More movement at Lowe's Canada buying office
TORONTO — Lowe's attracted a lot of attention last year when it built up its new buying team in Canada. The companies it managed to garner talent from included Wal-Mart, Shoppers Drug Mart and Canadian Tire. But early this year, that team began to see some restructuring when Ron Krochuck, then merchant for lumber, plywood, panels and outdoor storage, left the company. He has since been replaced by Gonzalo Abarca, who came over from Weyerhaeuser Canada. There, he had served on a regional basis as a tactical product manager with experience in appearance wood products, including pine products and mouldings.
Now, Hardlines has learned that Peter Bowes has departed from Lowe's as well. Bowes, formerly from the vendor side, most recently with Freud Canada, was one of four directors of merchandise. Bowes was in charge of hardware, power tools, outdoor power, appliances, and home environment. No replacement has been named, and Ben Mauceri, vice-president merchandising at Lowe's, is reportedly covering off Bowes' duties in the interim.
Lowe's Canada has announced its intention to open up to 10 stores in Ontario before the end of 2007. So far, four have been confirmed, with openings expected to begin sometime after the middle of the year.
RONA pro events attract regional contractors
ORILLIA, Ont. — More than 800 contractors attended two RONA contractor shows held here last week. Many arrived on buses arranged by participating RONA dealers in the region. Participants visited displays set up by 40 exhibiting vendors, showing mostly building materials and power tools. They were also fed a hot dinner, given gift bags, and entertained with hotly-contested log cutting and nail driving contests.
"It's a chance to build relationships between this customer base, our vendors and our stores," said Scott Wilson, RONA's regional manager, affiliate stores, Ontario. "Plus we were able to demonstrate the strength of the RONA network in Ontario." Both corporate-owned (Cashway and RONA Home & Garden) and affiliate (independent) RONA stores participated equally in bringing contractors out, Wilson observed. This is the first year that RONA has run multiple contractor shows, after a successful pilot event held last year in Chatham.
When the final one wraps up in Kingston, on March 27, RONA will have run a total of five of these shows in Ontario, attracting 2,000 contractor participants.
Strong economy, succession strategy drive IRLYâ€™s growth
SURREY, B.C. — The addition of a new member to the ranks of IRLY Distributors reflects the viability of this small West Coast buying group, even as the threat looms from consolidators such as RONA, and other, larger buying groups.
IRLY is exceptional among buying groups in that it also has a warehouse that supplies both LBM and hardware. Groupe BMR in Quebec is the only other group that operates in this fashion. IRLY has managed to maintain a loyal base of customers, especially west of the mountains, whom wholesalers in Central and Eastern Canada often canâ€™t adequately supply. In fact, IRLYâ€™s separate hardware distribution business, Western Hardware, operates successfully as a fill-in supplier to more than 100 dealers, mainly in British Columbia.
One of those customers was Griff Building Centres, a dealer in New Westminster, B.C., who decided recently to join IRLY, in part due to a desire to expand the storeâ€™s front end with the broad range of hardlines IRLY delivers.
The addition of Griff brings the total number of IRLY members to 43. Thatâ€™s down slightly from last year, admits the groupâ€™s general manager, Garry Anderson. While one dealer decided to exit the business on his own, other members have defected to the likes of RONA, attracted by the offer of a payout for a business that often has no other succession opportunity. But one of the groupâ€™s initiatives is to confront the issue of succession, says Anderson, and in the past year two other members found buyers within IRLYâ€™s own ranks. "A lot of our dealers are getting on and thinking of retiring. They donâ€™t have any kids that want to get into the business, and thatâ€™s kind of sad," he says.
IRLY dealers have benefited from a strong economy, despite depressed lumber and plywood prices. Anderson estimates that sales overall were up by about 8% in 2006; he anticipates that the year ahead will be at least as strong, although he says poor weather means the first quarter is behind last yearâ€™s.
"The province is doing well and our dealers are feeling that pretty well across the board."
Sourcing show brings factories to the West
COLOGNE, Germany â€“ Asian factories are the Mecca for many Western retail buyers and vendors alike. Now Mecca has come to the West, in the form of a sourcing show in the heart of Germany.
Asia-Pacific Sourcing, held last week by Koelnmesse, is an every-other-year alternative to its giant Practical World-International Hardware Fair-DIYâ€™Tec. APS, now in its second year (it first ran in 2005), is one-third larger than its inaugural edition — and much more buff. Exhibiting factories have increased by 20% to 700. The unadorned 10-foot booths that typified the first year of the show have been replaced in many cases by larger, more extravagant stands that are common at shows like Practical World and the National Hardware Show.
The show may only be a fraction of the size of Practical World, but it represents the bulk of Asian suppliers who appear there. An entire floor of Hall 11 is devoted to companies from China, while a second floor features stands from Taiwan, Korea and India. Attendance is up at this yearâ€™s show, as well, although attendance is still largely from European and British visitors.
Traffic was surprisingly high, even on the last day, with about 8,300 visitors from 60 countries, comprising buyers from some of Europeâ€™s biggest retailers, such as OBI, B&Q and Metro, as well as agents and vendors (including some from Canada) looking for new lines or factories of their own.
APS is also "last man standing" in Western Europe, as similar sourcing shows in Dusseldorf and Nuremburg have folded.
Exclusive interview: Home Depotâ€™s Annette Verschuren (Part 2)
TORONTO — Now in charge of both Home Depot Canada and Home Depot Asia, Annette Verschuren has her hands full. Sheâ€™s rapidly building a strong team at Home Depotâ€™s Beijing office (see last weekâ€™s issue—Editor)
, but Home Depotâ€™s office here in Toronto has also seen some changes in recent months.
Besides recruiting Harry Taylor, the vice-president brought up from the U.S. to take over everything from real estate and operations to asset protection and logistics, she has been putting more emphasis on the merchandising team. Gino Digioacchino is probably the most visible vp-merchandising that Home Depot Canada has had since Eric Peterson filled that role at the beginning of the decade.
A familiar face at Hardlinesâ€™ own Meet the Buyers events in the past, Digioacchino spoke most recently at a conference held by Home Depot for more than 1,100 of its installers. In addition, two new positions were created last year to better address Home Depotâ€™s evolving merchandise mix. John DeFranco was named divisional merchandising director â€“ hardlines and Karol Allen, divisional merchandising director â€“ soft lines.
The recent refit of Home Depotâ€™s newest concept in Mississauga, Ont., reflects a strong emphasis on new merchandising ideas. That store design, admits Verschuren, is a response to the imminent arrival of the first Loweâ€™s store in Canada sometime later this year. "But weâ€™ve been changing and fine-tuning our merchandising for the last 24 months," she notes. (For a full tour of this innovative new store, check out our latest edition of Hardlines Quarterly Report—Editor)
Every major old store in the Canadian chain will be reset like the Mississauga outlet by the end of this year. "The excitement of bringing new products and new services to the people is what drives the success of our stores," says Verschuren.
A merchandising-driven approach, she adds, simply makes sense, as it harkens back to the roots of the company. "Arthur [Blank] and Bernie [Marcus] always drove that," says Verschuren. Canada has more merchants in the field than her counterparts in the U.S., she adds. "They are the go-betweens for the merchants and the operators. They identify whatâ€™s needed on the shelves, so we can make changes to the merchandise and the resets."
The Quebec market, which suffered the loss of a charismatic — and bilingual — evp, Roger Plamondon, in the middle of last year, remains strong. Even though Home Depot is still the number-two player there, growth is in double digits, notes Verschuren, adding that the current regional vice-president of Canada East, Jeff Kinnaird, "is getting his arms around it.
(Next week: part 3 of the now-epic Hardlines Exclusive Interview with Annette Verschuren!)
Loweâ€™s recognized for promoting conservation
MOORESVILLE, N.C. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy have named Loweâ€™s Cos. the recipient of its 2007 Excellence in Energy Star Performance award, for the dealerâ€™s marketing and promotional efforts in helping reduce greenhouse emissions.
Loweâ€™s has received this award five consecutive years, primarily for its sale of energy-efficient products — notably in its storesâ€™ appliance departments — that are Energy Star-rated. The two agencies cited Loweâ€™s marketing campaign last fall, in particular, which highlighted a nationwide "Save Energy, Save Money" education day on Sept. 30, 2006, during which Loweâ€™s stores offered free energy-saving tips and demonstrations.
Bob Geller, Loweâ€™s senior vp-marketing and advertising, said in a prepared statement that over the course of a year, products with Energy Star ratings purchased from Lowe's save customers more than $3.8 million on their energy bills.