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October 25, 2021 | Volume xxvii, #39



  • Through a year of challenges, top home improvement retailers shine bright
  • Amazon, other online players, are coming after LBM, warns Retail Prophet
  • Hardlines Conference introduces hybrid platform
  • Lowe’s Canada kicks off virtual buying event for its RONA dealers

PLUS: Lee Valley says delays expected, tool library receives grant from Peavey, Lowe’s Canada launches pre-assembled cabinet line, Martin Menard’s new role, The Bay resurrects Zellers brand in a pop-up, A. O. Smith acquires Giant, Trusscore raises cash, housing starts decrease, Tractor Supply’s strong Q3, existing home sales up, and more!

Through a year of challenges, top home improvement retailers shine bright

Suppliers and retailers from across Canada gathered last week to honour the retail home improvement industry’s best hardware and building supply retailers. The occasion was the 2021 Outstanding Retailer Awards Gala Dinner, which marked the end of day one of the 25th Annual Hardlines Conference at the Queen’s Landing hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

Attendance at this year’s Hardlines Conference and Awards Gala was limited by COVID safety protocols, so additional delegates were able to join the events virtually for the first time. Whether in person or remotely, leaders from the retail chains, co-ops, and buying groups from across the country were present to honour their members and fellow retailers.

Dealers were awarded in eight categories covering the range of hardware and home improvement retailing formats. This year’s winners are:

  • Best Hardware Store, any size – Gravenhurst Home Hardware, Gravenhurst, Ont. Ian and Tara McNaughton, owners. Sponsored by the North American Hardware and Paint Association (NHPA).
  • Best Building Supply or Home Centre under 15,000 square feet – Bulkley Valley Home Centre, Telkwa, B.C. Lenard Vriend, Travis Nanninga, Rodney Leffers, and Darin Super, owners. Sponsored by Taiga Building Products.
  • Best Building Supply or Home Centre over 15,000 square feet – GrandErie Home Hardware Building Centre, Dunnville, Ont. Ken Zantingh, Henry DeKlerk, Bert Mulder, Wes Zantingh, and Nathan Mulder, owners. Sponsored by JRTech Solutions.
  • Best Contractor Specialist – RONA Cowansville, Cowansville, Que. Luc Lamarche, store manager. Sponsored by Johns Manville Canada.
  • Best Large Surface Retailer – RONA Kelowna, Kelowna, B.C. Matt Wachter, store manager. Sponsored by Techniseal.
  • Best Young Retailer – Jillian Sexton, co-owner of Sherwood TIMBER MART, Charlottetown, P.E.I. Sponsored by BMF.
  • Marc Robichaud Community Leader – Gibsons Building Supplies. Julie Reeves, CEO. Sponsored by Trex.
  • Retail Spirit – Annapolis Home Hardware Building Centre, Annapolis Royal, N.S. Rob and Joanne Lawrie, owners. Sponsored by the National Hardware Show (NHS).

The winners are carefully chosen from a field of high-quality nominees submitted from every part of Canada. The winners stood out within this elite group thanks to their ability to exceed in the areas of good business practice, customer relations, innovation, and niche marketing.

“Over the past year and a half, we have seen the entire retail home improvement industry rise to meet the challenges of COVID, serving customers and taking care of customers under extremely distressing conditions,” said Michael McLarney, president of Hardlines.

Amazon, other online players, are coming after LBM, warns Retail Prophet

Retail is undergoing a massive sea change, analyst Doug Stephens told the 25th Hardlines Conference last week.

The founder of Retail Prophet is a keen observer of retail trends and he kicked off the conference sharing his insights with told the combined in-person and virtual audience.

“Some say this is all just acceleration of trends that would happen anyway. I don’t believe that. I believe COVID has become like a wormhole in time. We’ve been ripped out of the industrial era and put firmly into the digital era,” he said, referring to the changes that have occurred over the past two years.

This shift, said Stephens, is affecting everything from store format to logistics to staffing. “For e-retailers, this has been 19 months of steroid drip.” At the same time, the push to get products to the consumer’s door has become paramount. “We’re also seeing a delivery arms race.”

Stephens pointed to one online company whose digital expertise is cutting edge—and represents a trend to watch. JD.com employs something called “anticipatory shipping.” When the Chinese online merchant sees a spike in clicks on a given item, it can calculate the approximate proportion of those views that will result in sales and start to move product accordingly. He warned that this kind of deep understanding of data will continue to grow.

“The endgame is that Amazon could eventually start shipping products to customers before they order them,” said Stephens.

More and more, those products will be hardlines and—yes—building materials, he further warned. The notion that LBM is just too big or bulky for the digital supply chain is fast being disproved by a range of players.

“It’s easy to pick on Amazon: they’re the piñata but everyone is coming for home improvement.” This, he stressed, will place a huge competitive challenge in front of traditional dealers.

The solution, he says, is to become indispensable. “What’s your purpose to consumers? If your brand is the answer, what is the question?”

Stephens outlined a grid with four fields: product, culture, expertise, and entertainment. “What quadrant are you going to dominate? That’s the only way to beat Amazon: to go so far down your rabbit-hole that no one can get to you.”

Hardlines Conference introduces hybrid platform

Dealers, vendors, agents, and executives from across Canada descended on the Queen’s Landing hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., last week for the 25th Hardlines Conference. Postponed from 2020 due to the pandemic, it was, for many attendees, the first in-person event for the industry in Canada.

Doug Stephens, founder of Retail Prophet, opened the first morning’s program (see story in this issue). Hardlines president Michael McLarney and retail consultant Bill Morrison then took the stage for the inaugural Hardlines Debate.

The pair found much common ground in their forecasts for the industry over the coming years, but Morrison expressed more pessimism about the trials to be endured in the medium term on the road to recovery. “I am tremendously confident in this industry,” he said. “But there are bills coming due, and I think we can expect a very different approach to how the economy will look.”

Economist Peter Norman had previously addressed the Hardlines Conference in 2019, just a few short months before the pandemic put the brakes on everything. “Unfortunately, you can scrap everything I told you in 2019,” he acknowledged at the outset. “Recovery has been very strong but uneven. It’s the unevenness that brings risks, but also opportunities.”

Other speakers included Jamal Hamad, who heads up the pro business for Home Depot Canada, and Marc MacDonald, head of HR for Lowe’s Canada.

Rob Faries, owner of three Ace stores in the neighbouring communities of Moose Factory and Moosonee, Ont., opened the second morning’s program. A Cree descended from a “company servant family” formed by the offspring of Hudson’s Bay traders and local indigenous women, he recalled the stir his father Donald Faries created when he opened his own business in the 1970s.

“It was a big deal. You don’t compete against the Hudson’s Bay Company. But he did, and it was noted.”

Faries faces unique challenges in getting product to his stores in the far north due to their distance from transportation hubs. In the spring and fall, inventory has to be brought in by way of pricey helicopter shipments.

Donald passed away just weeks before the conference, and the audience was moved as Rob recalled his father’s pride knowing that Rob would be addressing this year’s delegates.

Peavey Industries CEO Doug Anderson (shown here) then took the stage, recounting how the company pivoted to bring the Ace banner on board during the pandemic. He also discussed the integration of the TSC stores into the Peavey banner.

Finally, Home Hardware’s Kevin Macnab gave an overview of Home Hardware’s development over the past few years and its current transformation under his leadership. He spoke of the company’s focus on growth in Quebec, demonstrated by its acquisition of Patrick Morin, and its shift “from a wholesale model to a dealer-owned integrated model.”

“We are taking a more strategic approach with our suppliers,” he added. “We recognize that we are always stronger when working together and firmly believe that solid partnerships and collaboration are the key to success.”

At the end of the second morning, attendees were sent home with box lunches and an invitation to join the next Hardlines Conference on Oct. 18 and 19, 2022.

Lowe’s Canada kicks off virtual buying event for its RONA dealers

More than 500 participants from nearly 200 RONA affiliated stores took part last week in the second virtual RONA Buying Show organized by Lowe’s Canada.

For seven weeks, dealers will be able to discover new products and meet online experts. To give dealers more flexibility and a chance to make the most of the platform, and to allow them to focus on running their stores, the show has been divided into three events, each of them lasting either two or three weeks. Each event focuses on specific product categories: home décor, lumber and building materials, and seasonal and horticulture.

The online event kicked off with video presentations from the Lowe’s Canada executive team, speaking directly with the dealers. Participants also had access to thematic conferences, presentations, and workshops. Exhibitors can use the show’s platform to upload pre-recorded videos and promotional material to explain product features. The virtual show includes promotional offers and the ability for dealers to plan virtual meetings with members of their dealer support team.

As part of the event, the 2021 RONA Builder of Success awards were presented to outstanding dealers. RONA Val-des-Monts (Val-des-Monts, Que.) and owner Claude Bélec were recognized in the Community category. Michael and Stephen Allen of RONA North Vancouver and RONA Powell River received the Young Entrepreneur award. André Dagenais, owner of RONA H. Dagenais & Fils in Saint-Sauveur and Sainte-Anne-des-Lacs, Que., was recognized for Lifetime Achievement.

Martin Menard has joined Longueuil, Que.-based wholesaler Évolution Distribution as director for floor covering. He was previously with BMR Group for 13 years, followed by a brief stint at Lowe’s Canada.

Vanesa Fung has joined Montreal-based merchandising company RDTS as marketing coordinator. Her main duties are assisting with the development, execution, and monitoring of the website, social media, content marketing campaigns, creating original content, projects across Canada, strategies, and market research. She was previously a social media community manager for Really Local Harvest.

Shaun Guthrie has been appointed senior vice president, information technology, at Peavey Industries, based at the company’s Red Deer head office. He was formerly with the CIO Association of Canada in the role of vice president.

At BuildDirect Technologies Inc., CEO Dan Park will trade that role for the chair of its board, effective Dec. 31. Effective immediately, former Home Depot Canada executive Peg Hunter and Henry Lees-Buckley have also been appointed to the board. The company has engaged Boyden Canada, an executive search firm, to recruit a new CEO.




... that the 2021 Hardlines Market Share Report is now available? It features exclusive information on the market share in every store format, region, and province using sales data for year-end 2020. Sales by province and region of every hardware and home improvement retailer in the country are detailed. Changes from the 2019 to 2020 data are presented in percentages and market shares are broken down by store format. Click here to order yours today!


Lee Valley Tools told customers by email this month that it was dispatching its Christmas catalogue “uncomfortably early.” That’s because it is expecting major delays in order fulfillment ahead of the holiday rush. “The message for consumers is buy early, because there is no chance to reorder or to replenish [before Christmas],” CEO Robin Lee told CBC News. Compounding those problems, Lee said that labour and fuel shortages are driving up product prices.

The Guelph Tool Library in Guelph, Ont., has received a Peavey Industries Community Agriculture Grant valued at $20,000. The funding will support the Guelph Urban Food Initiative, which includes a seed library and community garden. The award was the result of a national contest in support of community agriculture projects across Canada. Peavey distributes a total of $100,000 each year to grants in support of projects in that field.

Lowe’s Canada is launching an exclusive collection of pre-assembled, Canadian-made cabinets. Called Eklipse, the line includes drawers, shelves, hinges, and legs. Since the legs are adjustable, all that remains is to level the pre-assembled boxes and install them. The boxes’ doors and drawers are equipped with Richelieu Hardware’s signature soft closing system.

A Burlington, Ont., Bay store has resurrected the iconic Zellers brand in pop-up form. It’s offering a limited selection of clothing, housewares, and toys. But in a twist, Hudson’s Bay Co. has filed sued against a Quebec family that has applied for trademarks for companies using the Zellers name. In a claim submitted to the Federal Court of Canada, HBC says the Moniz family is infringing on its trademark and deceiving customers. The family has applied for trademarks for businesses with names such as Zellers Inc. and Zellers Convenience Store Inc.

U.S. farm and ranch retailer Tractor Supply Co. saw sales for its third-quarter increase 15.8 percent to $3.02 billion compared with the third quarter of 2020. Comparable store sales increased 13.1 percent, as compared to an increase of 26.8 percent in the prior year’s third quarter. Gross profit increased 14.5 percent to $1.09 billion.


Global water tech firm A. O. Smith Corp. has acquired Giant Factories Inc. The purchase price is approximately US$192 million in cash. The Canadian manufacturer of residential and commercial water heaters employs 300 people, mostly in Canada, and has approximate annual sales of US$105 million. A family-owned business founded in 1945, Giant manufactures water heaters at two facilities in Montreal and sells water heating products across Canada.

Wall and ceiling specialist Trusscore has raised $26 million in Series A funding. Led by Round 13 Capital, the investment will enable Trusscore to grow in research and development and sales and marketing capabilities. It will also drive additional manufacturing capacity to meet growing product demand.


The seasonally adjusted annual rate of housing starts was 251,151 units in September. That was a decrease of 4.4 percent from 262,754 units in August. The SAAR of urban starts decreased by 4.5 percent to 223,055 units. Single-detached urban starts decreased by 5.9 percent to 57,194 units. (CMHC)

Sales of existing homes were up 0.9 percent between August and September. That was the first month-over-month increase since March. The actual (not seasonally adjusted) number of transactions in September was down 17.5 percent on a year-over-year basis, from the record for that month set last year. However, it was still the second-highest ever September sales figure by a sizeable margin. (Canadian Real Estate Association)

U.S. housing starts saw an unexpected decrease in September. The seasonally adjusted annual rate fell by 1.6 percent to 1.56 million units. Permits for September dropped by 7.7 percent to a rate of 1.59 million units. (U.S. Commerce Dept.)


HomeStars, the online marketplace connecting homeowners with contractors, has released its third annual Reno Report. Through the Angus Reid Forum, the company surveyed Canadian homeowners who have undertaken renovations since the pandemic’s onset. The findings challenged conventional wisdom, as 68 percent of respondents said that COVID-19 did not influence their decision to renovate. Instead, the top reason cited was to improve the overall aesthetics of the home.


“Again this year, through these hardships, we were able to identify retailers and individuals that were truly outstanding through this time. We are proud to share their excellence through these awards.”
—Michael McLarney, president of Hardlines, on the achievements that exemplified this year’s Outstanding Retailer Award winners. They were honoured at the 25th Hardlines Conference, held last week.


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