Retail tide turning

Paul Straus thinks independent home building centres have weathered the big box store storm, and the retail tide is turning.

Paul Straus thinks independent home building centres have weathered the big box store storm, and the retail tide is turning.

Vice-president and CEO of Home Hardware Stores Ltd., Straus spoke positively about his company’s place in the market during a tour of about eight Home-branded stores in Alberta on Thursday.

Among the outlets he and Home Hardware president Walter Hachborn visited was the Red Deer Home Building Centre, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary.

Straus thinks the approximately 1,050 stores in the Home Hardware co-operative have performed well in the shadow of building centre heavyweights like Home Depot and Rona.

“Our dealers have been competing with them for a number of years now and have been able to thrive alongside them.”

He quoted Michael McLarney, Canadian managing director of The North American Retail Hardware Association and editor of industry newsletter Hardlines, in describing the “renaissance” of independent dealers following the glory years of big box stores.

“What he’s saying is a little bit of what we’re seeing as well. The independent retailers are thriving pretty well right now.”

Straus attributes this to service, explaining that locally owned home building centres have been better able to provide consumers with the help and support they need.

This has been particularly important in recent months, when the depressed economy has prompted many people to tackle their own projects.

“For the do-it-yourselfers where service is important, they want to have the right advice for doing some of their installations and so on.”

Home Hardware has even seen a four per cent increase in hardware and houseware distribution shipments this year, said Straus.

“Which really is an indication that consumers are still doing renovations and repairs and maintenance.”

This work has also been stimulated by the federal home renovation tax credit, he added.

“That’s been a big help to many of the retailers and certainly we’ve benefited from that. I think that as the summer goes on we’ll benefit even more so as people complete their plans for their renovations or expansions or whatever they may be working at.”

Straus acknowledged that lumber sales remain slow, the consequence of fewer houses being built.

He doesn’t expect a quick rebound in the residential construction sector, but sees reason for optimism.

“I think there’s starting to be a little more confidence,” he said, suggesting that much of consumers’ reluctance to buy and build has been the result of negative media reports.

Based in St. Jacobs, Ont., Home Hardware is Canada’s largest independent hardware, lumber and building materials, and furniture retailers.

It operates under the Home Hardware, Home Building Centre, Home Hardware Building Centre and Home Furniture banners.

Jason Welikoklad is the owner of Red Deer Home Building Centre, which was started by Welikoklad’s father Bill in 1974.

In addition to the achievement of operating for 3 1/2 decades, Straus remarked at the significance of Red Deer Home Building Centre spanning two generations of family owners.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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