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March 14, 2022 | Volume xxviii, #11
  • Russian DIY execs send messages supporting Ukraine, criticizing Putin
  • Ukrainian home improvement retailer shares deadly effects of Russian attacks
  • Fall buying shows to go live, Home Hardware relocates its market to Toronto
  • Driven by credit card signups, Canadian Tire’s online sales take off in 2021

PLUS: Canadian Tire suspends Helly Hansen in Russia, TORBSA adds Quebec member, B.C. association presents dealer awards, TIMBER MART hosts virtual show, Ikea joins growing group of companies closing Russian operations, Joe Comitale leads M-D Building Products in Canada, Canadian Tire to invest big in omnichannel, sustainability a trend at DX3 conference, Intertape Polymer Group sold, building permits, and more!

Russian DIY execs send messages supporting Ukraine, criticizing Putin

The world watches as Ukraine is pounded by the invasion from Russia. The resulting devastation includes the largest migration of people since World War II, as bombing and attacks have extended beyond the borders to residential areas—including hospitals—with mounting civilian casualties.

Retailers within Russia are facing challenges of their own, as the citizens of that country cope with a war confounded by the lockdown on any information about the Ukraine conflict.

John Herbert, general secretary of both the European DIY Retail Association (EDRA) and Global Home Improvement Network (GHIN), passed along to Hardlines some notes from his members inside Russia. Here are excerpts from those messages:

“Dear John, I consider it very important to let you know that the absolute majority of the population of Russia does not support the unjust war against the fraternal nation of Ukraine. My colleagues and I consider this an act of aggression and a terrible mistake, which will lead to a catastrophe in Russia and in Ukraine and will have a negative impact of the global economy. In Russia, all conditions have been created for an absolute information blockage of the population.”

The retailer adds that the country’s information sources have been suppressed and protests squashed. “All television channels and radio channels are controlled by the state, and social networks are blocked. Any public activity or participation in a peaceful rally is punishable by imprisonment. All opposition positions are recognized as extremists.”

Another note takes aim at Putin himself. “Dear John, you already know the latest news. It hurts to realize that in the centre of Europe the blood of innocent people is shed, sacrificed by politicians for their geopolitical interests, although human life should be the most important value in the world. I would like to say that as much as I am proud to be Russian, it hurts me that Russian (Putin’s) decisions lead to such victims and horror. This is embarrassing and devastating ….”

Herbert at GHIN sent a message to his members, reinforcing the opposition to the conflict. He expresses his hope that solidarity among the United Nations, the European Union, and NATO will support “the astonishing courage and determination of the Ukrainian people” to bring an end to Putin’s regime.

And this email from another Russian retail leader: “Dear John, I feel pain, shame and fear for my country. I could not believe this can happen even in my worst nightmare … Awful and tragic. Putin is a mad devil. All my friends pray for peace. Praying is the only thing we can do now.”

That email’s closing sentiments may well reflect the feelings of the world while driving home the desperation of people half a world away: “Russians do not want war, Russians do not need war … I cannot take this!”

Ukrainian home improvement retailer shares deadly effects of Russian attacks

Information directly from Ukraine indicates destruction that includes the country’s largest home improvement retailer. John Herbert, general secretary of the retail associations representing home improvement retailers worldwide through the European DIY Retail Association (EDRA) and Global Home Improvement Network (GHIN), has shared communications he has been receiving from the front lines in Ukraine.

“I am in contact with the CEO of Epicentre, Borys Artari-Kolumb, our GHIN Ukraine member, who today informed me of the dramatic situation his company is experiencing in the war in Ukraine,” Herbert says, adding that it’s “the dominant home improvement retail company in Ukraine, with 59 home improvement hypermarkets and sales exceeding 2 billion euros,” or almost $3 billion. Epicentre’s giant stores exceed one million square feet in size.

Herbert goes on to share the note he received from Artari-Kolumb: “Thank you very much for your support. Two Epicentres have already burned down. One was hit by a shell and broke through the roof. My main task for today is to move the family to a safe place; I’m doing it. We are doing a lot of work to organize the logistics of humanitarian goods and food through our logistics and shopping centres!”

Artari-Kolumb ends his note with a message of positivity that will resonate for everyone: “I am sure that we will save the world!!!”

Fall buying shows to go live, Home Hardware relocates its market to Toronto


The announcement last week that Home Hardware Stores Ltd. is planning an in-person 2022 Fall Market marks the growing trend for Canadian shows to go live again. Home Hardware is not alone here: BMR Group and Federated Co-op are other dealer groups that will host live events come the fall.

But the shift has not been without its pivots. Home Hardware’s announcement drew added attention for the fact that it will move, for the first time in 23 years, from the company’s distribution centre in St. Jacobs, Ont. The show will take place at the Enercare Centre on Toronto’s CNE grounds from Sept. 23 to 25. Home’s last live show was in St. Jacobs in the fall of 2019 (shown here).

One of the reasons for moving the event, says a Home Hardware spokesperson, is that the company has outgrown the space. Add to that the need for physical distancing. Even as the pandemic begins to settle down, health regulations will have to be respected. The narrow aisles that typified the layout of the show inside the company’s warehouse in the past would make that impossible.

There are logistical considerations as well. The effort of clearing out the warehouse for the show has become too disruptive, especially as the company now has in place new equipment and technology, including a new warehouse management system.

Other groups have confirmed their events for the fall season. BMR’s Salon d’achat will be held at the Quebec City Convention Centre from Nov. 9 to 11, while FCL’s Buymart will be held at Prairieland Park in Saskatoon on Oct. 16 and 17.

The hybrid approach will be a common scenario for most of these shows. TIMBER MART will take the same approach when its next show goes live at the Toronto Congress Centre on Feb. 16 and 17, 2023.

“We are looking at how we can create a physical show with the virtual platform advantages,” says Bernie Owens, president of TIMBER MART. “Our plan is to incorporate some of the virtual platform features—or learnings—into the live event.”

He cites as an example the fact that a dealer attending live can link their business’s staff to a virtual meeting when visiting a vendor’s booth.

In addition to a virtual platform, Home Hardware looks forward to the live aspect to deliver the networking that people have been deprived of for two years. “The special event we are planning for fall 2022 will support those key market traditions while providing dealers with the best opportunity to develop a strategic buying plan that drives growth and profitability for their stores,” said Rob Wallace, vice-president, retail operations.

However, no amount of planning can anticipate the state of the world six months out. The viability of a live Home Hardware show, says the company, will be dependent on conditions and mandates related to the state of the pandemic at that time.

Driven by credit card signups, Canadian Tire’s online sales take off in 2021

Canadian Tire continues to focus on its web strategy to drive sales. A key to that strategy is the promotion of its Triangle Rewards program. It’s tied in with a dedicated credit card, with 2.4 million new members joining the program in 2021, an increase of almost 50 percent.

Card users are easier to track and they help drive online sales. “Since 2019, we've doubled the number of customers acquired through digital channels,” said Greg Hicks, president and CEO of Canadian Tire, on a call to analysts during the release of CTC’s annual results.

He added that members spend more money when they shop at Canadian Tire than non-members, with average basket sizes that are 30 percent higher. And they are more likely to shop across Canadian Tire’s other banners, which include Sport Chek, PartSource, and Helly Hansen.

The program is also attracting younger shoppers. “A large portion of the 2021 cohort is made up of a younger customer demographic, a shift we’re very happy to see,” Hicks said, adding that “both our assortment and multiple shopping options are leading to the emergence of millennials as a key component of our Triangle membership customer base.”

People on the Move

M-D Building Products Inc. has created four business units and appointed division presidents to head them up. They are M-D Pro and Canadian Consumer, headed by Joe Comitale, M-D Consumer (headed by Kipp Collins), M-D Manufactured Solutions and Cardinal Aluminum (Mike Wasson), and Tower Sealants.


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Canadian Tire Corp. has suspended its Helly Hansen operations in Russia, including retail stores, e-commerce services, and product shipments. Store employees will continue to be paid during the temporary pause and the company will continue to honour its commercial obligations. Helly Hansen operates 41 retail locations in Russia with more than 300 employees.

TORBSA has added Pro-Depot in the Montreal borough of LaSalle as its newest shareholder member. Founded in 2013, ProDepot specializes in residential and commercial projects, offering masonry, concrete, vapour barrier, and other specialty restoration products.

Ikea has closed all 17 of its stores in Russia. It joins a growing list of companies evaluating their presence in the country as attacks continue on neighbouring Ukraine. Ikea says it has also stopped sourcing materials from Russia and Belarus.

TIMBER MART welcomed more than 1,400 dealers and vendors to its second Virtual Buying Show between Feb. 14 and 17. The show platform featured a virtual Store on the Floor where vendors presented a wide range of SKUs and store-planning ideas. A TIMBER MART area showcased all of the group’s offerings, including marketing programs and support, LBM distribution centres, TIMBER MART Essentials programs, lumber trading, and procurement.

Canadian Tire Corp. will invest $3.4 billion over the next four years “to deliver an improved omnichannel customer experience.” The company’s strategic growth plan includes an expansion of its private-label offerings. It also calls for a threefold increase in the Helly Hansen banner’s business.


Clearlake Capital Group has reached an agreement to acquire Intertape Polymer Group. The cash transaction is valued at some $2.6 billion. It is expected to close sometime in the third quarter, making IPG a privately held company. Shareholders will receive $40.50 per share in cash.

A panel of digital marketers at the latest DX3 conference identified sustainability and online sales among the top retail trends. The event, which gathers retail marketers from across Canada, was held virtually last week. Wes Wolch, SVP of marketing at Holt Renfrew, talked about the importance of reviewing product lines: the retailer discontinued selling furs last year and pulled all glitter and plastics from its merchandise.


The value of building permits decreased 8.8 percent to $10.1 billion in January, with residential permits down 11.6 percent to $6.7 billion. Most of the decline in the residential sector was in multi-family housing, but single-family intentions also decreased by 3.8 percent. British Columbia and Ontario drove the declines. (StatCan)


More than 90 percent of the products sold at Canadian Tire are priced under $50. These lines represent 50 percent of the retailer’s sales. Items costing over $200 have driven one-third of Canadian Tire’s growth through the pandemic.


“Our markets have always been much more than trade shows—they are an opportunity to build friendships, share ideas, and create deep connections across our dealer network and with our suppliers.” Rob Wallace, VP of retail operations for Home Hardware Stores Ltd., on the company’s return to a live buying event for its dealers this fall.

“I beg you not to consider all Russians guilty of this catastrophe. We did not call for this war. We are suffering together with the people of Ukraine, with whom we had been one country for 70 years. Almost all of us have relatives and friends in Ukraine.” Excerpt from an email which came originally from a retail home improvement executive in Russia.

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