HARDWARE STORES

Rona adopts tough new eco-standards for lumber

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The Canadian home-improvement retailer has announced plans to sell only certified lumber and plywood by the end of 2010. Three major certification standards will be recognized, but Rona will give preference to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Rona, one of Canada’s largest distributors and retailers of building materials and home improvement products, will begin sourcing all of its commodity lumber from certified forests by the end of 2010. This tough new standard, unmatched by any large retailer in North America, was announced at Rona’s spring show in Toronto on Nov. 21.

The new policy applies to all spruce, pine and fir sold through Rona’s network of 700 franchise and corporate stores. Accepted certifications include the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI), and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Rona will give preference, however, to FSC-certified products, and has set a goal to have 25 percent of the commodity lumber in its stores FSC certified by 2012.

Rona unveiled several other goals that will be phased in over the next three years: • By the end of 2009, all plywood panels must come from certified forests. • By the end of 2010, 30 percent of wood products available at Rona’s corporate stores will carry a certification label. • By the end of 2011, all suppliers must provide chain-of-custody proof that traces wood products back to their forest of origin.

Based in Boucherville, Quebec, Rona operates a network of 700 franchise, affiliate and corporate stores generating more than C$6.3 billion in annual retail sales. An estimated 10 percent of that, or C$630 million, is in lumber purchases.

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B&Q launches ‘Home Improvement Qualification’

BY HBSDEALER Staff

U.K.-based home improvement retailer B&Q has launched a new “Home Improvement Qualification” program which aims to give employees an educational certification on both selling and product knowledge.

The vocational program will offer education in the areas of decorating, gardening, building and “room solutions.” The company plans to launch the program with the decorating section, with participants progressing through all four units before they can earn certification.

In a statement, B&Q spokesman Gill Lewis said, “Our customers … expect a lot from us, and customer advisors need to be knowledgeable not just about the products we sell but also their application and aftercare.”

B&Q is piloting the new qualification — by the end of 2009, the retailer aims to train 5,000 employees, which represent an eighth of its entire U.K. work force.

In related news, B&Q parent Kingfisher announced sales and earnings results for the 26-week period ended Aug. 2. Total group sales rose 11.1 percent to 5.1 billion British pounds (US$9 billion), while retail profit grew 22.7 percent to $487.66 million on a constant currency basis.

During the period, the company discontinued its Castorama Italy operations, which were purchased in August by Groupe Adeo, a Lille, France-based DIY chain.

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China International Hardware Show kicks off

BY HBSDEALER Staff

This year’s China International Hardware Show kicked off Wednesday in Shanghai, with more exhibitors and greater interest in Chinese DIY consumers and professional builders than ever before.

Exhibitor attendance has risen to well over 2,000 participants this year, with new hardware manufacturers making up the bulk of new attendees, alongside lawn and garden product manufacturers and kitchen and bath companies.

Michael Dreyer, vp-Asia Pacific for Cologne, Germany-based show organizer Koelnmesse, explained that the show has traditionally been strong in the area of power tools and hand tools, but the categories of building hardware, locks and garden tools grew so significantly that they now have their own separate areas. Next year, he said he expects the show to include a separate space for manufacturers of fasteners.

Dreyer also gave some insight into the Chinese DIY market, which is coming into increasing focus as more Chinese citizens own homes and quality of life grows. He said there are some factors holding back the DIY market in China, specifically the cost of labor.

“The fact is that the cost of labor is so low, it’s still very economical to hire someone to do a project,” he said.

Zhang Dongli, president of the China National Hardware Association, agreed with this assessment. Speaking through a translator, he told HCN that DIY has entered the lexicon of the average Chinese consumer in the past decade, but it has not yet become a strong trend in the market.

“It’s early for this to be popular with Chinese people. But the future of DIY will increase as China develops more,” he said. Another factor, he added, was the hectic pace of life in much of China — long work hours and a perception that doing home improvement projects is more work, rather than a hobby, has kept the consumer DIY market from taking off.

The real areas of growth, however, are in building materials, according to Dongli. He estimated that sales of building materials have soared 35 percent in the past five years, while sales of bath and kitchen hardware have risen 20 percent countrywide.

Since the market for home improvement projects in many parts of China is largely “do-it-for-me,” pros make up a large portion of home improvement product consumers. And with a great deal of construction going on in large Chinese cities — particularly Shanghai — building materials and fixtures are doubly poised to sell well in the future, Dongli said.

The China International Hardware Show will run through Sept. 19 at the Shanghai New International Expo Center.

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