John Caulfield, Contributing Editor
vol. xi, #39, October 17, 2005

IN THIS ISSUE: • Home Depot’s new web address is up-market • Canadian Tire, RONA want more global sourcing • Housing remains strong in September • Two industry veterans get honoured • ABSDA develops training for mature workers • Home Hardware gets fleet certification • U.S. group asks for end to softwood tariffs • DIYers want “solutions,” not just products * * * * * *

“There are all kinds of guests. There is the dinner guest, the week-end visitor, the monthly guest, and, if you’re not careful, the permanent guest.” —Groucho Marx (from “Memoirs of a Mangy Lover”)
SPECIAL REPORT–Two veterans of the hardlines business were honoured recently. And Hardlines had the pleasure to witness one of them firsthand. Thomas and Janice Kennedy of Camerons Building Supplies in Glace Bay, N.S., recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. At the same time, Thomas was honoured with the Estwing Gold Hammer by Sodisco-Howden Group for more then 50 years in the hardware and building supply industry. Kennedy, known affectionately as “Jeep,” got his start in 1955 working for the former owner of Camerons Building Supplies, then moved to Chappels Building Supplies in Sydney, N.S., five years later. When Chappels was purchased by Nova Scotia Building Supplies in the early ’70s, Jeep stayed on as manager until september of 1977. At that time, he returned to Glace Bay and bought up the business he began his career in. The presentation was made by Dave Dingwall, regional sales manager for Sodisco-Howden in Atlantic Canada, on behalf of Ken O’Meara of Keyline Marketing, which represents Estwing in Canada. Shown (l-r): Bill Gillis, manager of Camerons (and Kennedy’s son-in-law); Dave Dingwell, Janice Kennedy; and Thomas (Jeep) Kennedy. Meeting Stan Leitch again after many years recalls the days when Sodisco-Howden Group had a direct competitor in the form of Leitch’s former employer, Cochrane-Dunlop. This company represented $120 million in sales through some franchised dealers under the Dominion Hardware and Marshall Wells banners. Leitch was the guy in charge of dealer development. But his hardware experience began at the tender age of 13, working in a local hardware store in Southwestern Ontario. He eventually became a store manager, but was plucked from the sales floor to work for Cochrane-Dunlop, managing the supplier’s 20-odd corporate stores. Leitch was responsible for the launch of the Dominion Hardware program, eventually becoming manager of Dominion, “going after Pro stores and independents,” he recalls. He ended his time at Cochrane-Dunlop as branch manager for the company’s warehouse at Dundas and Bloor in Toronto’s east end. Hardlines travelled to London, Ont., to join Leitch as he received an Estwing gold hammer award, courtesy again of Keyline’s Ken O’Meara, who represents Estwing in Canada. He also received a tribute plaque from a former CD team-mate, Laurie Blackwood Pike, who worked for Leitch during the mid-’80s.
ATLANTA–A new catalogue and website selling high-end decorative hardware, décor and accessories was launched last month, called “10 Crescent Lane.” But read the fine print and you’ll see it’s copyrighted by “Homer TLC Inc.” Yup, Home Depot is behind this one.A monthly catalogue, available by mail or online at, features a range of products not found at your local Home Depot store. The emphasis is on flooring, bed and bath, and furniture. A section called “Home Accents” features everything from candles and artwork to vases and silk flowers.“As a member of the Home Depot family, we are your source of inspiration and products for today's well appointed home,” says the website. “Our unique concept defines the emerging home décor trends and provides the fine furnishings that make these looks possible within your own walls.”
BOUCHERVILLE, Que. & TORONTO–Canadian Tire wants to ensure Canadians “start with them”. But it continues to look for low-cost sourcing to do it. That means more emphasis than ever on proprietary brands – and offshore sourcing.“We want customers to start at Canadian Tire,” says Mark Foote, president of Canadian Tire Retail. “If you’re doing your car, working on your lawn, buying a bike, getting your kid into hockey, we want our store to be the place you start.”Among the things you’ll expect to find at a local Canadian Tire are quality products and what Foote calls “price assurance.” Canadian Tire has an offshore sourcing target for 2009 of 48%, with the vast majority of those products coming from the Pacific Rim. Already, he says, 75 cents out of every dollar sold at Canadian Tire stores is for goods already made outside of North America. Plus, he says, the company’s voracious supply chain needs high inventory that is readily available from China. Canadian Tire is not alone. RONA inc. already sells 12% of its products under private label, and the addition in recent months of some 200 items puts the number of private-label products at around 1,900 SKUs. But it wants more. The target level is 15%, a plateau it intends to reach by 2007. Like Canadian Tire, RONA is increasing its presence overseas. Membership in the European buying Group A.R.E.N.A. gives it the benefit of offices in Ho Chi Minh City, Shanghai and Hong Kong. The group, which RONA joined after leaving the Alliance International LLC in fall 2004, represents $30 billion in retail sales through retail organizations in 10 countries on four continents.
OTTAWA–The pace of new housing in Canada remains healthy, as starts were up 11.7% from August to September. The seasonally adjusted rate of starts hit 230,500 units in September, up from 206,200 units in August, according to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.“Housing starts across Canada remain strong and are on track with our expectations for the year,” said Bob Dugan, chief economist at CMHC’s Market Analysis Centre. “Low mortgage rates and increasing full-time employment in recent years are continuing to fuel high levels of housing starts in 2005.”The seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts rose 13.8% to 199,800 units in September, due to strong increases in both multiple and single starts. Multiple starts rose 17.8% to 103,400 units, while single starts were up 9.9% to 96,400 units in September compared to August. The stronger performance of multiple starts compared to single starts is the result of rising house prices, says CMHC, which can shift demand toward less expensive multi-family homes. Multiple starts are poised to outnumber single starts in 2005 for the first time since 1982. Urban housing starts were up across all regions in September except Atlantic Canada. Housing starts were up 19.8% to 45,400 units in the Prairies, 17.9% to 45,400 units in Quebec, 12.7% to 65,500 units in Ontario, and 11.4% to 35,100 units in British Columbia. In the Atlantic region, the seasonally adjusted annual rate of urban starts fell 11.6% to 8,400 units. Rural starts in September were estimated at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 30,700 units. For the first nine months of 2005, actual urban starts were 4.7% lower than in the same period in 2004. Year-to-date single starts decreased 10.1%, while multiple starts increased 1.1% compared to the same period last year.
MONCTON, N.B.–While a great deal of attention is paid to luring young people into the retail world, a new program being developed here is aimed at the ever-growing pool of mature workers.A 24-week Professional Building Supplies Sales training course has been created by the Atlantic Building Supply Dealers Association, in conjunction with the Nova Scotia Community College in Dartmouth, N.S. Aimed at senior workers, especially part-time or out-of-work individuals, the 24-week program will end in time for graduates to enter the workforce in time for the busy spring selling season.The program has been promoted over the past months in the news media, through the NSCC website and directly to the ABSDA’s membership of independent building supply dealers throughout Atlantic Canada. For more info on the program, contact Don Sherwood, president of the ABSDA: 506-859-0062,
WASHINGTON — The National Association of Home Builders has called on the Bush Administration again to retract lumber tariffs imposed on exports of Canadian softwood. Canadian product historically has accounted for one-third of the lumber consumed in the United States.The trade group, whose members construct about 85% of the homes built in the U.S. annually, renewed its call to end high tariffs after the latest in a series of international rulings against the United States, and a finding for a fifth time by a panel for the North American Free Trade Agreement that Canadian subsidies of exported lumber were below 1%, which under U.S. law excluded those products from duties.“It is time to eliminate this hidden tax that has cost American consumers billions of dollars,” says David Wilson, NAHB’s president and a custom homebuilder from Ketchum, Idaho. Although a NAFTA ruling carries the weight of law in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, the Bush Administration has repeatedly failed to comply with its legal obligations to rescind the duties and return all duties paid out by Canadian firms. The NAFTA panel gave the American government until October 28 to comply.
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DEBERT, N.S. – Home Hardware Stores Ltd. has received qualification of its Debert trucking fleet with CSA International’s Carrier Safety Management System Standard. Home Hardware is reportedly the first Canadian retailer to implement the CSMS standard, which provides organizations that transport goods on public roadways with a framework to help minimize the risk of accidents and safety incidents. Home Hardware distributes products to more than 1,000 members, operating more than two million sq.ft. of warehouse space in Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Alberta, as well as a fleet of 125 power units and 425 trailers. Nova Scotia and Ontario are certified, and Home Hardware plans to roll out the CSMS program to its Alberta Transportation Division over the next six months. BROCKVILLE, Ont. – Home Depot Canada opened its 126th store last week in this town, situated between Ottawa and Toronto. Another 11 are planned for the remainder of Home Depot’s fiscal year, which ends January 31, 2006. That will bring the total number of Home Depot outlets in this country to 137. Home Depot accounts for just over 14% of all home improvement sales in Canada, according to the latest Hardlines Retail Report.TORONTO–Hydro One has teamed up with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. and Natural Resources Canada to provide financial incentives for energy-efficiency upgrades to low-income Hydro One customers who heat their homes with electricity. Under the Home Energy Efficiency Grant initiative, Hydro One will offer up to $3,000 per qualifying household, in conjunction with CMHC’s Homeowner Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program and NRCan’s EnerGuide for Houses service. OAK BROOK, Ill.–Norcross Safety Products L.L.C., a manufacturer and distributor of protective equipment, has signed a definitive agreement to acquire all outstanding shares of Fibre-Metal Products Co. Fibre-Metal, headquartered in Concordville, Penn., is a privately held designer and manufacturer of head protection equipment. The company has additional locations in Aston, Pennsylvania and Mississauga, Ontario. The deal is expected to close, subject to regulatory clearance, in the fourth quarter of 2005. GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The building materials distributor Universal Forest Products is launching a new division that will focus on outdoor living products such as decking, trim board and lattice. The division, called Universal Consumer Products, essentially brings together those components of the company’s operations that produce consumer-oriented products, which Universal markets under such names as TechTrim (polymer trim board) and Maine Ornamental (decorative post caps). NEW YORK–First Wal-Mart and McDonald’s got the documentary film treatment. Now it’s Home Depot’s turn. “Don’t Box Me In” follows the efforts of a toney part of Miami to keep the big box retailer out of their neighborhood. The 35-minute film recounts the battle between local council and residents, which resulted in Home Depot successfully getting approval for the store.
New housing prices in August climbed 0.4% compared to July, while the 12-month rate of increase slipped to 4.6% from 4.7% in July, reports Stats Canada. An active market for new housing, along with higher prices for building materials and labour, continued to elevate prices at the national level. Land value increases were a contributing factor in 10 of the 21 metropolitan areas surveyed.Home improvement mania is continuing to sweep the nation, as three-quarters of Canadian homeowners are planning to renovate or make home improvements within the next 24 months. That’s up from 60% a year ago, reports a new survey from RBC Financial Group. Furthermore, 68% plan to do so in the next twelve months, and 74% would continue with their plans even if housing prices were to level off or decline.
“Home Depot has automated check-outs in about 70% of U.S. stores and will have the feature in 46 Canadian stores by year end.”–Tom Taylor, Home Depot’s new executive vice-president of merchandising and marketing, to an audience of retail and supplier executives at the Hardlines Conference, held last month in Markham, Ont.

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