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RONA names new CEO

BY Ken Clark

Boucherville, Quebec-based RONA named Robert Sawyer as CEO, ending its search for a permanent replacement for long-time CEO Robert Dutton, who resigned in November.

Sawyer is the former chief operating officer of Metro Inc., the Quebec-based food retailer.

Robert Chevrier, executive chairman of RONA, trumpeted Sawyer’s retail experience.

“It became increasingly clear to us that to ensure a successful transformation, we needed to hire a specialist in retail and distribution operations,” he said. “[Sawyer] will play a key role in simplifying and optimizing the RONA business model, particularly with respect to merchandising, pricing strategy, supply chain, service to consumers and service to RONA dealers. Robert has the operational and turnaround expertise needed to put RONA back on the path to profitable growth and increase value for all of our stakeholders.”

Sawyer replaces acting CEO Dominique Boies. The move takes effect in April.

The leadership move comes at a time when RONA is remaking its business model by simplifying its operations and deemphasizing large, big-box home centers while rolling out smaller formats as Home Depot and Lowe’s turn up the competitive pressure in Canada.

RONA operates a network of more than 800 corporate, franchise and affiliate retail stores of various sizes and formats under different banners, and a network of 14 hardware and construction materials distribution centers. It is the largest home improvement distributor and retailer in Canada.

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Existing-home sales, and prices, on the rise

BY Ken Clark

The National Association of Realtors estimated sales of existing homes increased 0.8% in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.98 million, compared with an upwardly revised figure of 4.94 million in January.

Compared with a year ago, the February rate is up 10.2%. 

"Job growth in the improving economy and pent-up demand are causing both home sales and rental leasing to rise,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Though home prices are rising much faster than rents, historically low mortgage rates are still making home purchases affordable.”

He added: "The only headwinds are limited housing inventory, which varies greatly around the country, and credit conditions that remain too restrictive."

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $173,600 in February, up 11.6% from February 2012. The last time there were 12 consecutive months of year-over-year price increases was from June 2005 to May 2006. The February gain is the strongest since November 2005 when it was 12.9% above a year earlier.

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Scotts announces Grassroots Grants recipients

BY Ken Clark

Marysville, Ohio-based Scotts Miracle-Gro Company (SMG) has announced the recipients of the 2013 GRO1000 Grassroots Grants. More than 130 grants were awarded to help neighborhood organizations across the nation plant a community garden or green space. The Grassroots Grants are part of the larger GRO1000 Gardens and Green Space Program, which is Scotts Miracle-Gro’s commitment to create more than 1,000 community gardens and green spaces worldwide by 2018.

"It’s been rewarding to see how GRO1000 has impacted the lives of people and their communities since the program began three years ago," said Jim King, Scotts Miracle-Gro’s chief communications officer. "We’re honored to partner with so many groups that want to make a difference by bringing community gardens and greenscapes to their cities."

A full list of this year’s recipients can be found at GroGood.com/GiveBacktoGro/GRO1000/Grassroots.

In addition to the Grassroot Grants, ScottsMiracle-Gro and its national partners, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Plant A Row for the Hungry, the Garden Writers Association, the National Gardening Association and Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, will build public community gardens and green spaces in Sacramento; Fort Worth; Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Bridgeport, Conn.; and Cincinnati in 2013.

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