with NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay, the former CEO of JC Penney candidly recalled the challenges he faced coming over to Lowe’s in July of 2018.

“I was actually surprised when I joined Lowe’s just over two years ago. I was surprised that there were so many things that we didn’t have in place when it came to operational excellence and merchandising and supply chain—which really encompasses the whole e-commerce strategy that we’ve been focused on.”

By way of example, he noted that Lowe’s did not have the capability, just two years ago, to offer customers an e-receipt. And with staff scheduling driven entirely out of head office, store schedules couldn't accommodate individual workers’ lives and lifestyles.

Ellison also disagreed with Lowe’s expansion efforts up to that time. That, most notably, involved the company’s expansion in Canada, with the takeover of RONA inc. Internal challenges such as merchandising systems and supply chain persisted, while, he said there was “too much attention had been put on acquisitions and adjacent businesses.”

After taking over at Lowe’s, Ellison did not delay in reviewing the international operations. Barely three months into his role, according to several industry insiders, he was up in Canada reviewing the business here. Just weeks later, Lowe’s Canada announced it would close more than two dozen stores by the end of that year. Another 34 stores were shuttered one year later.

“I thought it was just critically important that we come in and we focus on our core retail elements of the business and get those operational underpinnings in place.”

BSIA hosts virtual show, anticipating continued market strength into the new year

The Building Supply Industry Association of B.C. held its annual summit last week, marking the latest industry event to pivot to a virtual format. With more than 30 sponsors, BSIA’s “Wave of the Future” featured 20-minute presentations from companies including CanWel, EAB, TIMBER MART, King Marketing, and Sexton Group.

Adding to the networking aspect the event worked to replicate, several draws for prizes were held throughout the day and a virtual “happy hour” was held at the end of the sessions.

The event featured a range of presentations, including trends and forecasts, as well as product knowledge sessions by suppliers on the latest product innovations and technologies. Introduced by the event’s host, and BSIA president, Thomas Foreman, the day kicked off with a keynote address by Hardlines’ own Michael McLarney.

The talk took a broad view of the state of the industry, the impact the pandemic has had on it, and where it’s likely to go from here. Starting with good news, McLarney noted that Canada represents the third-largest home improvement market in the world. The industry in Canada is holding its own compared to the experience in countries with bigger populations and economies, he told the virtual attendees. “You’re in the right country to be in this business.”

It should go without saying that the importance of omnichannel, already apparent going into the pandemic’s outbreak, has become non-negotiable.

“We have seen the online piece absolutely take off since last spring,” McLarney said, adding that it’s crucial for retailers to treat their brick-and-mortar and online strategies as “a partnership,” and not as complementary components of their approach. As 2020 saw paper flyers increasingly become a casualty of both public health and environmental concerns, a strong online presence became even more critical to keeping customers in the loop.

Beyond the rise of e-retail, consumer behaviour is evolving in numerous ways. McLarney pointed to a range of trends being underscored by the pandemic. He cited the increased focus on décor and lifestyle categories by big boxes, and a push toward increasingly more in-store services that complement the store’s product offering. He identified the growth of “niche” categories like pet and recreation products, as well as the potential to cash in on the popularity of homegrown cannabis.

Private-label brands have been key to the strategies of companies from Canadian Tire to Peavey Industries. Lockdown measures have raised awareness within communities of local shopkeepers, reflected in the growing interest in the “shop local” movement.

“That’s a tough one because people will always shop with their wallets,” McLarney said.

Looking ahead, McLarney observed that as the industry gets back to a “new normal” some trends are likely to stick around. While the DIY boom sparked by the COVID-19 crisis can’t last forever, it doesn’t appear ready to burst within the next two quarters. Maintaining inventory remains a challenge, with dealers reporting that when it comes to supply chain, the industry is “not coming back as quickly as we would like,” he added.

Referring to essentials such as good merchandising and investing in staff training, “Through all this, I don’t want you to forget the basics of retail. Those are the things that keep the lights on,” McLarney reminded the audience.


NHPA offers leadership training to help you tune your team through COVID

Managing your team—and your customers’ expectations—has become increasingly difficult as the effects of the pandemic continue. That’s why the North American Hardware and Paint Association (NHPA) has tweaked its courses and management training programs.

The online training courses are available to all NHPA members, while the management and leadership courses take career development to a new level.

“We’ve repackaged all the training content so it makes more sense to our members,” says Scott Wright, executive director of advanced training programs for the association.

The updates are well-timed, as the dead of winter is historically ideal for dealers and managers to think about training.

Wright acknowledges that people are getting tired of online learning, after being confined for so many months under COVID. “But training lets you invest in the people you have and puts importance on your people and your team.”

One addition to NHPA’s educational series is its Foundations of Leadership program. It offers three different nine-week course options: Intro to Leadership, Leading Your Team, and Financial Management. The next Intro to Leadership course will kick off in February; the deadline to enroll is Feb. 1.

The course is designed for staff who are on their way up, perhaps leading to an assistant manager or manager role within the business. Students can choose between a scheduled course plan or use self-paced options. Graduates of the Intro to Leadership course will walk away with insights into their personal leadership styles and strengths. They will be able to develop a framework for their ongoing leadership growth and career development.

Topics covered in this course include:

  • Developing talents
  • Creating a dynamic work culture
  • Learning about emotional intelligence (EQ)
  • Completing a StrengthsFinder assessment
  • Completing a Myers-Briggs questionnaire
  • Transitioning from staff member to manager

Students will also complete a real-world capstone assignment for their business. The project will focus on solving a problem or capitalizing on a missed opportunity in the business.

Click here to learn more about the Foundations of Leadership program and the upcoming Intro to Leadership course. You can also contact NHPA Canada for more info or reach out to Scott Wright directly.

Housing sales surge in December, expected to continue into 2021

Sales of existing homes in Canada rose by 7.2 percent between November and December to set another new record, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA).

The seasonally adjusted activity was running at an annualized pace of 714,516 units in December—the first time on record the monthly rate has ever topped the 700,000 mark. The month-over-month increase in national sales activity was driven by gains of more than 20 percent in the Greater Toronto Area and Greater Vancouver.

Actual (not seasonally adjusted) sales activity posted a 47.2 percent yearly gain in December—the largest year-over-year increase in monthly sales in 11 years.

For 2020 as a whole, some 551,392 homes traded hands, setting an annual record. This is an increase of 12.6 percent from 2019 and stood 2.3 percent above the previous record set back in 2016.

"It’s official, despite all the challenges: 2020 was a record year for Canadian resale housing activity,” said Costa Poulopoulos, chair of CREA. While he expected momentum to continue into 2021, a surge in COVID cases with more lockdowns in some provinces could hamper the market.

“Hopefully, we’ll have the current wave more under control by the time the spring market rolls around, which is shaping up to be a very active one,” he added.

The number of newly listed homes climbed by 3.4 percent in December, led by more new listings in the GTA and B.C. Lower Mainland, the same parts of Canada that saw the biggest sales gains during the period.

People on the Move

Ian Rudkin is the new retail territory sales manager, Western Region, for Derby Building Products. He was formerly the district general manager for Canteen Canada. He reports to Claude Dion, sales director.

After 31 years at Rust-Oleum Canada and Tremco, Chris Hatfield is retiring effective Jan. 29. Hatfield has held a range of sales positions within the organization, most recently as national sales manager.


... that the latest issue of our sister publication for dealers and store managers came out last week? That’s right, the January edition of Hardlines Dealer News was emailed to thousands of front-line retail operators. Click here to sign up for your own free subscription to Hardlines Dealer News!


The Home Depot Canada Foundation has publicly thanked its suppliers, customers, and associates for their support of its 2020 Holiday Orange Door Project Campaign. Through donations both in store and online, the campaign raised $798,195. The foundation committed an additional $364,000—or $2,000 per Home Depot Store—to support 125 different charities serving youth across Canada. In total, $1,161,195 was generated.

TIMBER MART has welcomed Silverstar Roofing Supplies in Toronto’s east end as its newest member. Since 2018, Silverstar has offered shingles and roofing accessories to contractors and builders in the Greater Toronto Area. The business is situated on 1.8 acres of land in Scarborough covering two warehouses, a large storage yard, and a shingle recycling depot.

The dealer-owners of RONA Quincaillerie des Rivières in Waterville, Que., have acquired a second independent affiliate location in the province’s Eastern Townships. Philip St-James and Stacy Boulet took the helm of RONA Centre de rénovation Stanstead on Jan. 4. The St-James family had previously acquired the Waterville store, founded in 1983, in 2003 and brought it under the RONA banner in 2005.


Castle Building Centres has announced that Mayer Hardware & Building Supplies in Sioux Narrows, Ont., is its newest member location. Owners Phil and Lauri Mayer looked to Castle to enhance the store’s product assortment and buying power.

The 2020 Leger WOW study has revealed Ontario customers’ favourite retailers for in-person and online experience. Lee Valley Tools ranks at number 12 for in-store shopping, while Reitmans stood at number one and MEC in sixth place. Leger, which has conducted the WOW study for the past ten years, evaluated a total of 145 retailers for this year’s edition.

Amazon is planning to invest in its Quebec fulfillment chain with the opening of two sorting centres along with the e-retailer’s first three delivery stations in the province. Most of these facilities will be in or around Greater Montreal. The expansion will create more than 1,000 new jobs and help “power the last mile,” Amazon said. Critics however charge that the company has overstated its commitment to employee health and safety.

Quebec-based convenience giant Couche-Tard has withdrawn its bid to acquire France’s Carrefour SA in the face of government opposition to a foreign takeover. Couche-Tard’s offer for Carrefour, which accounts for about one-fifth of France’s grocery sales and introduced the hypermarket format to Europe in the 1960s, included provisions aimed at pre-empting such concerns.


West Fraser Timber Co.’s bid to acquire Norbord Inc. has been approved by both companies’ shareholders, according to a joint announcement. The all-stock transaction was originally announced in November and valued at some $4 billion. Under its terms, West Fraser acquires the issued and outstanding shares of the world’s largest producer of oriented strand board. In addition to meeting shareholder approval, the deal has cleared the necessary regulatory hurdles in the U.S. and Germany to proceed. Subject to meeting the final closing conditions, the transaction will be completed on Feb. 1.


The seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts fell by 12.2 percent in December from November. The SAAR of urban starts for the month declined by 12.8 percent. Multiple urban starts decreased by 15.1 percent while single-detached urban starts were down 5.5 percent. (CMHC)

U.S. retail sales edged down by 0.7 percent in December. It was the third consecutive monthly decline. However, sales of building and garden materials rose by an estimated 0.9 percent from November. (U.S. Commerce Dept.)


Amazon acknowledged in October that it had almost 20,000 employees who have tested positive for COVID-19.


“Food security is strategic for our country so that’s why we don’t sell a big French retailer. My answer is extremely clear: we are not in favour of the deal. The no is polite, but it’s a clear and final no.”
—Bruno Le Maire, France’s finance minister, on his government’s rebuttal to the takeover attempt of one of that country’s leading retailers, Carrefour SA, by Canadian convenience chain Couche-Tard.



Classified Ads

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– Quality pool of loyal contractor customers.

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

Please inquire through Wayne Smith; 519 291 4488


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



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