Canadian retailing in the spotlight

Toronto A distinguished cast of Canadian hardlines retailers participated in seminars at the 12th Annual Hardlines Conference Oct. 12, held in conjunction with the National Hardware Show Canada here at the Toronto Congress Centre. The National Hardware Show Canada starts today.

RONA CEO Robert Dutton said his Boucherville, Quebec-based retailer and distributor would remain Canadian, despite rumors of a buyout from Lowe’s.

“I suppose someone wants to know if RONA is for sale,” Dutton said during a question-and-answer session following his presentation on the evolution of the home improvement industry in Canada. “We are not on sale.”

He added: “We are a Canadian company, and personally I want to prove that Canadians can have success in the retail business. With the cooperation of all our suppliers, we can continue to be the leader. I’m sure of it.”

The comment sparked applause from the room of Hardlines Conference attendees, many of them suppliers.

Jim Thompson, senior vp-merchandising for Wal-Mart Canada, explained the retailer has taken a “whole room” approach to the home category, using four “whole room” solutions to attract its core customer base -- the time-pressed 35-to-44 year-old mom. The room solutions are bed and bath; furniture and organization; kitchen and entertaining; and home decor and seasonal accents.

On top of that, Thompson pointed to “sustainability” as the number one retailing trend. Wal-Mart Canada will more aggressively promote its environmental merchandising and business program called “For the Greener Good,” which was announced earlier this year.

As an example of the program, he described a plan to institute a concentrate-only policy in Canada for washing detergents in 2008. The move would conserve plastic, water and energy involved in shipping full bottles of detergent, he said.

“It’s good for the environment, and it’s good for business,” he said.

The event continues Tuesday with presentations from Ron Beal, president of Memphis, Tenn.-based distributor Orgill; and Jane VanNoy, owner of Warner TIM-BR Mart.

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