Latest changes at Home Hardware see realignment of LBM merchant team

Amidst ongoing change at the upper management levels and a shakeup of its hardlines buying team, Home Hardware Stores Ltd. has made a strategic realignment of its LBM merchandise manager roles. Susan Ryan has been appointed to the newly created position of merchandise manager, millwork, and Mark Pardue has been promoted to merchandise manager, building materials.

Ryan joins the company with more than 20 years of millwork experience at RONA and Lansing. Prior to his appointment, Pardue was Home’s merchandise manager for LBM, Ontario. Both individuals report to Merchandise LBM Director Doug Shantz.

“We believe that this realignment will serve to enhance our strong national and regional LBM merchandise programs, optimize our supplier partnerships and enable us to execute on our vision to be Canada’s most trusted and preferred home improvement retail brand,” said Marianne Thompson, VP of merchandise LBM.

This shuffle was the latest in a series of changes transforming Home Hardware’s senior executive and buying teams. That includes the hiring of Thompson herself, who only joined the company in January. As both a company outsider and someone from the vendor side, her appointment was an indicator that Home Hardware was prepared to make significant changes under the direction of President and CEO Kevin Macnab, who took the helm last autumn.

Barely a month before, Home Hardware reshuffled its hardlines buying team. Brian Straus and Dave Martin were appointed as directors, merchandise hardlines, with Richard Sweeney and Mike Morin named merchandise managers, both reporting directly to Martin.

Lee Valley Tools’ Quebec expansion remains focused on customer experience

With 21 stores across Canada, Lee Valley Tools has always been, since its inception as a catalogue retailer, committed to bricks and mortar. And Lee Valley President Robin Lee is intent on making those spaces vibrant destinations for customer interaction.

The specialty tool and garden supply company started in Ottawa in 1978 and has spread across the country, mainly in major cities, but with some interesting exceptions. In recent years, it has identified smaller centres that serve as destinations in their own right. Two years ago, after debating whether to open in Stratford, Ont. (home to a renowned Shakespearean theatre festival), Lee settled on Niagara Falls, Ont.

(Another store that focuses more on the educational toys, novelties and popular tools available from Lee Valley, called L.G. Lee & Sons, was opened in 2015 in the town of Almonte, Ont., just west of Ottawa.)

Lee is currently focused on continued growth in Quebec. The first store there opened in Laval in September 2018. The success of that location has encouraged him to look for other sites. “Laval is our largest store to date. It features lots of new innovations,” Lee notes.

The next one will be in Brossard on Montreal’s South Shore. Lee expects that one to open in the fall of 2020.

All Lee Valley stores regularly host activities—everything from knife sharpening classes for adults to wood-burning workshops for children. “It’s not about trying to sell tools. It’s trying to promote handcraft and the acquisition of skills,” he says.

Reflecting on the importance of activities for kids, he adds, “It’s a small thing, but it’s an example of how to interact with customers. There has to be a takeaway—and that takeaway doesn’t have to be a product. It can be an experience.”

After Brossard, Lee expects the next store in Quebec to be on Montreal’s West Island, followed by Quebec City. He envisions a total of four stores in the province. After that, he muses, Moncton may be next.

“And we’ll keep an eye on Newfoundland.”

Canadian Tire ties the online experience back to its bricks and mortar

The online experience should not be distinct from a retail store. It’s all part of a journey by the customer to find the right product for their needs.

That was just one of the observations that Shawn Stewart, VP, loyalty and customer insights at Canadian Tire, shared at the Retail Council of Canada’s annual convention in May. He was part of a panel moderated by Paula Courtney, product founder at consumer insights company WisePlum.

Courtney asked Stewart what customer interaction with the Canadian Tire website looks like. He explained that it can range from web browsing by a consumer looking for information—for a purchase that may happen days or weeks out—to someone frantically trying to buy a shovel in the midst of a big snowstorm.

A big hurdle for Canadian Tire as it tested digital shopping was how to sell a product online while including the local associate dealer in the sale. The solution has been found in the increased visits and add-on sales that online sale can generate for the associate dealer. As buy online, ship to store has become a wider reality, dealers enjoy the added traffic from those online customers coming into their stores—where they typically buy more once they’re there.

Canadian Tire has been investing heavily in its e-commerce platform in recent years, rolling out a deliver-to-home program earlier this year. Online sales had a hand in driving the company’s first-quarter results.

Stewart fully expects online to become an integral part of the customer experience, one that ties in with the offering and features of bricks and mortar. He says the online window can draw people to the store for a meaningful experience, where they can touch and feel products, benefit from the expertise of associates and get exposed to Canadian Tire’s wide range of home brands.

WRLA will move its Buying Show to Winnipeg starting in 2021

The Western Retail Lumber Association (WRLA) has announced it will be moving its annual trade show to Winnipeg in 2021.

The show will be hosted in Winnipeg in 2021, 2022 and 2023. Next year’s show will be held one more time in Calgary’s BMO Centre, from January 22 to 24.

“We feel it is important for the WRLA to engage with all of its members from Western Canada, to provide venues that present new business development opportunities and experiences that will also help to expand the industry community,” says WRLA President, Liz Kovach. “Winnipeg offers a great combination of location and services that will bring enormous value to the membership attending the annual show, while enhancing the community feel of the event, as well.”

The show had its start in Regina in 1994. After two years, it was moved to Saskatoon, where it resided for the next 18 years. It was relocated again in 2015 to its current home in Calgary.

Kovach stresses that the change was made with input from the industry. “We are excited about the move as it will provide an opportunity to freshen up the show and provide vendors the opportunity to expand their customer base.” And given the huge geography her association represents, a fresh location makes sense, she adds.

“So far the feedback is positive. People like the idea of moving every few years and, from our perspective, we see the niche that each location has to offer to help keep the show fresh.”

Proposals from Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon and Regina were considered before the WRLA settled on Winnipeg as the show’s next host city. The association is currently working with Economic Development Winnipeg to help support the transition.