John Caulfield, Contributing Editor
vol. xi, #10, March 7, 2005

IN THIS ISSUE: • Retailer Awards join HARDLINES Conference Gala • AWARD votes "no" to takeover • Mutual forms new industrial alliance • Asian suppliers converge at German trade show • Canadian Tire develops convenience gas format • Canadian retailers anticipate solid year ahead * * * * * *

"To be conscious that you are ignorant of the facts is a great step to knowledge." — Benjamin Disraeli (British prime minister and novelist, 1804-81)
HALIFAX — The future of the AWARD buying group was at stake last Thursday as the membership voted on everything from the group's affiliation to its leadership. The first and most pressing one was whether to join, en masse, Rona inc. The giant hardware and home improvement retailer, which is on an acquisition trail, had made a proposal to switch the entire group at once. That offer was turned down."Rona was defeated soundly," says John Morrissey, vice-president marketing and product development. Their decision reflects a similar one made by the Western buying group, Irly Distributors, just over a year ago. Even as the Irly dealers voted against Rona, they also voted to remove the group's executive, Stuart Joule. AWARD did the same. Tom Smith, who had been president and CEO of AWARD, had presented the Rona option to the membership, and their rejection of that option was also a vote of non-confidence for Smith.According to Tim Urquhart, general manager of Calgary-based Tim-BR-Marts Ltd., the AWARD members also had another option — to fortify their relationship with his organization. AWARD and Tim-BR-Marts are already affiliated as members of the umbrella buying group Matreco. Another Matreco member, TIM-BR Mart Ontario, joined forces with its Western sister in November of last year. "Yes, we had presented a case for AWARD to join Tim-BR-Marts," Urquhart says. "But I don't know how persuasively that argument might have been put forth." Finally, AWARD members reportedly voted to close AWARD Distribution Ltd., a regional distribution centre created to supply the AWARD membership in Atlantic Canada. That facility, financed by the dealers themselves, was allied with, and supplied by, Le Groupe BMR, a wholesale buying group (and Matreco member) with distribution in Longueuil, Que. While Morrissey would offer no comment on the status of ADL, he did express his optimism about the other issues decided that day. "I think the decision that the membership made was not only a positive step today, but is going to make this group extremely strong in the future."
TORONTO — The industry's most prestigious retailer awards will be the main attraction at this year's HARDLINES Conference, being held in Toronto Sept. 12-13.Hardware Merchandising magazine's Outstanding Retailer Awards will be the centrepiece of the first-ever Awards Gala Dinner, taking place on Day One of the Conference, Sept. 12, 2005. Hardware Merchandising will award nine dealers from across the country, in categories of Best Hardware Store, Best Building Supply Dealer, Best Large Surface Retailer, Best Paint Store and Best Contractor Yard. Not only that, but two new categories have been added: Best Young Retailer and Best Comeback Retailer.The ORAs will be presented in tandem with HARDLINES' own Newsmaker of the Year Awards, which recognize a retailer, supplier and an individual for their significant impact on the industry. The combined awards presentation will make the Industry Awards Gala the number-one evening of the year — at the number-one trade event of the year! To enter your store, or a store from your group, in this year's Outstanding Retailer Awards, contact Rob Gerlsbeck, Editor of Hardware Merchandising, at, or 416-764-1662. For more info on the industry's top forum for retail and vendor leaders, contact Beverly Allen, Director of Sales & Marketing at HARDLINES: 416-489-3396 or!
John de Lancie as QTORONTO — Canadian Tire has teamed up with Sobeys, Starbuck's and a restaurant chain called Richtree to offer a one-stop convenience retail destination. Called "Q," the two pilot sites — in Windsor and Milton, Ont. — feature 10 "spacious fuelling stations" in front of a coffee shop, a 4,000-sq.ft. "Sobeys Express" grocery store, and the restaurant. Having nothing to do with the near-invincible alien of the same name from Star Trek, "Q" is designed to offer a convenience solution for time-constrained customers who need anything from gas or a car wash to some quick groceries, or even a meal to go. "Q" features 10 Canadian Tire gas pumps, touchless car wash, a regular Starbucks with a drive-through, and a 2,500-sq.ft. convenience market. Adding to the freshness of the overall concept is a brand-new format from Sobeys. Called "Sobeys Express," the 4,000-sq.ft. store aims at satisfying customer requirements for "immediate needs" shopping with a range of fresh produce, fresh flowers, and a refrigerated deli case with cheese, meats and sandwiches. The final piece to the Q puzzle is a 1,000-sq.ft. Richtree Market Restaurant. Better known for the Moevenpick Marché concept, Richtree will offer a similar presentation that features meals and food items prepared from scratch in full view of the customer.
OAKVILLE, Ont. — Mutual Hardware, the hardlines buying group based here, has entered into a strategic alliance with Indica, a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Newmarket Group, which specializes in generating volume rebates for industrial supply distributors.David Nesbit, Mutual's president, told HARDLINES that 10 of Mutual's 22 members, which supply industrial customers, now have access to 60 of Indica's buying programs in such categories as electricals, power transmission and fasteners. "Indica has a number of programs that we don't have," explains Nesbit.The advantage of this alliance for Indica, he added, is that, by gaining more business from Mutual's members, it would increase the rebates it generates, a percentage of which it keeps for itself. According to its website, Newmarket, which manages four other buying groups, distributes more than $50 million in rebates annually to its members.
COLOGNE, Germany — What's most striking about the exhibitors at the Asia-Pacific Sourcing show is the sheer variety of products. Everything from power tools and hand tools to measuring tools, caulking guns and safety equipment such as filter masks — and that's just one exhibitor — in a 10-ft. booth!Asia-Pacific Sourcing, the inaugural show put on by trade fair organization Koelnmesse, aims to fill the gap left by two major shows, Practical World (for hardware and home improvement) and gafa (for garden and outdoor). Both these shows are now biennial and will return in 2006. In the meantime, we've got the Asia-Pacific Sourcing show.Asia Pacific 1One of the criticisms of Practical World last year was the plethora of Asian suppliers. But guess what: they were busy as could be. So, tying in with its presence in Asia through its partnership in Practical World Asia, Koelnmesse has "brought the mountain to Mohammed." More than 500 exhibitors filled two floors of one building at the Messe fairgrounds in Cologne, and by Sunday afternoon of day one of the show, the aisles were filled. Many were buyers, from Germany mainly, but also from throughout Western Europe. Although the show was intended to represent suppliers of lawn and garden products — and there were a number of outdoor power equipment, garden tool and patio furniture suppliers — the show was predominantly a hardware show. However, show organizers don't want to stop there. Hans Kampen of Koelnmesse wants to see a full range of hardlines, including giftwares and housewares, eventually represented at Asia-Pacific Sourcing. He also hopes to see more North Americans, besides the contingent of eight people from Home Depot that reportedly came this year. Given the crowds walking the inaugural event, his expectations may likely bear fruit. Companies from countries such as China, Taiwan, Japan and India were keen to meet — and supply — Western customers. They certainly have the capacity, which, by Western standards, is prodigious. For example, Top Electric, a power-tool maker based in Hong Kong, has 1,000 people working in a factory that covers 300,000 sq. meters of space. JK Files & Tools, based in Bombay, has five factories — four in India and one in Indonesia — employing almost 2,500 people. Harshel Jayavant, president of JK, says the show has been a "successful experiment," and he expects his company to be back in two years. Before that, JK will exhibit at the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas (May 16-18) and again in Cologne for the big Practical World show next year. "India has all the ingredients of a manufacturing powerhouse," Jayavant says. "It's not just because of the cheap labour. We have a skilled workforce — and we have the engineers to drive quality." He notes that his company was first Indian tool manufacturer to receive ISO certification, back in 1984. Bennett ChenSome of the companies exhibiting here have been in business, like JK, for decades. However, one is brand new, having started only last August. Bennett Chen, of Prime Supply in Taiwan, had yet to speak with a key buyer by half-way through the second day, but his optimism was undeterred. He was eager to explain to anyone who would listen, in either German or English, about a new cutting tool for rubber and plastic hose. Unlike other tools, which, he demonstrated, used a scissor-action to cut through the material, his blade comes straight on in a sliding action, to make the cut. It's reminiscent of an oversized cigar cutter. But not everybody walking the show was a potential buyer. Some were European competitors, checking out the competition. I spoke with one gentleman who was scrutinizing a couple of patio chairs. I asked him what he thought. "They are not good," he said. His name is Peter, and it turns out he is from the largest maker of garden furniture in Germany. He itemizes for me the weaknesses in the chair's construction, which include inferior welds and a strut along the back of the chair that wobbles. "Look here," he says, pointing to the bolts holding the chair, which is designed to rock slightly, to its fixed base. "In America, where people are heavier, these chairs will not last. See where they use two bolts? We use three." He believes Asia-Pacific Sourcing has potential as it grows, but he looks forward to finding more representation from lawn and garden suppliers in years to come.
WINNIPEG — Home Depot Canada has announced plans to open its fourth store in this city. The 95,000-sq.ft. store is slated to open sometime in the fourth quarter of this year, although a Home Depot says the deal is still conditional, as the developer gets necessary approvals from the city. A total of 19 store openings, plus the relocation of a store in London, Ont., are planned for fiscal 2005.Chicago — True Value Company will close its Chicago paint manufacturing facility in November 2005. The move will mean greater operational efficiencies for the cooperative. The closure will affect 30 employees. The company is "working to ensure a smooth transition for them," according to a prepared release. The site has become increasingly under-utilized in recent years, even as the value of the real estate, which encompasses a city block near the intersection of North and Clybourn, has risen. Chicago paint manufacturing operations will be absorbed by the Cary, Ill. facility. Blackhawk employees will begin a phased exit starting in August 2005.MONTREAL — Globe Electric, the lighting and electricals maker, has announced a joint venture, through its wholly owned subsidiary, Keystore International in Hong Kong, with Asia Lighting Solutions. The partnership includes the acquisition of two lighting manufacturing operations in China. BROKEN ARROW, Okla. — Hope Lumber & Supply, based here, the industry's 21st-largest home improvement dealer, acquired Leeds Building Products, a Kennesaw, Ga.-based pro dealer with 10 yards in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. Those yards, combined with seven former Wickes Lumber yards and six Atlanta-area Leeds yards that Hope had purchased over the past two years, will comprise Hope's new Eastern division. The acquisition increases Hope's yard count to 52. ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Roper Brothers Ltd., a five-yard chain headquartered here, acquired certain assets of Valley Lumber & Building Materials, which operates a single yard in Winchester, Va. Valley Lumber's management, including owners Steve and Teresa Cluss, will stay on to run the business as a division of Roper Brothers. In a prepared statement, Roper Brothers said the combined entity creates a company whose sales exceeded $120 million. TORONTO — Hudson's Bay Co., second-oldest company in the world, has secured a lucrative eight-year deal to outfit Canada's Olympic teams, beginning with the 2010 Vancouver Games. Roots, which has had the contract with the Canadian teams since the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan, didn't get a chance to bid. Hbc has the contract for the 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012 Games, and will outfit volunteers at the Vancouver Games in 2010. OAK BROOK, Ill. — Ace Hardware Corp. has announced plans to build a regional distribution centre in Moxee, Wash., just 10 miles from its existing distribution facility in Yakima. Sitting on 74 acres, the new 788,000-sq.ft. retail support center is expandable to 1.2 million sq.ft. as needed. It will replace a 506,500-sq.ft. facility that has been open since 1984, but has been operating at maximum capacity for some time.
John Clapp has joined Do it Best Corp. as its merchandise manager for plumbing products. In this position, Clapp will develop, evaluate, and implementing programs in the plumbing department, and assist members with drop-ship programs and global sourcing opportunities. He moves over from TruServ Corp., where he served as senior buyer for plumbing products.At Georgia-Pacific Corp., William Nahill has been named chief procurement officer, responsible for strategic sourcing across the company's businesses and staff functions. He will be based at GP's Atlanta headquarters. Prior to joining Georgia-Pacific, he spent 20 years in various positions at ConocoPhillips. He reports to Steven Klinger, executive vice-president - packaging.
TORONTO — Canadian retailers are looking forward to another year of solid — if modest — growth according to research completed recently by Retail Council of Canada.According to Diane Brisebois, president of RCC, only 10% of the association's independent members, and none of its large members, expect sales to decline in 2005. "The consensus within the trade is that retail sales overall likely will rise by less than 4%, although most of our members individually believe their stores will do better than that," she adds.Brisebois attributed the modest outlook to the relatively slow growth in Canadians' disposable incomes in recent years, noting that, on average, real personal disposable income per capita has increased by only $43 per year since 1990. "This makes them keen bargain hunters and maintains the pressure on retailers to keep their prices down." Although retail inflation remains non-existent, a large majority of the respondents expect their margins will improve or stay the same, thanks to the emergence of China as a major source of consumer products, coupled with continuing productivity improvements within the supply chain and in retail operations.

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