John Caulfield, Contributing Editor
vol. xi, #12, March 21, 2005

IN THIS ISSUE: • Home Depot continues consolidation of operations • Canadian Tire’s Q looks good • Canadian home buying intentions run high • TruServ will partner with U.S. counterpart on imports • B.C. show will move to autumn • Quebecers are big DIYers • U.S. housing remains buoyant • True Value expands private-label tool lines * * * * * *

“The biggest sin is sitting on your ass.” — Florynce Kennedy (lawyer and activist)
ATLANTA — Home Depot has disclosed its intention to centralize its operations in the United States. The presidents of its Southern, Northern and Western divisions — Troy Rice, Paul Raines and Bruce Merino — will relocate to the company’s headquarters here. The retailer plans to keep those divisions offices — in Florida, California and New Jersey — open as regional support operations, but will reduce their size. The company said it doesn’t anticipate job losses to result from this consolidation. This latest move brings Home Depot full circle from 1993, when the company operated 264 stores in 23 states out of three divisions: the Southeast, Northeast and the West. As Depot aggressively expanded over the next several years, it subdivided its organizational chart: by 2001, Home Depot had nine divisional offices in the U.S. alone, as well as a Canadian headquarters, and a separate management (out of Atlanta) for its Expo Design Centers division.While it has significantly diversified its portfolio of businesses and has opened support centers in Mexico, Quebec and in China, Home Depot has steadily consolidated the management of its operations into fewer and fewer divisions since the arrival of its chairman and CEO, Bob Nardelli in 2001. In a prepared statement, the company said that by consolidating its divisions, it would be able to “realize greater efficiencies, streamline communications, provide consistency of execution in its stores and improve the overall customer experience.” Its divisional presidents will continue to report to Tom Taylor, Home Depot’s executive vice-president – Home Depot Stores.
TORONTO – “Q,” a new convenience gas-and-groceries format that involves Canadian Tire, is the result of a partnership among Sobeys, Starbuck's and the Richtree restaurant chain to offer a one-stop convenience retail destination. A brand-new format from Sobeys, called “Sobeys Express,” is a 4,000-sq.ft. convenience store that specializes in fresh produce and flowers, and a refrigerated deli case with cheese, meats and sandwiches. Shoppers on the go can get a meal ready made at the 1,000-sq.ft. Richtree Market Restaurant. This chain, which developed the popular Movenpick concept in Canada, offers meals and food items in a market-style environment, with different stations for each kind of food.The first two Q outlets are in Milton and Windsor, Ont.
OTTAWA – While fewer Canadians intend to buy a home this year than in previous years, intentions to renovate are way up. More than 570,000 households in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, are thinking of buying a home this year, says a new report from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. According to the report, “Consumer Intentions to Buy or Renovate a Home,” this represents an average of 12% of all households in those cities. Among intenders, 43% declare that they are ready to buy within the next twelve months, while 38% declare that they have a 50/50 chance of buying and 18% declare that their chances of buying are lower. The survey is conducted using a sample of approximately 4,000 households per city. “Consumer intentions across the six major markets remain positive, with more than one in ten households thinking about buying a home this year,” said Bertrand Recher, senior economist at CMHC. However, intentions to buy are down slightly from 2002, when 14% of households stated their intention to buy, and down again from 2003, when the level was at 15%. “This year, the intentions are consistent with continued high levels of housing starts and sales of existing homes,” Recher points out. “Favourable economic conditions, such as low mortgage rates and a tight labour market, are contributing factors to the positive intentions.” Home buying intentions are strongest in Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. In Calgary and Vancouver, 15% of households reported that they intend to purchase a home, while in Toronto the share was 13%. Purchase intentions are slightly lower in Ottawa (12%), Halifax (11%), and Montreal (9%). Home renovations will also remain especially strong this year, the study indicates. Fully 39% of all homeowners are considering undertaking renovations this year, up from 2003, when 37% of homeowners considered renovating. Renovation intentions are the strongest in Halifax and Ottawa, where 45% and 44% of consumers, respectively, indicated an intention to renovate this year. Intentions to renovate are also high in Calgary and Montreal, where in both cases 40% of households indicated an intention to renovate this year. Renovation intentions are slightly lower in Vancouver (39%) and Toronto (38%).
WINNIPEG — By this fall, TruServ Canada hopes to be placing its first orders for a variety of products sourced in Asia through a purchasing agreement it has established with True Value Company, the Chicago-based co-op. Bill Morrison, TruServ Canada’s president, told HARDLINES that his company will consult with True Value’s merchandising team to come up with a menu of items that would be suited for the Canadian market. He identified such “high volume” products as duct tape and garbage bags. Morrison said that he is also impressed with True Value’s Master Mechanix line of hand and power tools, which he saw at the co-op’s spring show in Atlanta. The new line was introduced at that show by True Value’s chief merchandising officer, Steve Mahurin. (See article elsewhere in this issue–Editor) “Steve Mahurin and his team have repositioned that line with more features and quality, and the co-op has gotten more directly involved with the factories that are manufacturing the products,” Morrison said. When it comes to importing merchandise, TruServ Canada “really needs big friends,” he added. He’s more than happy to let True Value take the lead in this effort. He anticipates that TruServ Canada will be able to place orders for the 2006 selling season at True Value’s market next fall.
SURREY, B.C. – The Building Supply Dealers Association, which serves dealers in British Columbia, has announced that its annual trade show and convention, WestCoast 2006, is being moved from late winter to early fall. New dates for the event are September 8-9, 2006. The venue remains the same, the Tradex facility in Abbotsford, B.C. The decision to change the date from January to September was made after much consultation with supplier and retail members. The September date will allow retailers to purchase inventory for their busy fall season. The Abbotsford Tradex was also considered the most suitable location for the trade show, thanks to its central location. It’s next door to the Abbotsford Airport, only three hours from the province’s Interior region, and 45 minutes from the Tsawwassen ferries and the Vancouver International Airport.The 2006 trade show will include an expanded New Product Showcase, product demonstrations area, and a program of speakers for both breakfast and breakout sessions. The BSDA Annual Gala will take place on the Friday evening after the trade show. The Gala includes the BSDA’s industry awards, the Orions, which are presented to firms and individuals that have shown themselves to be exemplary in all aspects of their relationship to the building supply industry. The WestCoast 2005 trade show had 242 booths and 155 exhibitors. The 2006 show is expected to be even bigger, giving retailers a greater selection of vendors to see under one roof. For more information, contact Diane McConnell, BSDA member services co-ordinator, at 604-513-2205, toll free 888-711-5656;
MONTREAL – The province of Quebec mirrored the overall significant growth in Canadian retail sales last year, says a new study. Retail sales increased by 4.1% in Quebec to reach $78.2 billion. Home improvement retailers led the way, fuelled by a robust housing and renovation market there. According to the Retail Council of Quebec, retail sales in Quebec last year increased by 5.1% to reach $347.5 billion. This study was conducted with the cooperation of Group Geocom. Low interest rates, relatively stable inflation and job creation bolstered consumer confidence and stimulated spending throughout 2004.In Quebec, home improvement stores showed the most aggressive increase, up 18.3%. That robust growth is closely linked to the marked increase in both new housing starts in 2004 and the trend by Quebec households to renovate their properties. In fact, another study, by the Quebec association for building materials dealers, ADMACQ, revealed recently that fully 51% of Quebec households admitted to having done some kind of renovation work in their homes during 2004 — and 89% of those respondents said they did the work themselves. The report, "Les Quebecois et la renovation," features the results of a poll of 3,700 Quebec households that queries them on their renovation spending intentions for building materials. For more info, or to purchase the full report, contact Donald O’Hara at or 450-646-5842.
See Classified Section for more information on CSA anti-counterfeiting seminar:
ATLANTA – At its spring market held here recently, True Value Company introduced a revised Master Mechanic line of cordless power tools and mechanic’s tools. The mechanics’ tools are being sourced from the same factory used by Stanley. The new source also means a 10% cost reduction for True Value members. On the power tool side, the global sourcing team put together a deal with the same factory that Black & Decker was using to produce its Master Mechanic line of power tools. The first 10 tools were introduced at the spring market and another 13 will be ready for the fall market. LONDON, U.K. – Kingfisher, the world’s third-largest home improvement retailer, posted sales of £7.7 billion in fiscal 2004, up 8.7% from £7.1 billion in the previous year. Profits were up 10.7% to £706.5 million, from £638.2 million the previous year, while pre-tax profits were up more than 16%. Same-store sales were up 3.9%. Bad weather through much of northern Europe has resulted in a slow start to the new fiscal year. In the U.K., B&Q delivered good profit growth, though its sales in the second half were affected by slowing growth in consumer spending and a more price competitive and promotional market. In an increasingly discount-led French market, sales through its Brico Dépôt and Castorama’s divisions continued to grow. In the European market, performance was particularly strong in Italy and China. Kingfisher has nearly 600 stores in nine countries throughout Europe and Asia.MADISON, Wis. – Menards Inc. is turning its back on its home state, by beefing up staff levels at an Illinois plant, instead of one in Wisconsin. Its truss plant in Plano, Ill., will benefit from 75 more jobs. Menards won’t expand within its Eau Claire headquarters because it’s in the middle of an environmental dispute over wetlands with the state Department of Natural Resources. WASHINGTON – After being investigated for employing illegal immigrants, primarily as contract cleaning staff, Wal-Mart will escape criminal sanctions, but has agreed to pay $11 million, in response to a long-running federal investigation that had resulted in 245 arrests of undocumented workers by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and federal prosecutors in Pennsylvania. Some individuals who were involved in hiring the illegal contractors have reportedly agreed to plead guilty to federal violations. NEW YORK – A report that appeared in Women’s Wear Daily last week indicates Sears is trying to sell its Land’s End catalogue division. The move is regarded as a way for Sears to raise cash following its merger with Kmart late last year. Sears wouldn’t comment on the rumor.
OTTAWA – Sales by large retailers in Canada were up 2.5% from December to January. The only decline in January was in the sales of lawn and garden products, such as snow blowers and cut flowers, which fell by 5.4%. Hardware and home renovation product sales moderated the decline, increasing by 2.3% in January. Overall, the hardware and lawn and garden products sector was up 7.4% from January 2004 to January 2005. Activity by manufacturers rebounded in January with a 3.0% surge in shipments to $51.5 billion, while new orders soared 7.1% and manufacturers’ backlog of unfilled orders jumped 5.2%, ending a five-month slide. Durable goods manufacturers boosted output by 4.5% to $29.7 billion. Shipments of non-durable goods rose 1.0% to $219.9 billion.
Housing starts in the United States continued to confound industry watchers in February, when they hit an annualized rate of 2.195 million units, representing a 21-year high. With interest rates for mortgages still below 6%, and with job creation expanding steadily, the demand for housing has flourished despite predictions by analysts and even some builders that 2005 would be a year of leveling off for the industry. The Commerce Department reported that starts of single-family homes rose 0.3% in February over January to a record 1.775 million-unit rate. Starts of multifamily homes increased 1.7% to a 420,000-unit annual rate.
HARDLINES is proud to be part of the Conference series once again at this year’s National Hardware Show in Las Vegas. Two amazing panel discussions will be presented by HARDLINES: “Hot Trends in Lawn & Garden” will be held at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17. “Global Retailers: Best Practices from Around the World” will be a first-class gathering of retail leaders from around the world. May 18 at 3 p.m. It will be followed by an international reception from 4:30-5:30 p.m. You can register for these incredible educational sessions by clicking here

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