July 2021 | vol. iv, #7



Dealer adapts to e-commerce during COVID

If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s how important e-commerce is for retail. For some provinces, in-store shopping was not allowed across all categories. But for Hewer Home Hardware in Vancouver, in-store shopping was never shut down.

During the height of the pandemic, the store only admitted 10 customers at a time. This led to an increase in demand for online orders, which could only be picked up in-store. But being a dealer store, owner Bernard Lau doesn’t have control over the e-commerce website. The store had to make space and time for e-commerce, which wasn’t a part of their repertoire.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, e-commerce orders were 10 times what we normally get, which is unbelievable,” said Lau.

With the old system, the store had to have all the order items in the store. If they were missing just one item, the warehouse had to fulfill the order, which led to a backlog in online orders.

“Before the pandemic, it wasn't such an issue, but with the pandemic, the number of orders was just skyrocketing,” said Lau.

Home Hardware improved the e-commerce platform so the store could fulfill orders with the items they have in stock, giving Lau and his team more flexibility with the online orders. Another challenge the store faced was small orders that rang up to around $5. Now, the minimum order is about $20.

Even as regular shopping returns, Lau thinks e-commerce will keep growing. “It's something that in the future we will have to adapt to.”




Despite availability concerns, these products are flying off the shelves

Hot product categories are driving sales for dealers everywhere, as homeowners continue to spend money on, well, their homes.

In our most recent survey of dealers across the country, we asked which products are showing the most popularity. it was apparent that lumber was the leading category everywhere in the country. That includes pressure-treated wood and anything else that goes to constructing decks and fences to upgrade outdoor spaces, right down to deck screws and other fasteners. Composite decking is a growth category as well, providing a higher-margin alternative for deck sales.

Paint was another popular line cited in all provinces, but especially in Manitoba and Quebec. Some dealers in Newfoundland and Labrador also mentioned flooring as a key category for growth.

Among hardware stores that responded to the survey, seasonal, garden, and garden-related accessories, including decoration and toys for outdoors, were sales leaders. Most hardware stores also reported an increase in plumbing sales, a trend that showed up in every province. Paint remains a popular seller with these dealers as well.

Flooring and appliance sales have proved a big-demand category among big-box retailers. Stores in rural markets added to the list, citing an uptick in seeds and animal feeds, as well as chicken wire.

The biggest concern among dealers is still the availability of product, as this issue affects a broad range of product categories and continues to put limits on sales, even for hot products.



Castle ramps up dealer presence in Toronto area

A building centre in Scarborough, Ont., is the latest dealer to join Castle Building Centres. But it’s not the first dealer in the Greater Toronto Area to sign with the buying group so far this year. And it’s part of a significant expansion of Castle’s presence in a major urban market.

Global Building Supplies is a full-service lumber, building materials, and hardware retailer in a suburb on the east side of Toronto. The business was founded in 2020 by Min Lin, who has worked in the industry for close to a decade.

Castle has made a series of wins within the GTA since the beginning of 2021. In March, it signed Peel Hardware & Supply, a family-owned business in Caledon, a community on the west side of Toronto. Owner Bill Hewson founded the business in 2013; his daughter Jennifer Hewson manages it now.

Less than a month later, the buying group announced another Toronto member, ML Lumber & Building Supplies. Owners Connie Vieira and her son Rene Silva Jr. have operated in Toronto since 1974. Soon after that, Castle continued its expansion in the region with the addition of BDC Lighting and All Trade Supply in Brampton.

The next business to join Castle added to the ranks of the group’s commercial division, CBS. RGS Rascom Greenbuild Services in Concord, Ont., under the owner and managing director Rick Stacey, has been there for a dozen years, providing contractors with building envelope products.

The latest recruits bring Castle’s representation in the GTA to a dozen stores. The group has almost 300 member stores in total, with sales from those stores reaching an estimated $2.3 billion in 2020 (source: Hardlines Retail Report).



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