John Caulfield, Contributing Editor
vol. xi, #11, March 14, 2005

IN THIS ISSUE: • Organizers consider future of Canadian show • CanWel will keep Sodisco-Howden in Spancan • Rona goes deep with CFL • Residential construction stays strong • CHHMA beefs up AGM • Home Depot seeks tax break in the Bronx • Rona splits shares, implements poison pill * * * * * *

"Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbour he is making for, no wind is the right wind." — Seneca (4 B.C.-65 A.D.)
ATLANTA — If one calls the Toronto Congress Centre to inquire about the dates for next year's combined hardware and décor show, H2X/D2X, the event is not on the venue's calendar. The show's organizer, Messe Frankfurt, whose North American headquarters are here in Atlanta, cancelled the booking."We want to get feedback from all the people involved in the show, and determine if there's any relevance for the event," says Daniel McKinnon, a director at Messe Frankfurt. If and when there's a second show, it will be at a different time and in a different location, he says.The inaugural show was held February 19-22. A total of 148 exhibitors were on hand, and 1,787 people from 10 Canadian provinces, 20 U.S. states and from five other countries attended. Messe Frankfurt's key partner in the first H2X/D2X show, which replaced the failed Canadian Hardware and Building Materials Show, is the Paint and Decorating Retailers Association. McKinnon is not even sure of that organization's future involvement. PDRA includes a strong educational component to its side of the proceedings, and may want to do their own educational program, McKinnon adds. Kathy Witmeyer, director of membership, education and trade shows at PDRA, confirms that her organization's involvement with the Canadian show has yet to be confirmed. "We have our board meeting in May to discuss it," she says. "Right now, everything is up in the air." McKinnon says the vertical format of the show, which brings in a variety of related sectors in hardware, décor, wallcoverings and flooring, has been a successful one with its other shows, especially in Europe. But here, he's facing some challenges. "It's hard to please all the stakeholders." But he believes it's a strong format, nonetheless. "There's value in having a very vertical platform for a broad range of buyers," he notes.
MONTREAL — Rona inc. has unveiled a major promotional partnership with the Canadian Football League. The announcement came Friday afternoon, complete with photo op involving Rona CEO Robert Dutton and Tom Wright, Commissioner of the Canadian Football League.Rona already has a history with the CFL in a promotional partnership that dates back to 2001. But under the terms of the new, expanded agreement, it becomes the CFL's "Official Home Improvement Retailer" across all nine clubs during the pre-season and regular season. It's a two-year deal involving a "multi-million dollar" investment on Rona's part, which will leverage the Rona and CFL brands in-stadium, at retail and through broadcast on TSN, RDS and CBC.The most visible exposure for Rona will be on the team uniforms. All CFL players from the nine member clubs will wear a Rona jersey patch during every CFL game in the pre-season and regular season. The Rona logo will appear on players' helmets during the post season, including division championships and the Grey Cup, which will be held this year in Vancouver on November 27th. In addition, a "Rona Day" will be held in all nine league stadiums. Rona also gains rights to use the CFL and Grey Cup logos, as well as the use of the names and logos of each of the CFL member clubs.
TORONTO — There won't be any rationalization of the 18 distribution centres CanWel Distribution owns within its CanWel and Sodisco-Howden divisions. The two businesses — one is LBM distribution and the latter is a hardware wholesaler — are distinct businesses with distinct ways of moving product through their channels.Tom Donaldson, president and CEO of CanWel Distribution, and acting CEO of Sodisco-Howden Group, the hardlines distribution business it has newly acquired, offered some insights into the future of the two divisions recently. He was speaking to a group of vendors at a breakfast meeting hosted by the Canadian Hardware and Housewares Manufacturers Association.Donaldson reiterated his plan for Sodisco-Howden: to remain focused on the independent hardware and building supply dealer, especially dealers within buying groups such as Castle and Tim-BR-Marts, which comprise a large part of Sodisco-Howden's customer base. He wants to see the company get more sales focused to better serve those customers. (More than 40 people, largely within marketing and research functions, were let go recently from Sodisco-Howden.) The fate of Sodisco-Howden's 750-plus dealers bannered under either Ace or Pro remains undetermined, he added. "We're trying to understand what makes the difference, in terms of value-added services, for the bannered guys." Some things that won't change, however, include Sodisco-Howden's involvement in the Spancan buying group, wherein Sodisco-Howden acts as the warehouse and hardlines supplier for the Independent Lumber Dealers Co-operative. He also expects the procurement function, which was centralized into Montreal under former CEO Jos Wintermans, to remain there. But more decision-making will likely return to the regional offices, namely London, Ont., and Victoriaville, Que.
OTTAWA — Housing starts rebounded in February, says Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. The seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts was 214,900 in February, up 5.3% from 204,000 in January."Housing starts rebounded in February back to levels more consistent with our outlook for the year," said Bob Dugan, chief economist at CMHC's Market Analysis Centre. "Strong growth in domestic demand, healthy levels of immigration and low mortgage rates continue to fuel the activity in the new home market."Starts were strongest in urban centres, where they rose 6.2% to 186,500 units, with the entire increase coming from multiples. Multiple starts climbed 16.2% in February to 94,600, while single starts actually fell 2.4% to 91,900 on a seasonally adjusted annual basis. In February, the seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts increased in four of the five regions across Canada, compared with the previous month. The largest increases were in the Prairies and in British Columbia, where starts in February rose 13.4% and 12.2% respectively. Starts in February also increased compared to January in the Atlantic region (8.4%) and in Ontario (5.5%), but fell 1.8% in Quebec. Rural starts in February were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 28,400 units.
SCARBOROUGH, Ont. — The Canadian Hardware and Housewares Manufacturers Association is beefing up its annual general meeting with an expanded seminar program. The "CHHMA Spring Conference & AGM" will be held April 6, 2005, at the Hilton Suites hotel in Markham, Ont.Following the AGM, a series of speakers and session facilitators will present economic and business information targeted at the concerns of the vendor community. Speakers include David Chilton, aka "The Wealthy Barber;" Don Drummond, senior vice-president and chief economist for TD Bank; Andrea York, a lawyer with Blake, Cassels & Graydon; Dr. Ken Jones, Ryerson University and chair, The Eaton Chair in Retailing; and Aaron Simmons, director, North American Merchandising Services, for ACNielson Canada.Also on hand, to give the perspective of the retail customer: Joel Marks, director, merchandise — Hardlines, at Home Hardware Stores Ltd. John Stelzer of Sterling Commerce will provide insights into some of the tech issues challenging the industry, including RFID and data synchronization.. A new addition to the event is the Industry Hall of Fame Dinner. This year's vendor inductee is Bill Caldwell, founder of the toilet seat company, Moldex ("Born in Barrie, raised everywhere!"). The retail inductee is Jim Thorogood, who recently concluded more than 40 years in the retail building supply industry with the sale to Rona of Totem Building Supplies. For more information on the AGM, contact: 416-282-0022;
THE BRONX, N.Y. — A hearing will be held in this New York City borough on April 7 to determine if Home Depot is entitled to US$36 million it is seeking in tax breaks and city funding for warehouse, distribution and fulfillment center it plans to build in the Port Morris section of the Bronx.Crain's New York Business, quoting unnamed sources familiar with this transaction, reported that Home Depot is looking at a parcel of land located on East 132nd Street.In other company news, a federal appeals court in Washington D.C. threw out a US$5.7 million verdict against Home Depot and its partners that it had been accused of improperly copying a California man's design for a Christmas tree stand. Bloomberg News reported that court said the finding by a federal jury in May 2003 was "not supported by substantial evidence" and ruled against Turlock, Calif.-based Decorations for Generations Inc., which had accused Depot of selling a similar stand in a look-alike box.
TORONTO — Hudson's Bay Co. reported that 4Q earnings before interest and income taxes (EBIT) fell 11.8% to $160 million, while sales for the quarter fell 7% from $2.43 billion to $2.26 billion. For the year, sales fell 3.1% to $7.07 billion (1.9% after excluding the extra week in 2003), reflecting sales declines in the Bay and Zellers. The only increase came from the housewares and home furnishings chain, Home Outfitters, which enjoyed an increase. Same-store sales in fiscal 2004 were down 2.3% at Zellers and 0.2% at the Bay, and increased 5.3% at Home Outfitters.WINDSOR, Ont. — The Wal-Mart on Tecumseh Road in this Canadian border town voted 167 to 59 against unionizing last week. The United Food and Commercial Workers claim, however, that a secret Wal-Mart operative resurfaced during the negotiations — the same person who had been instrumental in swaying employees when the same store unionized 10 years ago. So the union has lodged a complaint. Stay tuned...ATLANTA — Home Depot, official home improvement sponsor of NASCAR, will debut a new NASCAR-themed broadcast campaign during FOX television's coverage of a big race on March13. During the UAW-Daimler Chrysler 400 in Las Vegas, the first of a series of 30-second spots will be aired, this one featuring driver Tony Stewart, will link its race car sponsorship to its stores' products and services in a humorous way, according to John Costello, executive vp-merchandising and marketing. The first ad will show Stewart discovering a trackside port-o-pot that has been remodeled into a full-size, state-of-the-art bathroom. Home Depot has been an official sponsor of the #20 racing team since 1999. CHARLOTTETOWN — The first Sears department store on Prince Edward Island opens on St. Patrick's Day. It also represents the first example in Canada of the retailer's free-standing off-mall format. TROY, Mich. — Frank's Nursery & Crafts Inc. has filed a proposed plan of reorganization in the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. The filing follows the company's entry into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September 2004. The retailer has recently completed going-out-of-business sales to wind down its operations. It has also sold or rejected substantially all of its leasehold interests. The bankruptcy reorganization involves Frank's retaining about 40 properties, which will be developed by the reorganized company. ST. JOHN'S — Sears Canada will open a new 143,000 sq.ft. Sears department store in the Avalon Mall in St. John's, Nfld., this fall. The current Sears store located in the Village Mall, just a short distance away, will remain open in the near term. BOUCHERVILLE — I know, I know. You wish you'd bought the stock too. Rona's board of directors have approved a two-for-one split of the company's common shares, subject to the usual regulatory approvals. The split will go into effect March 22, 2005, and the shares will begin trading on a post-split basis as of March 18, 2005. The shares closed at $48.50 on March 10, the day the split was announced. They opened on the Toronto Stock Exchange in December 2003. The board also adopted a shareholders' rights plan to prepare against any unsolicited takeover bids targeting the company. Designed to give the board of directors enough time to evaluate unsolicited offers, the plan will allow alternative strategies to be implemented in order to maximize value for shareholders and ensure fair treatment of shareholders while giving everyone the opportunity to take advantage of potential purchase offers. The company stresses that the plan was not adopted in reaction to a specific acquisition proposal.
BEDFORD, N.S. — Peter Miller, chairman of the board of AWARD Wholesale and Retail Distributors Ltd. (TIM-BR Mart Atlantic), has announced that the board has received and accepted the resignation of Tom Smith as president and CEO of AWARD. Nil d'Entremont, CA, vice-president finance and CFO of AWARD has been named interim general manager.At Sears Canada Inc., Alan Lacy has been appointed chairman of the board. Lacy, who was a member of the Sears Canada board from 1995 to 1997 and again since 2000, also serves as chairman and CEO of Sears, Roebuck and Co. Brent Hollister remains president and CEO of Sears Canada. Lacy will assume his new role at the end of March, at which time current chairman Glenn Richter will depart.
Canadian construction intentions cooled down in January, dropping 11.0% says Stats Canada. The value of building permits fell to $4.5 billion, down from December and the lowest monthly level since May 2004. The value of non-residential permits reached $1.4 billion in January, down 18.8% from December — the second decline in a row — and the lowest since March 2004.Prices for new homes edged up in January, although the rate of increase year-over-year was down marginally. According to the New Housing Price Index, the price of new homes rose 0.2% on a monthly basis, which was the same monthly rate of change as observed in December 2004.

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