vol. ix, 10 March 10, 2003

* Home Depot announces openings for 2003 * UFA to open first "regional centre" * Used building materials catching, though slowly * Year starts off strong for building intentions

"Don't worry because a rival imitates you. As long as he follows in your tracks, he cannot overtake you." - Anonymous
Hardlines will be in Cologne, Germany, next week, covering Practical World, the International Hardware Fair/DIY'TEC. We'll send you the latest updates from the world's largest hardware fair, so watch our Daily News Updates for reports. If you haven't signed on for our FREE Daily News, click here right away. You don't want to miss a thing! (Don't worry, Nancy will be holding down the fort, so the World Headquarters remains open! — Michael)
Toronto, ON Following another year of double-digit growth, Home Depot Canada plans to continue opening stores this year at a rate comparable to 2002. Last year, the company opened 14 stores and pushed its volume of sales close to the $4 billion mark. Another 14 openings are likewise planned for 2003, says Home Depot Canada president Annette Verschuren. But her boss, Bob Nardelli, in Atlanta, wants her to open more, so she'll try and get a 15th opened, if she can, she says. The company ended the year with 89 stores in Canada. The following dates have been confirmed for openings so far this year: Moncton, NB on April 24; Bracebridge, ON on May 8; Lethbridge, AB on May 29; Sherwood Park, AB on June 5; Kamloops, BC on June 12; Orangeville, ON on July 17; Prince George, BC on July 31; Niagara Falls, ON on September 11; Aurora, ON on September 18; Thunder Bay, ON on October 9; and Grande Prairie, AB on October 23. Three or four openings in November will be announced at a later date. In total, Home Depot expects to open a total of 200 stores in 2003, and to push its sales up by 9-12% company wide.
Calgary, AB - The latest store from United Farmers of Alberta will be its most ambitious to date. An 18,000-sq.ft. outlet in Red Deer, AB will open by either late April or early May, replacing a 4,000-sq.ft. store there. While the old store was more representative of the size of the 33 other stores in the member-owned co-op's chain, its larger replacement will have expanded assortments and services to cater to both large and hobby farmers, drawing from a larger trading area. Larger workwear area, expanded pet foods offering, expanded paint department with a full paint centre "The new store will act as more of a regional centre," says Jimm Holland, director of brand management for UFA. While merchandising is being brightened up, the focus of UFA remains squarely on the agricultural customer. "Our traditional customer is primarily the mid-sized family farm. But by expanding the trading area, this new store will better position us, not only to attract more of our core customers, but also the larger, commercial farmer and the hobby farmer. "
Toronto, ON - In the hardware sector, consumer concerns over price, along with an increased awareness of environmentally responsible building practices, are boosting the sales of used building materials. While incorporating used building materials into renovation has been slow to catch on, it's gaining in popularity. The cost of disposing of used materials keeps rising, even as homeowners show more interest in old growth timbers, vintage architectural trimmings, and antique doorknobs and hardware. Home Again, a Toronto-based outlet that sells reclaimed building supplies, as well as end-of-line, surplus and discontinued goods. Kevin McGroarty, owner of Home Again, says that business is healthy enough that expansion is a real possibility within the next two years. With minimum savings of 30% across the board, and up to 90% on certain items, his products appeal to a range of customers: 40% are contractors, the rest DIYers. Currently, McGroarty has a contract to supply a property management company with 200 kitchens, and has recently begun selling discounted kitchen suites to consumers. As well, he exports material to Trinidad and the Bahamas.
Ottawa — The total value of investment in the housing sector soared to a new high of $52.7 billion in 2002, up 20.9% from 2001. All three components of residential construction investment - new housing, renovations and acquisition costs - posted gains over 2001. New housing investment totalled $29.2 billion in 2002, up 30.6%. The gain was from heavy demand for single-family houses, which were up 34.7% to $19.3 billion. Apartment construction, however, had a healthy increase, up 21.6% to $4.4 billion. This was the first time since 1990 that investment in new housing accounted for more than 55% of total residential construction expenditures. Spending on renovations, the second-largest component, totalled $18.6 billion in 2002, up 7.2% from 2001. Building intentions for January support a strong outlook for 2003, with building permits in the residential sector up 14.4% from December.
The deal finally closed, but Rona played hardball to the end. The retailer filed a last-minute appeal with Québec Superior Court in an attempt to get an injunction against the sale of Matco Ravary to Rona competitor Groupe BMR. Rona is a 30% shareholder in the Montréal-area home improvement chain. Last Friday, however, the sale of all its assets to a syndicate of BMR dealers closed successfully. The deal, which did not include certain investments (including 138,736 shares of RONA Inc.) and certain receivables, was worth $24.1 million, including the assumption by the purchaser of $12.0 million in liabilities. Lowe's says it expects total sales in the current first quarter to increase 15%, and same-store sales to rise 2-4%. During an investor conference last week, Lowe's reported that it expects sales for the year to grow 16-17%, with same-store sales increasing 4-5%. Lowe's expects to open 130 stores this year and 140 next year. Square footage will increase 15-16% this year and 14-15% next year. Following 11 consecutive months of profits, TruServ Corp. reported a 2002 net margin of US$21.2 million on revenue of US$2.2 billion, versus a net loss of US$50.7 million in 2001 on revenue of US$2.6 billion for the same period a year ago. Approximately US$105.8 million of the decline reflects the effect of the prior year's divestitures of the lumber business and its Canadian business, TruServ Canada. Costco Wholesale Corp. reported net sales of US$9.92 billion for the second quarter of fiscal 2003. That's up from US$9.21 billion during the second quarter of fiscal 2002. Net income for the quarter fell 5% to US$182.1 million. Net sales for the first half of the year were up 8% to US$18.93 billion. However, in the second quarter, net sales increased 8% to $9.92 billion from US$9.21 billion, but profits fell 5% from US$192.6 million to US$182.1 million. For the first time in its history, Home Depot will hold its annual general meeting outside its home town of Atlanta. Instead, it will move to Chicago this year, and rotate to other cities where there are high concentrations of customers and shareholders. The AGM is scheduled for May 30. Hudson's Bay Co. had 4Q revenue of $2.445 billion, down slightly from $2.468 billion in the same period a year earlier. Net earnings for the quarter were $105.1 million, up from $66.3 million. Sales and revenue, on a normalized basis after excluding a gain on the sale of accounts receivables, fell from $2.459 billion to $2.443 billion in the fourth quarter. Sales and revenue for fiscal 2002 reached $7.384 billion, up from $7.446 billion in fiscal 2001. Net earnings were $111.5 million, versus $72.8 million last year. Georgia Lighting, a subsidiary of Home Depot since the big box retailer purchased it in 1999, is being rolled in more tightly with another Home Depot division. The management of the specialty lighting retailer will move to the Expo Design Center division. The shift will not effect Georgia Lighting's operations, but its manufacturing and distribution arm, World Imports, will now be managed by Your "other" Warehouse, the Home Depot division based in Baton Rouge. Sico Inc. had net earnings of $12.0 million in fiscal 2002, a 50.0% increase over net earnings of $8.0 million a year earlier. Sales totalled $257.0 million, compared with $224.3 million in 2001, an increase of 14.5%.
Last year's record activity in building permits has spilled over into 2003. Municipalities issued a stunning $4.3 billion in building permits in January, eclipsing the previous monthly record of $4.0 billion set in October 2002. The value of building permits in the residential sector hit a monthly record of $2.8 billion, up 14.4% from December, and 7.2% higher than the previous record set in April 2002. Single-family dwellings were up 11.5% and multiple-family intentions were up 21.8%. Non-residential permits were up 8.7% from December to $1.5 billion, which was 7.7% higher than the average monthly level in 2002. Year over year, residential intentions were up 21.0%, while the value of non-residential building permits were up 2.9% over January 2002.
"You feel it a little bit for the first two years, but they bring more people into the market. We've noticed it, especially in Calgary." — Jim Thorogood, president of Totem Building Supplies, on competing with big boxes in Alberta.

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