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May 2, 2022 | Volume xxviii, #18


  • Lowe’s, BMR, Sexton Group among presenters at 2022 Hardlines Conference
  • Gillfor reinforces national reach with takeover of AFA Forest Products
  • Home Depot’s latest appointments reinforce its online commitment
  • Urban dealers face challenges amidst rising rents, increased densification

PLUS: Home Depot Canada Foundation increases investment in supporting homeless youth, Home Hardware supports kids’ sports, Hudson’s Bay’s historic building in downtown Winnipeg turned over to First Nations, return of Slegg’s pro show, Walmart Canada retail staff get wearables, U.S. home sales tank, and more!

Lowe’s, BMR, Sexton Group among presenters at 2022 Hardlines Conference

Canada’s retail home improvement leaders will be able to gather face-to-face once again this year at the 26th Hardlines Conference. This year’s event will provide a valuable and welcome forum to share ideas, knowledge, and networking. The conference is being held Oct. 18 and 19 at the Queen’s Landing Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

Our keynote presenters will include Tony Cioffi, president of Lowe’s Canada; Jonathan Gendreau, vice president for business development, marketing, and customer experience at BMR Group; and Eric Palmer, vice president and general manager of Sexton Group. They will share their insights with an audience of top retailers and buying group executives, as well as leading wholesalers and manufacturers from across the country.

The Hardlines Conference will be presented both live and virtually again this year. The event will continue the dual formats established last year, giving anyone in the industry the opportunity to participate—regardless of their location.

Also on the speakers’ roster this year: Dan Tratensek, COO and publisher at the North American Paint and Hardware Association. He will share the latest data on trends among hardware retailers in North America as they cope with the vagaries of an unpredictable marketplace—and an ever-more demanding customer.

Peter Norman, chief economist and vice president of Altus Group, will provide the latest updates on the direction of the economy, along with trends in the housing and renovation markets in Canada. There will also be a fascinating retail case study presented by Joanne and Rob Lawrie, owners of eight Home Hardware stores in Nova Scotia.

The event is returning to the Queen’s Landing Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake, a scenic destination just 70 minutes from Toronto Pearson International Airport. This year’s conference will kick off with the ever-popular networking Pub Night on the evening of Oct. 17. The 30th Annual Outstanding Retailer Awards Gala is a must-attend event on the evening of the first day of the conference, Oct. 18.

The 26th Hardlines Conference will be held Oct. 18 and 19, 2022, at the Queen’s Landing Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., and will be webcast virtually to delegates across the country. (To see the full list of speakers and to register, please click here!)


Gillfor reinforces national reach with takeover of AFA Forest Products

Gillfor Distribution Inc. announced last week its acquisition of AFA Forest Products Inc. AFA is an LBM distributor headquartered in Bolton, Ont., which owns and operates 13 distribution facilities, serving the entire Canadian retail home improvement market.

Gillfor says it will operate “in parallel” with AFA “until a full operational assessment is completed and a seamless integration can be executed.”

Headed by Grant Yegavian, CEO, and president Murray Finkbiner, AFA is the latest acquisition by Gillfor in its ongoing effort to firmly establish its position as a key national player on the building materials distribution scene.

The company believes the product lines of both companies will represent a strategic fit. AFA brings some specialty product lines that complement Gillfor’s current assortments. At the same time, the parent company is expected capitalized on the expanded reach into the market afforded by AFA’s own distribution.

“This acquisition makes perfect sense on many levels,” Dave Varallo, president of Gillfor Distribution, told Hardlines. “It provides countless synergies in the areas of reach, logistics, product representation, people, and more. We could not be more excited to make this organization the largest and best distribution company for building materials in Canada.”

Based in Woodstock, Ont., Gillfor is the brainchild of the Gill brothers, Gary, Bal, and Amritpal. In 2012 they determined they wanted to establish a national distribution channel for the family’s cedar production in British Columbia.

Gillfor Distribution was established when OWL Distribution in Woodstock, Ont., and McIlveen Lumber, an LBM wholesaler based in Calgary merged to form the new business in 2017. A year later, the company added Brown & Rutherford in Winnipeg and Brunswick Valley Distribution, based in Fredericton.

The combined operations of all the Gillfor businesses now represent 19 facilities across Canada.  

“This acquisition will elevate Gillfor to be amongst the largest Canadian distributors for building products, and allow us to truly provide local partnerships from coast to coast,” said Gary Gill, chairman of Gillfor Distribution.


Home Depot’s latest appointments reinforce its online commitment

As retailers figure out their online sales game, The Home Depot has repeatedly shown its leadership in this area. Well before COVID put greater demands on all retailers to provide a shoppable online presence, Home Depot had been committed to its omnichannel shopping experience—what it now calls the “extended aisle.”

Now Big Orange is doubling down to provide a seamless shopping experience for its customers, whether they access the retailer online or in person. That includes repositioning its COO, Matt Carey (shown here), to the new role of executive vice president of customer experience, overseeing customer tech (see last week’s searing edition of Hardlines! —your helpful Editor).

Carey’s background includes serving as senior vice president and chief technology officer at eBay. He is joined by Fahim Siddiqui, who has been named Home Depot’s EVP and chief information officer. Siddiqui was formerly SVP of information technology.

“Now more than ever, our customers expect to shop with us how, when, and where they want—and there’s little tolerance for friction in the shopping experience,” said Ted Decker, president and CEO of Home Depot. He added that Carey’s extensive tech background in retail makes him well-suited to “continue to make shopping at Home Depot a truly interconnected, easy experience for our customers.” 

Home Depot (along with its rival, Lowe’s Cos.) is forecasting flatter growth for 2022 as the world hopefully continues to emerge from the pandemic. But its online sales, which reportedly grew 86 percent in 2020 alone, continue to climb.

Urban dealers face challenges amidst rising rents, increased densification

The downtown areas of many Canadian cities are undergoing rapid densification—driven mostly by condo towers. Urban Canada is undergoing its biggest transformation since the rise of the skyscraper in the 1930s.

Running a successful hardware store in the city has always been a challenge because of higher real estate costs and limited space. Home improvement stores which are still thriving in downtown environments have become rare.

One such store in Victoria, B.C., Cook Street Castle, has a unique urban feature: it is located on the first floor of an apartment building. It even has a drive-through lumberyard. When it was built in the 1970s, the building was designed to have a window and sash store on the first floor. The current Castle outlet moved into the location in 1985.

There are some challenges with being on the first floor of a residential building. One is limited space: the store needs to be selective about what products they carry, explains owner Vicki Hagel (shown here).

“There’s no lack of opportunity [for hardware stores],” says Bill Morrison, retail consultant. “Downtown Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary, and Ottawa are vital areas with a lot happening—obviously lots of people that potentially could shop a hardware store.”

But urban areas are problematic for hardware stores because a home improvement retail business require three things, Morrison explains. “One, it requires a relatively large space because customers want a complete solution, lots of parts. A hardware store requires many items to get it right, many sizes of hooks, nails, screws, tools, and many other things that come with servicing a community’s needs.”

Another requirement is access to potential employees who can understand the complexities of hardware and home improvement. These types of employees are not always easy to acquire in downtown areas.

And the third necessary component of a hardware business is reasonably-priced real estate, which is extinct in most downtowns.

(This is an excerpt from a larger article in the latest edition of our sister publication, Hardlines Home Improvement Quarterly. The second quarter edition of HHIQ has been mailed to 11,000 dealers and store managers across Canada. If you’re not getting your own copy—it’s free to retailers and retail head offices—click here!)



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The Home Depot Canada Foundation announced it is increasing its investment to prevent and end youth homelessness to $125 million by 2030. The foundation recently surpassed its initial $50 million pledge with more than $5 million disbursed across Canadian communities. Over the past several months it has worked through the Orange Door Project Campaign, TradeWorx, and innovation grants to its 15 regional partners organization over the last several months.

Home Hardware has partnered with shopping rewards app FlipGive to launch the Play More Matching Grant. It will offer $75,000 in matching grants to sports teams to help kids and their families with participation costs. The program allows teams to register on FlipGive so that parents can lower the cost to play by shopping for products from over 700 brands. The first 250 teams to raise $100 will receive a $100 matching grant.

Slegg Building Materials, with 10 locations on Vancouver Island, is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. The Slegg organization is in an upbeat mood for another reason, too. On May 6, Slegg will present its 2022 Slegg Pro Show, the first such live event in two years owing to COVID-19 restrictions. The event will take place at The Q Centre, Victoria, B.C.

W. W. Grainger’s Q1 sales came to $3.6-billion, up 18.2 percent from the comparable period of 2021. Operating earnings of $534-million were up 49 percent from a year ago. Earnings amounted to $7.07 on a per-share basis, a 57.8 percent surge from 2021.

Walmart Canada is providing its retail staff with wearable ring scanners. The tech is designed to simplify and speed up workers’ ability to fulfill online grocery orders. The company ordered more than 1,500 of the wearables. Employees can use them to scan products by pushing a button with their thumbs.

Hudson’s Bay Co. is transferring ownership of its downtown Winnipeg property to an umbrella group of Manitoba First Nations. The Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) is the recipient of the 600,000-square-foot Beaux Arts building. The site will serve as a multipurpose space including 300 housing units, two restaurants, a health clinic, daycare centre, and museums. “This is a shift in our history,” said SCO grand chief Jerry Daniels. “We’re seeing a very significant and visible transition that really puts into action what has been referred to as economic reconciliation.”


Stanley Black & Decker has signed an agreement to sell its automatic doors business, Access Technologies. Irish security products firm Allegion is purchasing the business for $900-million in cash. James Loree, Stanley Black & Decker’s CEO, said proceeds from the sale will go toward reducing debt and buying back shares.

Canfor will invest $130-million to modernize and expand its Urbana, Ark., sawmill and planer facility. The mill will continue to operate through the 18-month project, which is expected to increase its production by 115 million board feet per year. Ground breaking is slated to take place during the third quarter of this year.


Sales of new U.S. homes fell by 8.6 percent in March to an annualized rate of 763,000 units. February’s pace was revised upward to 835,000 units from the preliminary estimate of 772,000 units. All four regions of the country saw declines in March. (U.S. Commerce Dept.)


The latest edition of Hardlines HR Advisor was delivered last week to subscribers’ inboxes! In this issue, we look at the importance of your company's own brand for attracting good hires. PLUS: supporting worker morale and managing COVID sick days. If you’re not already receiving HR Advisor, click here to sign up for free!



“We will have well over a thousand trade professionals attending to gather information and ideas from over 70 of our top vendors. This event is a huge hit on the island and customers, staff, and vendors look forward to it every year. It’s great to be back—pre-registration is well ahead of past years already!”
—Tim Urquhart, president of Slegg Building Materials on Vancouver Island, on the return of the 10-store chain’s trade show for pro customers following a two-year hiatus under COVID.


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