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June 29, 2020 | Volume xxvi, #26
  • Home Hardware names new lead hardlines merchant
  • NRHA affirms commitment to industry diversity in policies, training
  • Electronic shelf labels promise to save retailers time and labour
  • Home Depot Canada, Lowe’s Canada garner awards for sustainability

PLUS: Canac starts building new store, BMR Group will support local media, Lowe’s Canada network contributes to Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, spoga+gafa is on for September, All Weather Windows and L’Image Home Products win, Chad Murray retires, Morris Saffer inducted, retail sales fall, existing U.S. home sales plunge and more!

Home Hardware’s names new lead hardlines merchant

ST. JACOBS, Ont. — Home Hardware has named a replacement for the company’s senior hardlines VP, Joel Marks, who retired earlier this month. Rob Szekszer has been appointed vice-president, merchandise hardlines, effective today.

Szekszer joined Home Hardware as director, merchandise hardlines in September 2019. Prior to joining Home Hardware, he held VP and director roles at Canadian Tire Financial Services and Canadian Tire Retail. There, he worked in product and marketing, credit card marketing, customer acquisition and new business development.

Marks, who retired on June 12 after almost 21 years there, held the title of vice president of merchandise hardlines. While Marks held the hardlines portfolio, his counterpart on the LBM side was Marianne Thompson. As a result of Marks’s retirement, Thompson was named senior VP, merchandise for both hardlines and LBM. Although Szekszer is taking the lead role on Home’s hardlines buying team, he will report to Thompson.

“The appointment of Rob Szekszer demonstrates the expertise and deep bench of talent we continue to develop at Home Hardware, and I have complete confidence in his ability to deliver on our business and growth strategies,” says Thompson. “His passion for retail, coupled with his understanding of home improvement category management and our end-to-end business, make him well positioned to lead our hardlines teams to a strong future.”

NRHA affirms commitment to industry diversity in policies, training  

INDIANAPOLIS — The North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) has announced several program introductions and enhancements designed to help encourage diversity, inclusion and sensitivity within the home improvement retailing industry.

“Whenever we see communities facing challenges, whether it is from natural disasters, pandemics or even civil unrest, it is always the independent home improvement retailers who are front and centre helping those communities rebuild,” says Bob Cutter, the NRHA’s president and CEO. “We thought that by making some simple program enhancements and changes we could help ensure that these business owners help rebuild their communities both literally and figuratively.”

To fulfil this mandate, the association will establish and maintain a scholarship for its Retail Management Certification Program designated to benefit a member of a minority group who demonstrates an interest in furthering their career in the home improvement industry. The NRHA Retail Management Certification Program is a college-level training program designed to prepare owners and high-potential employees with leadership, management and store operations training.

In addition to the scholarship, NRHA will add a culture and diversity awareness session to both the Retail Management Certification Program and the Foundations of Leadership training course.

“Since these programs are designed to help guide and educate future industry leaders, it is NRHA’s belief that this addition to the curricula will better equip future leaders to recognize issues of inequality or racism in the workplace and embrace the strengths that can come through building a diverse team,” Cutter says.

“I believe we need to hold up the values of compassion, empathy and equality for all as the foundation of how we conduct business and the principles of how we operate our association,” Cutter says. “We know that none of these actions will solve the systemic problems we are seeing in our country right now, but we want to play whatever small role we can to move our company, our members and the nation in a positive direction.”

(For more information on the NRHA or its training programs, visit

Electronic shelf labels promise to save retailers time and labour

SPECIAL REPORT — There is perhaps no task in retail as finicky as maintaining price tags. Keeping these small pieces of paper up to date through changing seasons and promotions can be a major drain on store personnel and their time.

An alternative to analogue price tags, already well-established in Europe, has been gaining traction on this side of the Atlantic. Electronic shelf labelling (ESL) technology allows retailers to manage price tags digitally and remotely, automatically changing large numbers of smart tags with one touch.

Bruce Smith of Shelf Edge Solutions, which represents the German brand SoluM in North America, points to the high cost of labour involved in paper tagging. “The biggest reason [to adopt ESL] is labour savings—the amount of time it takes to change sign for sales,” he explains. “You have to go around to every single tag, take it off, put on a new one, and then check it. With labour costs what they are that … really has been the big driver” behind sales.

Lunedrée Benobon agrees. She oversees marketing for JRTech Solutions, which distributes the Swedish-made Pricer system in Canada. Retailers, she says, “have a waste of time with paper labels because they have to hire an employee to change the labels and to remove the labels every time they have a promotion.” With ESL, on the other hand, “you can change the prices easily and automatically.”

JRTech has an exclusive partnership with BMR Group to distribute Pricer’s infrared-based technology to all the group’s Quebec stores, and some of BMR’s Ontario network. SoluM’s clients include Loblaw Cos. in Canada and Metro AG in Germany.

In addition to cost and convenience, Smith says that clients appreciate the boost as well. “Lowe’s [in the U.S.] are buying our tags for their appliances now,” he notes. “They feel ESL helps their brand image by having a sophisticated display with not just a price tag, but all the information.”

Both Benobon and Smith stress the vitality of ESL technology to managing omnichannel integration, ever relevant as customers continue to take advantage of alternatives to in-store browsing.

With Pricer, Benobon explains, “You can manage your products in terms of click-and-collect and use an application to know the client’s online order.” Smith notes that SoluM’s near-field communication technology allows customers to scan shelf tags with their smartphones to access an online information portal including product reviews.

With many retailers still pressed to fill staff shortages, tools like electronic shelf labelling that free up valuable personnel-hours are sure to be a trend to watch.

Home Depot Canada, Lowe’s Canada garner recognition for sustainability efforts 

OTTAWA — Through its ENERGY STAR program, the federal government has partnered with countless industries and companies through the years to raise awareness of energy-efficient products. Some of Canada’s top retailers, including Loblaw, Sobeys, Giant Tiger and Jean Coutu, are involved. And so are some key retailers in home improvement such as Home Hardware, Lowe’s Canada and Home Depot Canada.

The program is managed through Natural Resources Canada, which gives out its ENERGY STAR Participant awards each year. The awards recognize organizations that have demonstrated excellence in offering Canadian consumers the most energy-efficient products and technology available.

The Home Depot Canada has been a participant in the ENERGY STAR Canada program since 2001. With its own commitment to sustainability, Home Depot Canada uses the ENERGY STAR brand on its products to lend credibility to its energy-efficient products. It won the latest ENERGY STAR Canada award for Retailer of the Year. Home Depot Canada has been recognized 12 times by the program. And this year’s award marks the seventh successive Retailer of the Year win for the giant retailer.

Home Depot Canada was recognized for a range of accomplishments in 2019. These include:

  • participation in the Ontario Energy Savings Rebate Program providing instant rebates on ENERGY STAR certified appliances, water heaters and smart thermostats;
  • the Enbridge Smart Thermostat Program for Enbridge Gas customers that provided instant rebates on ENERGY STAR certified smart thermostats;
  • Working with vendors and utility partners across Canada to increase uptake on ENERGY STAR certified products through rebate programs;
  • And increasing the number of ENERGY STAR-certified products for sale in Canada by 20 percent over the previous year.

Likewise, Lowe’s Canada has deployed several programs that garnered it recognition within the program. The retailer received the 2020 ENERGY STAR Canada Special Recognition Award for its commitment to offering thousands of products with a smaller environmental footprint through its ECO program. In addition to participating in various energy savings rebate programs, Lowe’s Canada works with suppliers to increase its offering of ENERGY STAR certified products such as appliances, lighting and air conditioners.

“As part of our corporate responsibility approach, we are determined to offer even more ECO products and promote them further over the coming years,” said Jean-Sébastien Lamoureux, senior VP of public affairs, asset protection and sustainable development.

People on the Move

Chad Murray, president of Chad Murray Sales and Marketing, has retired after 50 years in the hardware industry. He got his start as the Ontario sales rep for Erie Industries in 1970, eventually moving up to become president of the company. In 1994, he established Chad Murray Sales and Marketing, until joining Quest Plastics (now Quest Brands). He resumed working at Chad Murray Sales until his retirement.

Morris Saffer, Chairman of Saffer Retail, is among this year’s inductees into Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends (CMHOL). He and his fellow inductees were selected by a committee of their peers within the American Marketing Association’s Toronto chapter “as standout exemplars of the Canadian advertising and marketing industry.” Saffer founded the first advertising agency specializing in retail clients and he worked with Home Hardware Stores Ltd. for four decades. During that time, he played a key role in making Home Hardware one of the most recognizable brands in the country.


... that our annual report, the Hardlines Retail Report, includes everything you need to know about the retail home improvement industry? Newly expanded for 2020, it features the size and growth rates of the industry, by retailer, by province and by store format. Featuring industry sales data as of year-end 2019 and up-to-date analysis of marketplace trends, this incredible report is truly a marketer’s dream! Click here for more details and ordering information.


QUEBEC CITY — Canac this month kicked off construction of a new retail store in La Prairie, Que., on the south shore of Montreal. The location, which will be Canac’s 31st, will consist of a retail space of 40,079 square feet and a 23,792-square-foot warehouse. The result of a $10 million investment, it will create 125 new jobs. Construction will continue until December.

BOUCHERVILLE, Que. — BMR Group has announced that it will devote close to 95 percent of its media investments over the next 12 months to local media. The media plan for the next year will be based on BMR Group’s existing strategy for digital platforms and traditional media. It will be developed through partnerships with local media players such as Transcontinental and Cogeco, local radio stations and Quebecor.

BOUCHERVILLE, Que. — Almost two dozen Lowe’s and RONA corporate stores in Calgary and Edmonton came together to present the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation and Edmonton’s Food Bank with a combined donation of $23,000. In addition, the corporate stores on Montreal’s South Shore and West Island donated $15,000 to two local food banks, Moisson Rive-Sud and The Depot Community Food Centre.


COLOGNE, Germany — The organizers of the giant lawn and garden and outdoor show, spoga+gafa, have issued an update to confirm its next edition will take place in Cologne from September 6 to 8. Trade fairs and conventions are now permitted in the region but must employ sanitary practices. At the same time, European borders are scheduled to reopen this month. Last year’s show welcomed 40,000 visitors to Koelnmesse’s 2.5 million-square-foot exhibition. (For more information on the show, click here.)

OTTAWA — ENERGY STAR Canada Awards went this year to some vendors serving home improvement retailers. All Weather Windows won in the category of Manufacturer of the Year, Windows and Doors. The privately-owned window and door manufacturer has centres in seven cities, with almost 800 dealers across Western Canada and a manufacturing plant in Edmonton. This is All Weather Windows’ sixth ENERGY STAR Canada award. Montréal-based L’Image Home Products won in the category of Manufacturer of the Year, Lighting, for working to promote ENERGY STAR while raising the bar on product innovation and inventive promotion techniques. This is the company’s fourth award.


Retail sales fell 26.4 percent in April to $34.7 billion and have fallen by 33.6 percent since physical distancing measures were implemented in mid-March. For the first time since May 1993, sales were down in all 11 retail sub-sectors. LBM and garden suppliers saw a drop of 15.7 percent from March and 10.8 percent from last April, with total sales of $2.8 million. Sales were down in every province for the second consecutive month in April, with both monthly declines largely attributable to the motor vehicle and parts dealers and food and beverage stores. (StatCan)

Sales of existing U.S. homes plunged by 26.6 percent annually, the largest annual decline since 1982. The seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.91 million units marked a 9.7 percent decline from April. The figures represent sales closed in March and April as lockdowns went into effect across the U.S. (National Association of Realtors)


A survey by web hosting firm GoDaddy shows 73 percent of Canadian small business owners feel prepared to reopen to the public. Businesses with fewer than five employees are more likely to feel very prepared to reopen their business safely, as are those in Quebec, where 63 percent of respondents answered in the affirmative. Just nine percent say they are very unprepared to reopen their business safely.


“As delighted as we are that most of the comments we’ve been getting from exhibitors and visitors have been confirmatory, we take their concerns very seriously, especially the uncertainty felt by our partners from overseas.” —Business Division Director Catja Caspary, with Stefan Lohrberg, director of spoga+gafa, the lawn and garden trade fair, in a statement to exhibitors and visitors confirming management’s decision to go ahead with the event scheduled for September 6 to 8, 2020 in Cologne.

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