"No rich man is ugly." - Zsa Zsa Gabor (American actress who married nine times, 1919- )

New halls, new products, new exhibitors at Cologne hardware show

COLOGNE, Germany–A one-year hiatus for the International Hardware Fair, aka Practical World, appears not to have lessened the momentum of the event. In fact, a number of the 3,500 exhibitors report that the year off has only increased the desire of buyers to come back to the 2006 show, which ran March 5 - 8. Those buyers, and other visitors to this year's event, were expected to number about 70,000. The makeup of the exhibitors changed somewhat, however. While core categories of hardware, hand tools, and DIY building materials were still present in abundance, the bath category appeared smaller, and lawn and garden were virtually non-existent. A large variety of new categories, which reflect the wider range of products being sold in the hardware and home improvement channel, were there instead. These include furniture, both ready-to-assemble and finished, plus organization and storage products, office products, and accessories for the home electronics market. Once again, the large power tool makers refused to join the event, as they did elsewhere. "Yes," admits Hans Kampen, product manager for Practical World, "the big names, like Bosch, Black & Decker, and Metabo, did not show, but nor have they shown up at any of the large fairs around the world." Nevertheless, says Kampen, the Hardware Fair remains an important showcase for "small and medium-sized companies that can make contacts to do business." Names such as Freud, Rockwell, Femi, and Workx were there, along with a broad range of power tool accessories companies. Koelnmesse, the trade fair organization that owns both the Hardware Fair and the exhibition grounds themselves, has been busy over the past 13 months refurbishing the facility. Formerly 14 massive halls nestled along the east bank of the Rhine, directly across the river from downtown Cologne, a number of the buildings have been sold off and replaced by 11 even larger halls, with higher ceilings and more open sight lines.

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The Asian factor at Cologne

COLOGNE, Germany–If the mix of products at this year's Practical World more varied than ever before, so was the international nature of the exhibitors themselves. Countries represented include Spain, Denmark, Poland, Sweden, Great Britain, and the U.S. As with the show two years ago, the largest contingent came from the Far East, with more than 600 companies from China and more than 500 from Taiwan represented. Vendors in the 2004 show were rankled by the prevalence of companies from this part of the world, so to assuage European and North American companies, the Asians were grouped in two halls of their own this year. Nevertheless, the firms remained popular with buyers, agents and other vendors, all looking for low-cost sourcing. And while the extravagant booths of giant companies such as Black & Decker and Bosch were conspicuous by their absence, Asian companies that supply the product for many of these giant brands all lined up in more modest stands. Take Angie Chen, Manager, from Gen-Year Industrial Co., Ltd. She and a colleague were minding a mere 10-ft. booth. Yet her company, which has factories in China, Taiwan, and Malaysia, already supplies private label to the likes of Lowe's and Home Depot in North America, and Praxis in the Netherlands, among others. With three factories and some 4,000 employees, Chen believes her company's success depends on offering the lowest price and the best quality possible. Western companies seem to agree; while HARDLINES was interviewing Chen, a North American representative from a major U.S. tool company came by to inquire about private label.

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Home shows are big for Home Depot's Canadian installed business

TORONTO–When Home Depot recently hosted an education forum for 1,000 installers from across Canada, the centerpiece of the event was a showcase of home installation products featuring 40 vendors whose products are part of the installed services offered by Home Depot. According to Mike Clements, Manager of At Home services for Home Depot Canada, the home show phenomenon is much more popular in Canada than it is in the U.S. That's why Home Depot is making these venues an integral part of their strategy to promote installed services to homeowners. The installed services showcase features booths and boutiques of everything from hot tubs and millwork to windows and doors. Right after the education forum for the installers was held, the showcase was torn down, loaded into containers, and shipped to Vancouver, for a home show in that city. Other cities on the tour this spring include Montreal, Calgary, and Winnipeg. "In the U.S., consumers don't go out to home shows," said Clements, "but it's different here. These shows are where Canadians get trends, ideas, and fashion updates." Home Depot Canada's marketing efforts to the installers and contractors themselves is also paying off. The retailer's network of installers now extends from coast to coast. "We're attracting the best contractors," said Clements. "They're coming to us, whereas we used to have to go out and get them."

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Attendance up at LBMAO Winter Buying Show

MISSISSAUGA–Attendance at the Lumber and Building Materials Association of Ontario (LBMAO) Winter Buying Show in February grew over 25% from the previous two years. With the show falling on Friday and Saturday, there was more action on the floor, for both retailers and exhibitors, and orders increased by more than 35%. "The amount of orders placed this year validates our reputation as the buying show in Ontario," said Dave Campbell, President of the LBMAO. Retailers were enticed with $20,000 given away in cash draws. Dealers from Northern and Eastern Ontario were brought in on hospitality buses. "The initial feedback on our buses has been nothing but positive," said Greg Drouillard, Chair of the LBMAO. "Our continuing goal is to keep the wishes of our Northern and Eastern retailers in mind and do all that we can to ensure their trip to London is a beneficial one." The 2007 show will run Feb. 2 - 3 in the Progress Building at the Western Fair Grounds in London, Ontario.

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Ainsworth reports net declines for 2005

VANCOUVER, B.C.–Ainsworth Lumber, the largest supplier of concrete-forming panels in North America, saw its net income fall by 12.5% to $153.2 million for the fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2005. The company's revenue during that period grew by 37.2% to $1.25 billion. In its financial statement, Ainsworth said that its average selling price of OSB during 2005 was 10.2% lower than in 2004, while the volume of OSB shipped in 2005’Äîwhen it produced 3.2 billion square feet’Äîincreased by 58.5%. Ainsworth became the fourth-largest OSB supplier in North America following its acquisition, in 2004, of three plants from Potlatch. Company officials told HARDLINES that Ainsworth plans to open another OSB mill in Alberta in March 2007. Last week, the company disclosed that it had been named in a lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania. The suit alleges the supplier violated antitrust laws in the United States in an agreement to fix prices and reduce its supply of oriented strandboard from June 1, 2002. The company denies the allegations.

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Broadband home improvement channel launched in U.S.

ORLANDO, Fla.–A video-on-demand broadband network for home improvement programming and information will be available to subscribers this fall. MultiChannel Ventures, which produces and distributes video programming, has developed two broadcasting networks’Äîone called the Real Estate Channel, the other the Home Improvement Channel’Äîfor what's known as Internet Protocol Television. A recent study by the research firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers projected that IPTV's subscriber base would expand from 1.3 million this year to 38 million in 2010. The two networks would allow subscribers to search for content on demand in both business sectors by subject categories or geography. Some of that content will look like traditional TV programming, with some produced by service providers and retailers. Each network is expected to have interactive features, and its programming could be received by anyone with an Internet-enabled communications device. "With the explosive growth of broadband over the last three years, the ability to stream high-quality full-screen video content to consumers with Internet Protocol Television or IPTV is now becoming a reality," said Michael Gerrity, MultiChannel Ventures' chairman.

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Home furnishing, building material sales expected to grow in '06

Fourth-quarter retail growth in 2005 slowed to 5.4%, down from 7% in the previous two quarters, according to a new report by Kubas Consultants. The report notes that while the retail sales trend is moving downward, sales in home furnishings, are expected to do well this year. Building materials, garden equipment and supply sales are projected to grow by 8.4% this year. For more information, visit www.kubas.com.

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Events will add to buzz at Las Vegas hardware show

International Forum will unite international delegates: Once again this year, HARDLINES will host the International Conference segment of NHS's conference series, in association with Presidents Council. A representative from one of the leading retail organizations will share his or her insights into the future of the retail home improvement industry. What are the retail trends, economic influences and consumer preferences driving this industry into the next decade? Whether you are trying to grow your business internationally or just sharpen your operations locally, you'll want to be part of this important international forum. Wednesday, May 10, 3:00-3:45 p.m. International Reception: The International Forum will be followed by a HARDLINES International Reception, where you'll have a chance to rub shoulders with some of the world's top international retailers and suppliers. Wednesday, May 10, 3:45-4:30 p.m. Women and DIY: What do women want-and where do they go to shop for it? Beverly Allen, Vice-President Sales & Marketing for HARDLINES, will present findings from a survey conducted by ACNielsen on our behalf. For anyone who missed this important presentation at last year's HARDLINES Conference, this is your chance to gain insight into the most important customer segment in today's home enhancement industry. Thursday, May 11, 10:00 a.m. For more info or to register, click here.

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