NHS offers learning opportunities
A series of educational presentations will be held at the National Hardware Show
National Hardware Show
Scott Zimmer from Bridgeworks will present the first keynote
The North American Retail Hardware Association has organised the speakers
Click to visit the HBT website for more information
Generational buying patterns, succession planning and the effect shopping local has on the industry are just some of the topics that will be covered in a variety of seminars and presentations at the National Hardware Show next month. They will take place on the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) Village Stage. Bill Lee, NRHA's president and CEO said:
NRHA is excited and proud to be able to bring this group of presenters to the show this year. We know how great a role the generational differences is playing, and will continue to play, throughout the home improvement marketplace and we wanted to address these topics head-on.

The four generations most likely to be found in businesses, both among employees and customers, are the baby boomers, Gen Xers, millennials and the emerging Generation Z. Each is different, and it can take some time to understand the work ethics and lifestyle preferences associated with each.

The speakers can offer some ideas on how to best relate to employees and customers of these different generations.

The schedule of speakers during the event includes the following.
Tuesday, May 5
KEYNOTE: When generations connect

Scott Zimmer, generational expert and keynote speaker, Bridgeworks

This seminar will talk about the different generations of employees in stores today and how to best work with a team made up of multi-generational employees. Zimmer will use data and his expertise to offer ideas of how to turn this diversity into an opportunity that makes store staff stronger.
Generational buying patterns in the home improvement industry

Jim Robisch, senior partner, The Farnsworth Group

Regardless of age, where consumers are shopping, and how they are shopping, continues to change. Robisch will present data that tells more about how different generations shop for and purchase home improvement products, and offer some ideas of how retailers can better reach out to these customers.
Mobile marketing for the generations

Pat Murphy, vice president of mobile relationship management, FunMobility, Inc.

In 2015, millennials will outnumber baby boomers for the first time. This means retailers need to take another look at how they market to and engage with this new younger demographic. Learn more about how to engage online, through both the internet and different forms of social media, to better reach tech-savvy millennial customers.
Wednesday, May 6
PANEL: The next generation of independent owners

Moderated by Scott Wright, executive director, Retail Leadership Institute, NRHA

NRHA will explore the future of the independent home improvement industry by speaking with a panel of young owners who will discuss some of the key topics facing store owners today, as well as some best practices they are implementing. Wright said:
This is the perfect opportunity for our store owners, especially the younger ones, to hear others talk about the different challenges and opportunities in the industry they see every day. They can also network and meet others their age who work in the same area to swap stories and share ideas.
KEYNOTE: Home sweet home

Presented By: Independent We Stand and NRHA

Members of NRHA and Independent We Stand will reveal the results of a new joint research project that shows the financial impact independent home improvement businesses have on their local communities. Dan Tratensek, NRHA's vice president of publishing and publisher of Hardware Retailing magazine said:
We're really excited to have a figure that accurately represents the impact independent home improvement stores have on their communities. We've long understood that independent home improvement retailers are central drivers to the communities they serve. Now we will have quantifiable evidence of just that.
Succession planning in the home improvement industry

Gary Pittsford, CFP(r), president, Castle Wealth Advisors

As many home improvement store owners approach retirement age, it's more important than ever for them to make sure they have a good succession plan in place so they can ensure a strong future for their business. In this seminar, Pittsford will discuss the current state of succession planning and what business owners should do to start working on their own.
Ace Hardware sells into Singapore
Singapore-based retailer Courts has a deal with Ace Hardware
Asia One
Ace Hardware will sell its products through Courts under a 10-year agreement
Danish retailer JYSK has more than 2,200 stores around the world
Click to visit the Globel Industries website for more information
Singapore-based furniture and information technology retailer Courts is working with Ace Hardware and Danish household retailer JYSK to offer its customers a wider variety of household products.

By September, customers will be able to buy products from Ace Hardware and JYSK at Courts stores. There will also be two Ace Hardware and JYSK shops within existing Courts stores.

Under a 10-year agreement, Ace Hardware will sell its products at a 8,000sqft retail space in Courts' flagship store.

The other store-in-store concept will be at one of its new outlets where JYSK products will be sold under a five-year partnership with Courts. The company will open a total of 20 JYSK stores over five years in Singapore. Terry O'Connor, group chief executive of Courts Asia, said of the international collaborations:
Homeowners' tastes and needs are constantly evolving. Due to globalisation, there is now greater accessibility and appreciation for global brands.

He said the partnerships allow Courts to provide more home solutions to customers.

Ace Hardware has more than 4,800 hardware stores globally, while Danish retailer JYSK has over 2,200 stores around the world.

Alberto Vidal, director of international business development at Ace Hardware International, said that Courts is a household name with a strong store portfolio across the island. He added that Ace Hardware shared the service, convenience and quality principles that Courts had and it "could not have found a better company to align with".

Jonas Schroder, communications director at JYSK, is also confident in Courts' established presence in Singapore. He said:
Having a 40-year legacy in Singapore means that Courts has the industry know-how, network and rigour to shape the industry together with us.
Interactive flooring
LED-laced carpets are the result of a collaboration between Philips and Desso
Industry Edge NHS
The light transmissive carpets can be programmed via an app
There are many commercial applications for these carpets
Click to view details of the SpotOn golf ball competition
Lighting brand Philips has teamed up with flooring manufacturer Desso to create LED-laced carpets.

The Luminous Carpets range are 6mm thick, an industry standard, but there is an extra 12mm under the strip of LED lights.

The light transmissive carpets developed by Desso can be programmed via an app to display warnings, directions, messages and more. Once the message or graphic has been displayed, the LEDs disappear and can look like any other carpet.

The carpet can be installed in three ways: raised access floor, on-top and recessed. All installation styles ensure a smooth, flush surface without any bumps to indicate where the lights are. Professional end-users can choose between four carpet textures and 14 colours specially chosen to work well with the lighting effects.

Once the system is in place, the dynamic positioning and movement of the lighting can be programmed and messages change easily using building management software and mobile and networked devices.

In designing the luminous carpet, developers paid special attention to the demands of heat, liquids, cleaning products, normal wear-and-tear and constant impact on the system so that it's durable enough to be used as flooring without compromising its high-tech properties. Desso says the LED carpets are protected against spilled drinks.

Luminous Carpets are a genuinely new and innovative building product for architects and designers. It will probably first in appear in high-end hotels and conference centres, but the current trend towards proximity marketing and physical engagement make it a smart choice for retailers as well.
Sherwin-Williams posts record paint sales
Sales at Sherwin-Williams increased 3.5% to US$2.45 billion in Q1
Cleveland Business
There were higher sales of architectural paint for homes, offices and buildings
The HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams brand paint is distributed through Lowe's
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Sales at Sherwin-Williams increased 3.5% to US$2.45 billion for the first quarter of 2015.

The Cleveland-based paint and coatings company, whose brands include Dutch Boy, Minwax and Krylon, said net sales grew by US$83.7 million for the first three months of the year. At stores open at least a year (same-store sales), net sales grew 6.4%.

Other highlights from its recent earnings report include the following:
  • Net sales in its Paint Store Group rose 7.5% to US$1.146 billion, because of higher sales of architectural paint for homes, offices and buildings. The company opened seven net new paint stores during the quarter.
  • Net sales in its Consumer Group rose 8.1% to US$351.7 million, helped by the first shipments of HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams brand paint to Lowe's stores. HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams, available at Sherwin-Williams 4,010 paint stores, Lowe's 1,835 stores and at, includes interior and exterior paints and 16 designer-inspired coordinating colour palettes, eight of which are exclusive to Lowe's. The two companies announced the new product line last December.
  • Net sales in the Global Finishes Group declined 5.6% to US$469.6 million, largely because of unfavourable currency rates.
  • For the second quarter of 2015, Sherwin-Williams expects sales to grow 6% to 8%.
  • For all of 2015, Sherwin-Williams expects net sales to grow by "a high single-digit percentage".
  • News
    New layout at National Hardware Show
    The 2015 National Hardware Show will have a new floor plan
    National Hardware Show
    It will take place May 5-7 at the Las Vegas Convention Centre
    The National Hardware Show is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year
    Click to visit the HBT website for more information
    Attendees will experience a new show floor at this year's National Hardware Show (NHS) which takes place May 5-7 at the Las Vegas Convention Centre.

    According to show organisers, Central Hall will now include the Homewares section, as well as the Inventors Spotlight, New Product World, International Sourcing Area, Plumbing & Electrical, PDRA Paint & Accessories Show, Lancaster Buying Show and the new three-day Outdoor Auction.

    South Hall will welcome the Lawn, Garden & Outdoor Living section on Level 1, while Hardware & Tools, Pet Products, Farm & Ranch, Made in USA and an additional Lawn, Garden & Outdoor Living area will be on Level 2.

    In addition, the Outdoors, Tailgate & Recreation section has moved to the outdoor area between the Central and South Halls and will provide access points from both halls. The North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) Village & Stage has also moved to the show floor, in the Central Hall, near the tailgate area. NHS vice-president Rich Russo said:
    We're looking forward to providing vendors and retailers both a memorable and productive experience at this year's show. We hope that by moving some key categories to new spots on the show floor, it'll be easier for buyers to visit both new and returning exhibitors within their target product categories along with stopping at some of our popular show features.
    Show highlights

    A popular feature of the NHS is new products. The Inventors Spotlight area showcases products that have not been released on the market, making it easier to find products for sale or license. New Products World provides a look at the latest innovations and trends in the industry.

    For exhibitors, there are multiple programs that can get products additional exposure including the Canadian Tire Toolbox Challenge, the NHS Product Review and Vetting program and the DIY Network Product Submission program.

    There are also many educational opportunities for visitors. Independent retailers can take advantage of a variety of seminars on the NRHA Village & Stage. It has a lineup of interesting speakers and presentations. Greg Schlecht of Greg's True Value in St. Francis, Wisconsin said:
    The National Hardware Show invites me to think outside the box. It is enlightening for independent retailers to see what the world has to offer. In today's world, hardware stores, in addition to great customer service, must offer new niches and update our merchandise selection. It opens doors to new opportunities.

    The event provides a lot of opportunities to network with other industry professionals. From the New Product World awards to the NRHA Top Gun awards to the Lawn, Garden and Outdoor Living awards, there are also several programs recognising excellence within the home improvement industry.

    The NHS celebrates a rich history spanning 70 years of serving the home improvement marketplace. From its early beginnings in New York during the post-World War II housing boom and eventual move to Chicago in the 1970s, to today's current location in Las Vegas, the event has continually evolved.

    Today, the NHS is the place for global manufacturers, associations, organisations and media to unveil their new products, ideas and insight to a broad spectrum of home improvement resellers.
    Online hub makes renos easier
    An online planning hub has been developed by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment
    Designed to making the approvals process for home improvements easier
    The PlanningHub tools has had over 130,000 hits since it launched
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    A new online planning hub by the NSW Department of Planning and Environment will facilitate the approvals process for improvements to residential properties, and make it more efficient.

    The NSW Planning Hub can benefit to owners of residential properties who want to undertake renovation work. It provides them with a number of online tools to expedite their negotiation of the approvals process.

    The website enables homeowners to prepare and lodge their applications for renovations work online, as well as track the progress of the approvals procedures.

    Homeowners will also be able to negotiate the challenging process of making planning decisions and obtaining approvals - online.

    The creation of the internet-based hub was prompted by the success of the ePlanning Tools website that was launched last year by the department. That site was visited by more than 100,000 users.

    The hub enables owners to make better decisions regarding their renovation plans and gain approvals more quickly. Making the approvals process for home improvements easier should boost activity in the NSW construction sector.

    A spokesperson from the department said the website is already seeing high levels of visitor traffic, and should provide further impetus to fast compliance applications. The spokesperson told Sourceable:
    So far the PlanningHub tools have had more than 130,000 hits, showing residential, commercial and industrial land owners want to cut time and money to renovate or upgrade their property. The latest figures also show the number of applications assessed through the faster complying development system has risen year-on-year to now make up almost a third of all approvals.

    The online hub has been developed with members of the building sector in mind. It is designed specifically for access via mobile devices while on-site.
    The website has a mobile friendly version so information can be accessed on-site. There is no need to stop work or waste valuable time driving to a council office to get answers - they're right there on any smartphone or tablet.
    It's tailored so that builders and trades can get local planning information and a visual explanation of how the building code applies to different developments from any smart device on the building site.
    Fastenal's Q1 earnings beat estimates
    Fastenal reported an 8.8% jump in first quarter sales to US$953.3 million
    During the quarter, the company signed 3,962 vending machine contracts
    Fastenal Company's staffing boost helped deliver a solid first quarter earnings result
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    Fastenal Company's staffing boost paid off with first quarter earnings that beat Wall Street's expectations.

    Earnings grew 13.2% year over year, driven by stronger sales and lower expenses.

    Revenue rose during the quarter but missed analysts' estimates by a hair, according to the company.

    Fastenal, which sells nuts, bolts and other supplies to construction and industrial customers, reported an 8.8% jump in first quarter sales to US$953.3 million. Profits rose 14% to US$127.6 million.

    The increase was driven by higher prices of non-fastener products, partially offset by price deflation of fastener products.

    Fastenal also credited the increase on a focused effort to increase its customer service staffing in its many retail stores. Employment was at 12,907 for the quarter ended March 31. That's up from 11,840 positions a year ago.

    In a conference call with analysts recently, Fastenal CEO LeLand Hein Jr. and CFO Daniel Florness said the company's dual approach of supplying vending machines and enhanced retail staffing will continue. Hein said:
    By adding more people, we add to our ability to interact with and to serve our customers from our local store and to back them up in some type of support role. Our goal is to aggressively add.

    Despite the positive quarter, Fastenal faced several challenges, including being "hit hard" by winter storms in North America, a slowdown in business from customers in the oil sector and the high US dollar, which is starting to pinch some of its customers' export business.
    Day-to-day sales

    Daily sales growth was 5.6% in March, 8.6% in February and 12% in January compared with 11.6%, 7.7% and 6.7% increases, respectively in the corresponding year-ago months.

    Daily sales to manufacturing customers (representing almost 50% of revenues) grew 6.9%, lower than 9% growth in the prior-year quarter.

    Daily sales growth rate of fastener products (used mainly for industrial production and accounting for approximately 40% of the company's business) was 5.5%, better than 1.6% in the year-ago quarter due to improved sales of fasteners.

    Non-fastener product sales (used mainly for maintenance) increased 11.7%, down from 14.2% growth in the prior-year quarter and 19% in the last quarter.

    In the non-residential construction market, daily sales to non-residential construction customers (representing 20% to 25% of revenues) grew 6.2%, up from 2.9% in the prior-year quarter and 12.6% in the previous quarter.
    Vending trends

    As of Mar 31, 2015, the company operated 48,545 vending machines (irrespective of the type of machine), up 15.2% year over year.

    During the quarter, the company signed 3,962 machine contracts, up 15.6% from the last quarter. This marks the largest number of vending machines installed during any quarter during the past three years.

    The machines have been found to be a cost-efficient and quick way to supply customers with the parts needed for their production.

    Daily sales growth to customers using vending machines was 12.3%, down from 20% in the previous quarter. The vending machines now account for 40.5% of the company's sales, higher than 39.3% in the prior quarter.

    Vending trends improved through 2014 after remaining soft in 2013 as management's recent efforts to improve the quality of signings/installations paid off.

    Even though the number of customers using vending declined sequentially from the last quarter, the percentage of vending customers and signings improved during first quarter of 2015.
    Gross margins down

    Fastenal's gross margins are contracting as management's focus shifts toward top-line improvement.

    Gross margin in the first quarter of 2015 declined 40 basis points (bps) year over year, because of unfavourable product and customer mix.

    As a percentage of sales, the company's operating and administrative expenses were down 140 bps year over year to 29.4% as a result of expense control.
    Green Square development has begun
    The Green Square project will span 278ha and contain almost 10,000 apartments
    The Ebsworth is a residential building and will consist of 174 apartments
    Green Square is a partnership project between Mirvac and UrbanGrowth NSW
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    The Green Square project in New South Wales will span 278ha, contain almost 10,000 apartments and will include the suburbs of Beaconsfield, Zetland, Rosebery, Alexandria and Waterloo.

    The town centre itself will span 14 hectares and will have the capacity for up to 2,000 apartments, 14,000sqm of retail space and 50,000sqm of commercial space.

    UrbanGrowth NSW chief executive David Pitchford said the development plans were restructured last year (after it was first announced in the 1990s) and a project delivery agreement was formed with Mirvac.

    Pitchford said Green Square was the first project to come out of the ground under UrbanGrowth NSW's Urban Transformation Program. Pitchford said:
    It's by no means the biggest but it's very, very important in the scale things. You'll see many more come out in terms of planning and forward projections in the later part of this year and into next year.

    The Urban Transformation Program consists of large-scale urban revitalisation programs that provide infrastructure, housing, jobs, and economic and social benefits for NSW.

    While details of the development site have been planned, Pitchford said the impending population rise and traffic congestion has yet to be addressed.

    Mirvac chief executive officer and managing director Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz said the Green Square town centre would redefine the meaning of a neighbourhood. She said:
    It's going to be a vibrant and active space where people will live, work, shop, dine and enjoy a whole range of cultural activities.
    There's going to be a retail offering, there's a very interesting library which is essentially below ground and the City of Sydney is providing a fantastic aquatic centre that is going to be an open space.
    To us Green Square is the perfect combination of location. It's 3.5km to the city, 4km to the airport, Green Square train station is right there with amenity and the right environment so the actual apartment product is going to be pretty special and very sustainable in terms of how we're building it.

    The release of Ebsworth, a residential building consisting of 174 apartments will be the first to be built. Last year, it sold out within two days of its launch and Pitchford said interest in the development is still consistent.

    Next to be released to buyers in the Green Square Town Centre will be a 28-storey apartment building called Ovo, steps away from where Ebsworth will stand.
    HNN Index for 10 April 2015
    HNN Index chart 10 April 2015
    HNN Sources
    Jim Clayton, new CEO of Breville
    Rod Sims believes Wesfarmers deserves to be sanctioned
    Click to visit the HBT website for more information
    The HNN Home Improvement Index managed to marginally outperform the ASX 200 during the week of 6 April to 10 April 2015. The index rose by 17 points to 1036.47, while the ASX 200 rose by 13 points on the adjusted score, and in its original form by 70 points to 5968.4.
    Adelaide Brighton
    Adelaide Brighton CEO predicts slowing sales in SA

    Adelaide Brighton chief executive Martin Brydon has indicated he expects sales of pre-mixed concrete may fall by as much as 6% in South Australia for the 2015/16 financial year. However, he also believes residential housing will remain strong, securing much of the company's revenue in that state.
    Housing boom misses SA: Australian Financial Review
    Breville Group
    New CEO appointed

    Breville has appointed a new CEO. HIs name is Jim Clayton and he will assume the post on 1 July 2015. Trained as a lawyer at the University of Texas, his background includes management consultants McKinsey, private equity firm Symphony and LG Electronics. His salary is reported to be $800,000 a year, plus incentives.
    Breville's new CEO: Appliance Retailer
    Breville's new CEO and the Internet of Things: BRW
    DuluxGroup faces $NZ15.2m provision in tax case

    New Zealand's Internal Revenue Department and DuluxGroup have settled a tax dispute, with DuluxGroup taking a $NZ15.2 million provision. The dispute involved the use of convertible notes by DuluxGroup subsidiary Alesco NZ. New Zealand courts quashed an appeal by DuluxGroup and declared that the principal use of the notes had been to evade paying taxes. Other Australian companies, including Qantas and Telstra will face similar charges.
    Downer EDI
    Downer EDI refreshes branding

    The contracting company is to no longer use its familiar tyre-tread logo. Instead it has an abstract logo in blue, white and green. This is accompanied by the slogan: "Relationships creating success". The rebranding is seen as a part of the company's repositioning as a problem solver for its customers.
    Downer EDI gets a makeover - Fairfax Media

    A video about the new brand:

    Fletcher Building
    Fletcher shares may be re-rated due to $A exposure

    The strength of the New Zealand dollar versus the Australian dollar could see several New Zealand companies receive downgrades, including Fletcher Building. The company is also suffering from downturns in mining and infrastructure spending.
    Fletcher re-rating: Otago Daily Times
    Leighton Holdings
    Leighton awarded $160m contract

    The company has won a contract to extend the Mitchell Freeway in Perth, Western Australia by six kilometres. Design of the extension will begin in April 2015, and construction will commence in mid-2015.
    WA contract win: Perth Now
    Leighton wins contract in Qatar

    A Leighton subsidiary has secured a US$608 million contract to build five water reservoirs in Qatar. The reservoirs will be the largest of their kind in the world, each holding 100 million gallons of water.
    Leighton wins Qatar contract: Commonwealth Bank MyWealth
    Lend Lease Group
    Lend Lease reaches settlement over botched job in US

    Lend Lease has agreed to a US$50 million settlement with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. The settlement relates to a civil dispute over the demolition of the Deutsche Bank building, near Ground Zero in Manhattan. The original contract was for US$82 million, but blew out to US$266 million.
    Myer Holdings
    Speculation about takeover spikes up stock

    Speculation that the Solomon Lew-owned Premier Investments might seek to acquire a controlling interest in Myer sent shares in the troubled department store retailer higher. Private equity house Archer Capital is thought to also be considering a takeover bid. Analysts do not believe Premier would benefit from such a takeover.
    Myer shares surge: Courier Mail
    Wesfarmers' Coles to pay $2.5 million fine

    Wesfarmers will pay a $2.5 million fine after its supermarket division, Coles, falsely advertised that it had freshly baked bread that had in fact been "par-baked" some months previously. A spokesperson for Wesfarmers claimed the deception was not deliberate, but the result of poor communication.
    False fresh bread claim: The Australian
    Woolworths to sell 10 petrol stations

    Woolworths will sell and then lease back 10 petrol stations located in New South Wales and Queensland. The goal is to free up funds invested in the properties to fund development elsewhere in Woolworths.
    Woolworths sells 10 petrol stations: Sydney Morning Herald
    Recruiting quality staff at B&Q
    B&Q has replaced its existing psychometric assessment methods for hiring staff
    Online Recruitment
    Each year, B&Q receives 150,000 applications but only hires 5,000 people
    Talent Q created "adaptive" situational judgement tests for B&Q
    Visit the Mecca Website
    Each year, home improvement retailer B&Q receives 150,000 applications for customer advisor roles in its 360-store network in the UK. It hires 5,000 people. Jo Leggett, resourcing manager at B&Q said:
    Recruiting talented people who can advise customers and provide a friendly and efficient service is strategically important for us. We know that every applicant is a potential customer, so it is critical for us to provide a positive recruitment experience to all candidates, particularly those who might be unsuccessful in their application as we don't want to lose their future custom.
    We decided to replace our existing psychometric assessment with something that would be more engaging to complete and would help us to make better screening decisions.

    Assessment specialist Talent Q analysed the different requirements and success factors for B&Q's four customer advisor roles: service (checkout roles), support (warehouse roles), sales (home design consultants) and expert (ie. plumbers and electricians).

    The company then created "adaptive" situational judgement tests (SJTs) to help B&Q assess for the key competencies in each job. Leggett said:
    SJTs are commonly used to test applicants on how they'd handle typical workplace situations. However, most SJTs have fixed scenarios. In other words, every applicant sees the same situations.
    Talent Q has broken the mould here by creating adaptive SJTs for us. This is very innovative because all of the situations that each candidate encounters in our SJTs evolve. Different consequences arise, depending on their previous responses. The benefit is that we can assess key competencies and hone in on a candidate's behavioural tendencies in a more engaging and realistic way.

    Using a combination of photography, graphics and animation, in B&Q's brand style, the four SJTs depict realistic situations with customers and life within a store. Each takes 15-20 minutes to complete and the tests are integrated with Taleo, B&Q's applicant tracking system. Candidates complete the assessment online, prior to the telephone interview stage of the selection process.

    Talent Q also created realistic job previews (RJPs), for each customer advisor role. Potential candidates can go through these interactive job previews on B&Q's careers site, to get a clearer sense of what each role entails before submitting an online application. Leggett said:
    The four RJPs are aligned to our culture and values. Each shows a series of scenarios that give an insight into what it would be like to work in these roles. The applicants are asked multiple-choice questions and they get instant feedback on their responses. This process helps them to decide firstly whether they'd enjoy working in the B&Q environment, and secondly which role is most appropriate for them. It also helps us to create a good impression and build a rapport with people before we meet them.

    A validation study examining the competency-based performance ratings of 1,077 new customer advisors has confirmed that B&Q is now appointing better calibre recruits who are achieving their targets and who are more competent in the role. Leggett said:
    It shows that a high score on the SJT correlates with high performance in the role, as judged by the individual's line manager. This means that our new SJTs can predict performance and success in the role.
    They've also enabled us to reduce the average time it takes to complete an application by 20 minutes. This is a significant time saving and it means more candidates are now completing their application in one sitting.
    On top of that, our store managers say we're now recruiting people who are better suited to our business, have a better understanding of the role, are more customer-orientated and are staying with us longer.

    James Beevers, head of professional services at Talent Q, said:
    The complex interaction between people, managers, colleagues and organisations means that there's no such thing as perfect recruitment. But B&Q has reduced the risk of hiring the wrong people, by understanding the requirements of the role, showing the realities of the job and building predictive assessments that are aligned to the required competencies.
    The new SJTs are cutting-edge and visually engaging assessments that assess each candidate very quickly. They also provide an entertaining and informative insight into what it's really like to work in the roles. As a result, B&Q has not only speeded up its application process and improved the candidate experience, it is also making better selection decisions.
    ABS retail statistics for February 2015
    ABS retail revenue statistics for February 2015
    Australian Bureau of Statistics
    NAB Online Sales Index:online versus ABS retail sales
    Monthly growth numbers for online versus bricks retail
    Click to visit the HBT website for more information
    The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) numbers for Hardware, building and garden supplies were positive for February 2015. In contrast with February 2014, all states showed some growth in turnover. South Australia was the leader in terms of gains. Turnover rose from $53.5 million in 2014 to $65.4 million in 2015, an increase of 22.24%. Queensland and the ACT also performed well, showing growth in turnover of close to 11%.

    The statistics indicate three basic groupings of states: those with strong growth, those which are recovering to past levels of turnover, and those which have mild growth.

    The first group consists of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Both South Australia and Tasmania belong in the recovering group. South Australia still has some ground to cover before returning to its turnover levels of 2008, while Tasmania is almost back to those levels. Western Australia continues to grow, and has recovered past 2008 levels, while both the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory continue to climb.

    The ABS reports that in trend terms overall Australian retail showed an increase of 4% for February 2014 contrasted with February 2015. Household goods, cafes and restaurants, and clothing and footwear recorded the sharpest rises.
    Online retail

    The NAB Online Sales Index reports that sales rose 1.7% for February 2015. Online sales for the 12 months to February 2015 are estimated to be $16.7 billion.

    Sales for goods in the Daily Deals and Personal Goods categories slowed, while Groceries and Homewares increased activity in February.

    However, overall growth continues to decline in comparison for performance pre-2013.
    Amazon launches at-home repair/installation services
    Amazon's YouTube promotional video
    Geek Wire
    Amazon Home Services distribution in the US
    Amazon offers gardening services as well
    Click to visit the Globel Industries website for more information
    US online retailer Amazon has finally rolled out its complete version of Amazon Home Services. The move follows over two years of pilot projects in different parts of the USA, which trialled different methods of delivering these services.

    As of 30 March 2015 the services are available country-wide, but limited to major metropolitan regions: Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco, New York, Houston, Seattle, Chicago, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston, Dallas, Atlanta, Phoenix, San Diego, San Jose, Portland, Minneapolis, Detroit, Baltimore, Denver, Riverside, Tampa, Orlando, Austin, Sacramento, Pittsburgh, Nashville, Cincinnati, Charlotte, and St. Louis.. Amazon will spread the service to an additional 30 cities during 2015.

    This service enables Amazon customers to search for home repair and installation services, receive quotes, and purchase the services. Additionally, Amazon stands behind all the work performed with what it is calling its "happiness guarantee". If a customer is dissatisfied, Amazon will ensure the work performed is brought up to standard, or the money refunded to the customer.

    In return, Amazon receives from 15% to 20% of the quoted fee, paid by the contractor. Some contractors have expressed doubts that is amount will be sustainable, citing the small amount hey currently spend in business promotion activities, typically just 5% of their revenue.

    Another problem with the system at rollout is that while users expect to receive an instant online quote, the reality is many contractors want to make a site visit before being able to price a project. With painting quotes, for example, many painters want to examine the surfaces they will need to cover so as to gauge how much paint they will require, and how much time must be spent on surface preparation.

    Amazon itself is confident this attitude will change. According to Peter Faricy, Amazon s Marketplace vice president, speaking in an interview with GeekWire:
    Our goal is for you to see the complete service that they would provide and the price upfront for every single service.
    The potential

    Amazon may very well sweep away objections about its fee and bring contractors inline with its quotation demands, as the potential it offers is enticing. The company declares that over 85 million Amazon customers buy products that need some kind of service, and that it currently offers 2.4 million service packages in the US.

    Another part of what might help boost the services product into the mainstream is that Amazon is partnering with TaskRabbit, a service that enables users to outsource handyman jobs to individuals.

    For Amazon, home services are set to become the company's third pillar, alongside the sale of physical and digital goods. As Mr Faricy told Geek Wire:
    The part that is incredible to me is that people spend four times as much on services as they do on physical products. Obviously, we have a pretty large physical products business that serves customers well, and we are anxious to serve customers well in home services.

    The US big-box home improve retailer Lowe's has made moves in a similar direction through its funding of Porch, which helps provide services to homeowners. Houzz, the online look-book for new moves in home design, also offers extensive advertising and promotional opportunities.
    Paint group PPG acquires Flood Australia
    PPG information
    A PPG manufacturing facility in Springvale, south-east of Melbourne
    Penetrol is one of Flood's leading products
    Subscribe to HNN weekly e-newsletter
    PPG Industries, a global paint, glass and chemicals corporation based in the US, has acquired the assets of Flood Australia.

    Flood Australia manufactures and distributes products such as the well-known paint additives Penetrol and Floetrol, which make it easier to paint in temperature extremes without leaving brush strokes. Other products include ESP for surface preparation and E-B Emulsa Bond, which can help exterior acrylic paint better adhere to some surfaces.

    The US operations of Flood had been previously acquired by Dutch paint company Azko Nobel in August 2006. Azko Nobel had already established itself in the North American wood coatings business with its Sikkens brand, and saw Flood as an expansion of that business. According to then Azko Nobel CEO Hans Wijers:
    Acquiring Flood and its successful portfolio of products will now enable us to create a focused retailer, dealer, professional contractor and consumer woodcare business and reinforce our current market position in the US, making us one of the leading players in this sector.

    The North American operations of Azko Nobel were later acquired by PPG in April 2013, in a deal worth around US$1.05 billion. One of the highlights of the deal for PPG was the enhancement of its distribution network through home centres, paint dealers and company stores. The deal meant PPG had a claimed total of 15,000 points of distribution in North America.

    At the time of the partial Azko Nobel acquisition PPG's CEO Charles Bunch noted:
    Our already strong portfolio of North American brands, including PPG Paints, PPG Pittsburgh Paints, PPG Porter Paints, Lucite and Olympic Paints and Stains, has been significantly strengthened with the addition of well-known brands such as Glidden, Flood, CIL, Sico and Liquid Nails.

    As part of the deal, PPG also obtained licenses for Dulux, Devoe architectural coatings, and Sikkens architectural wood products.

    Flood Australia continued after these acquisitions as an independently-owned operation, and was the sole licensed manufacturer of the Flood range of products in Australasia, with manufacturing based in Sydney and a wide network of warehouses and distributors.

    Flood's US operations date back to 1841 in the US state of Ohio. It began manufacturing its Penetrol brand in 1934.

    PPG employs around 46,000 people worldwide. Its total sales for 2014 were US$15.4 billion, and it is ranked at number 190 in the Fortune 500 listing. In the Asia Pacific region it operates 33 sites in 12 countries. Its head office is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
    Alternative to instant concrete
    Sika Post Fix is a fast-setting and lighter alternative to instant concrete
    Once mixed and in foam state, Sika Post Fix is inert and will not leach into the soil
    The easy-to-mix solution requires no special tools and does not use water
    Click to view details of the SpotOn golf ball competition
    Builders and landscapers can turn big projects into easy jobs with Sika Post Fix, a fast-setting and lighter alternative to instant concrete that is designed to fix posts in the ground.

    Instead of using 60 kilograms of instant concrete to fix one average sized post into place, contractors can use just one 1.1 kilogram bag of Sika Post Fix. (Contents expand to produce enough material to install 100mm x 100mm post in a 900mm deep x 200mm wide hole.) It is suitable for wood, PVC, metal or concrete posts.

    Sika Post Fix sets in just three minutes, reducing the time required to brace or support the post when compared to instant concrete. It hardens completely in just two hours, allowing contractors to complete projects quickly.

    The easy-to-mix solution requires no special tools and does not use water. Users simply pre-mix in the bag before opening, pour and watch it expand rapidly to fill the hole and fix the post in place.

    Any excess material cured above the surface of the ground can be cut away with a sharp knife before covering with top soil.

    Sika Post Fix has a unique chemical formulation that does not harm the soil or surrounding environment. Once mixed and in foam state, Sika Post Fix is inert and will not leach into the soil.
    Rethinking the light switch
    Switchmate can be controlled using a mobile phone app over Bluetooth
    Daily Mail
    It attaches to the outside of the light switch using magnets
    Residents can turn their lights on and often even while they are away on holiday
    SpotOn is your source for laser levels and other tools
    A new gadget will allow homeowners to flip their lights on and off using their mobile phone, without having to change all their current light fittings and switches.

    Engineers have developed a device that attaches on top of traditional light switches to enable them to be turned on and off from anywhere in the home.

    Switchmate can be controlled using a mobile phone app over Bluetooth and uses a physical toggle inside the device to move the light switch. According to Daniel Peng, co-founder of California-based Switchmate, it works like a robotic finger for the lights in a home.

    The app can be used to set timers so the lights come on at prearranged times or proximity so lights turn on when you walk into a room with your phone. Peng said:
    Switchmate allows you to remotely control your lights via your smart phone, but you can still press the button on the Switchmate face plate to manually flip the switch.
    A lot of our users set timers to make their homes look occupied when they are away, great for making your home safer when you are on vacation.
    You can also have the proximity setting on such that as you approach your home, your lights will turn on automatically for you.

    Many smart lighting solutions either require switches to be rewired but recently some manufacturers have developed smart bulbs that can connect to mobile phones. However, these take the light switch out of the loop entirely, meaning lights need to be left in the "on" position all the time for the bulb to work.

    Switchmate attaches to the outside of the light switch using magnets and has a button on its face allowing lights to be turned on and off as usual.

    This means that should mobile phones run out of batteries or users are unable to connect to the device, they can still turn their lights on and off.

    The developers, who raised US$139,000 in a successful funding crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, are also now working on a version that connects to the internet.

    This will allow residents to turn their lights on and often, even while they are away on holiday. Switchmate is apparently compatible with two types of light switch - traditional flat 'rocker' switches and toggle switches.

    The developers say the device is also thin enough to be used on multiple switch face plates and the battery will last between eight to twelve months. It cannot currently be used to control lights that use dimmer switches. 

    Switchmate is only available in the US and Canada, but Peng said they hoped to have it available in other countries soon, with new features.
    Valspar completes US$45m China plant
    Valspar Corp. has added to its Chinese facilities with a new manufacturing centre
    Star Tribune
    Valspar CEO Gary Hendrickson sees demand increasing in China
    Valspar Asia president Derrick Tay at a 2012 opening of one of the company's Chinese plants
    Subscribe to HNN weekly e-newsletter
    Valspar Corp. has opened an advanced manufacturing centre in Tianjin, China, to serve paint and coatings customers.

    The US$45 million centre includes two factories and a customer service centre. It gives Valspar its eighth location in China but its first in Tianjin. Valspar already has a regional office in Shanghai, a large research and development facility in Shunde and five plants scattered across the country. Valspar CEO Gary Hendrickson said:
    Valspar has experienced strong growth in China as customer demand for high-performance and specified coatings continue to increase in this large market.

    The company, which supplies varnishes and coatings to China furniture makers and industrial factories, has had significant success in the region, especially last year.

    Its newest building in China was designed with a focus on worker safety, product quality, enhanced productivity and meeting clients needs, according to officials. It features automated and high-speed production-equipment that is being used to make waterborne coating products. Derrick Tay, president of Valspar Asia said:
    Health, safety and environmental performance has been engineered into the Tianjin site, which is important to our employees, our customers and our neighbors. Valspar's expanded production capacity and sustainability leadership positions us well to continue to grow our business in Asia.

    Valspar operates in at least 28 countries, and generated US$4.5 billion in revenue and US$396 million in earnings last year. About 46% of all revenue comes from outside the United States.
    Home improvement evolves towards mainstream retail
    The associate app for Lowe's
    HNN sources
    Home Depot's appliance finder in-store assistant
    SXSW startup village
    Give to Amnesty International
    It seems that 2015 has brought a number of surprises to retailers. We're already seeing some major shifts in supermarkets and department stores, as earnings forecasts are lowered and senior staff depart.

    While home improvement retail does not seem destined for anything quite so radical this year, there are deep currents at work which are shifting some fundamental aspects of the industry.

    We're going to look at two of these: home improvement's move to the mainstream, and the rise of in-store digital services.
    Evolving into the mainstream

    In the early days of its formation, hardware retail worked to establish itself as a distinct market segment, separate from other retailers. Today the trend has been reversed, as home improvement tries to become more like other forms of retail. There is a simple explanation for this shift: market share.

    Current broad estimates of the size of the Australian home improvement market, which typically range from $40 billion to $50 billion, take in a wide spread of retail opportunities.

    We've already seen home improvement retailers expand successfully into areas that once seemed the domain of specialty stores, such as home lighting and outdoor furniture. Given the need for growth, this type of expansion is set to continue.

    Each of these expansions has come with a subtle development of the in-store retail environment. For example, lighting needs to be displayed in an open shelf system where comparisons can easily be made between products, while outdoor furniture needs floorspace to show fully assembled "vignettes" of possible arrangements.

    The end result is that home improvement stores have been subtly morphing into something a little closer to department stores, a transition that is set to continue.

    One of the hotspots at the moment for this kind of transition is in the whitegoods area. Masters Home Improvement has already developed display areas for large kitchen and laundry appliances that are similar in style to displays at Harvey Norman, The Good Guys, and another new entry in this segment, JB Hi-Fi Home.

    There are similar moves underway in the US. Perennial hardware retailer Sears runs franchise operations known as Sears Home Appliance Showroom and Sears Appliance & Hardware Store. These are to receive a considerable refresh, with a relaunch in late April 2015. The new layout will include three kitchen vignettes, and feature more well-known brands.

    At the moment in Australia it would seem as though Masters has taken the lead in this kind of transformation - its entire store concept is, after all, built on the idea of formulating a new approach to home improvement shopping.

    One possibility, however, is that a similar kind of transition is being planned at Bunnings as well. In a recent very interesting analysis, the respected Citi analyst Craig Woolford has pointed out that, on a per-customer ratio basis, the retail floor space Bunnings is developing will exceed that of major big-box retailers in the US.
    Craig Woolford's analysis as reported in Fairfax Media

    One "solution" to this apparent saturation of floor space is to expand market reach beyond standard home improvement products. The more market segments that are covered, the greater the potential retail dollar return per square metre of floor space.

    One possibility that would enable this expansion would be the creation of what would effectively be Bunnings retail outlet sub-brands.

    The rationale behind the expansion of the Bunnings network of stores was that many purchases are made on the basis of proximity marketing. To put that more simply, few people would be willing to drive 25 minutes to buy one bucket, so more stores means more consumers will be attracted for minor purchases.

    However, more people will travel farther for major purchases, such as a refrigerator. Bunnings might be planning to introduce retail outlets that have strong product specialisations, such as, for example, kitchen/appliances, bathrooms/plumbing, and outdoor/gardening.

    The sub-brands would be distributed through the store network, so that consumers would have a Bunnings close by for everyday purchases, and a specialty Bunnings within reasonable driving range for larger purchases.

    There would be some complex benefits that arose from such an arrangement, many in the area of network effects. A good article to read on network effects is a classic from S. J. Liebowitz of the Management School at the University of Texas, entitled "Network Effects (Externalities)".
    Network Effects
    In-store digital services

    The separation of "digital" from "online" services has been growing in strength in the retail sector over the past two to three years.

    Online refers to digital services that are delivered over the internet with the goal of facilitating e-commerce. Pure digital refers to general services that are delivered both over the internet and directly in-store to aid customers in buying products.
    The Lowe's approach: associates same as customers

    More recently, this definition of digital has been expanded beyond customers to include services provided to retail staff, including customer-facing retail staff. Speaking at the US music and technology conference South by South-West (SXSW) held in Austin, Texas this March, Sean Bartlett, Lowe's director of digital experience, explained how the big box home improvement retailer went about providing these digital services.

    One of the major points Mr Bartlett made was how much time and attention Lowe's devotes to the systems it has established for its sales associates.

    Lowe's has over 40,000 iPhones in the hands of associates in its stores. The software developed for those internal processes goes through the same development and testing as the software for customer-facing applications. His key phrase in regards to this was:
    We treat the associates just like the customer.

    The features that are included on the associate software include:
  • Full e-commerce
  • Shopping lists
  • Inventory
  • Availability
  • Aisle and bay location of products

  • Perhaps the most important aspect of the associate app, however, is its ability to tie together the associates at Lowe's with individual customers. One of the key goals to this recording and surfacing of information is almost a slogan for Lowe's digital efforts: the customer never has to start over again.

    To facilitate this kind of continuity, the app enables associates to:
  • view customer purchase history
  • associate sharing: information will be recorded in the app, emailed or even printed in-store and handed to customer
  • Beacons and M-Pay
    The beacon question

    This session at SXSW also briefly delved into the world of iBeacons and other in-store devices that could help to improve the customer experience. A particularly wry take on iBeacons was provided by Daniel Gutwein, who is the director of retail analytics at Intel Corporation:
    I had a conversation with someone who was putting BLE [Bluetooth Low Energy] beacons out in their stores, and I asked them "Why?" They said "Because we want to be able to send messages to our customers who are walking buy." So I asked them "What customers ever asked you could you please bombard me with messages when I'm walking by?"
    Then there was someone else who came out with a beacon technology that would tell you when you are close to your favourite store. I said to him "Dude, it's my favourite store, so I already know where it is."
    You really have to understand what is the business problem you are trying to solve by doing some of these technologies.
    Lowe's Innovation Labs

    In a separate event at SXSW, the head of Lowe's Innovation Labs, Kyle Nel, outlined some of the processes the lab uses to help it explore the future. Daniel Harvey, director of experience design, Sapient Nitro described what Mr Nel had to say:
    The agency and client gather in workshops to ideate three possible futures. Working with a science fiction writer on staff (or with one of a hundred possible author-partners) they then create content depicting a world and a customer journey wherein that possible future is the new normal. Rather than whipping that up into a lovingly crafted PowerPoint deck that goes nowhere, they create graphic novels as one possible deliverable.

    Thinking along these lines has helped Lowe's to develop one of the world's first customer service robots, and its "holographic" design studio, which helps customers better visualise interior designs.
    How Sci-Fi drives marketing in the exponential age

    Of course, HNN did not put these two elements together accidentally, and we do see them as having a great deal to do with each other. If it is true that home improvement retail is moving towards joining up with more mainstream retail, then it is likely that in-store digital services will play an important role in helping that happen.

    One of the keys to this does seem to be what Lowe's captures in its notion of "the customer should never have to start over".

    Enabling customers to move from one sales associate to the next, and even from one store to the next, is important in making the retail experience as pleasant as possible.

    Being able to share information, and for the store information available to the customer and sales associate to be in sync, is an important step in making sure customers perceive the retailer as being on their side, offering help and assistance, and not an opposing force that must be overcome.

    In a world where what customers want more than anything else is a solution to their problems that they can understand and follow, the notion of "let's do this together" is a very powerful one.

    Until next time,


    You can contact me directly via email or Twitter @HNN_Australia

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    HNN iPad App
    Big box update
    Masters' new 13,500sqm store in Rouse Hill (NSW) has officially opened
    HNN Sources
    Bunnings consulting with business owners in Toowoomba (QLD)
    Masters' Sunbury and Roxburgh Park stores make a donation
    Click to visit the ITW website for move information
    Masters has opened its 54th store in Rouse Hill (NSW); Bunnings is working on a compromise with Toowoomba business owners; and Masters stores donate tools to a local community.
    Rouse Hill store opens

    Masters hopes its 13,500sqm store in Rouse Hill (NSW) will benefit from the housing boom in the district. The store is competing directly with the existing Bunnings outlet in Rouse Hill. Store manager Sean D'Cruz told the Daily Telegraph: "We're thrilled to be creating 164 new jobs in the area, giving many their first step in an exciting and fulfilling career in retail..."

    D'Cruz said the new store has been constructed to Masters' latest design, with a large paint department, tool shop and more than 10,500 hardware products. The store also has an extensive bathroom and kitchen display area.

    A drive-through trade area will cater to the needs of tradies. Trade customers will find familiar brands as well as exclusive products from some leading suppliers. Home delivery is available to customers online.
    Bunnings deals with Toowoomba

    Bunnings says it is committed to hammering out a compromise with business owners affected by its Toowoomba CBD development in Queensland. Local business owners have been upset by planned changes including additional traffic lights, removal of car parks and mature trees, and limiting access to side streets.

    Bunnings general manager of property Andrew Marks recently responded to the concerns of business owners. He said the company was working with Toowoomba Regional Council to ensure a fair outcome for all impacted by the development. He told The Chronicle: "The application is still in the early stages and we are committed to working collaboratively with Toowoomba Regional Council and the Department of Transport and Main Roads to satisfy a development approval. Community consultation will form part of the development program, and we look forward to working with the broader public throughout this process."
    Masters replaces stolen tools

    Following a spate of tool thefts from a community group in Broadmeadows (VIC), Masters' Sunbury and Roxburgh Park stores have donated about $600 worth of new items. The Broadmeadows Bicycle Hub and WorkSkills initiative has had $1000 worth of tools stolen within the space of a few months.

    Roxburgh Park store manager Toby Marshall-Andrew said it was about helping the groups get back on their feet. He said it was a shame to see an organisation that was striving to do the right thing be targeted. He told the Herald Sun: "I know how it feels - you're running to stand still and try to keep your head above water. As a tradesman, you can't work without your tools."
    Female tradies, a significant minority
    More female tradies could have implications for hardware retailers
    Sydney Morning Herald
    Eve Renovations and Workwear is enjoying the growth in demand for female safety wear
    Young women are increasingly recognising the benefits of learning a trade
    Subscribe to HNN weekly e-newsletter
    Female tradies are beginning to make their mark in the home renovation market - despite their minority status.

    Stacey Head, a home renovator, created the She Wear range after stepping on a nail in inappropriate footwear. Head was unimpressed with the male-focused safety gear on the market, so she created her own range of bright and feminine, yet protective and hardy, work boots.

    The boots have been a hit, with women in a wide range of industries kicking off their conventional brown steel-caps in favour of the fashionable She Wear boots.

    The instant popularity of She Wear indicates a growing demand for workwear that is more suitable for women. Eve Renovations and Workwear is also enjoying the growth in demand for female safety wear.

    Founders Juanita Mottram, an apprentice carpenter, and Laura Madden, a tiler, carpenter and builder, believe female tradespeople have a unique advantage in the market. Mottram says:
    There seemed to be an opportunity in the market just to do things differently. Tradies quite often get such a reputation for not turning up, not being clean, not finishing jobs on time.

    The pair hoped to not only prosper, but act as role models for other young women who wanted to take a similar path. They specialise in bathroom, kitchen and laundry renovations. At any one time, they employ up to 20 subcontractors of both sexes, including a female tiler, electrician and painter.

    Helen Yost, a plumber and founder of The Plumbettes, says some groups in the community, such as single mothers and the elderly, feel more secure with a female trade professional.
    They just don't feel comfortable with a male coming in. They may feel intimidated, or that they're getting the wrong advice. They all love the fact that we clean up after ourselves. Generally, tradies are renowned for the mess they leave behind.

    As of September 2014, 9.6% of Australian trades and technical workers were women, compared to approximately 5% in 2010. More female tradies, and the influence they have on some product ranges, could have implications for hardware retailers.

    According to Roy Morgan Research, Masters and Bunnings are the favoured retailers among female consumers. Masters' customer base for the year ended September 2014 was 47.6% female, while 46.8% of Bunnings customers were women.

    During the same period, Mitre 10 and True Value Hardware received the most visits from professional tradespeople (8.5% and 10.7% respectively). Retailers more inclined to appeal to professional trades will perhaps be the most affected by the rise in female tradies.

    To read more about where ladies and tradies are shopping, go to HNN's story here:
    Shopping habits identified: HNN
    Next generation of "lady tradies"

    The number of "lady tradies" has also increased from the perspective of education and training. Northern Sydney Institute faculty manager Pat Vella told the Daily Telegraph:
    Women are recognising the benefits of learning a trade. The opportunities are endless, particularly in construction, engineering and mining. They can earn higher salaries sooner and are uniquely placed to run their own business.

    For Karla Hayward, who is finishing her Certificate 4 in Carpentry and Construction, learning a trade was her only option. She said:
    My parents built our house so it's always been a dream of mine to build one of my own...I love it too. I'm a very practical person so seeing the finished product and being able to say 'I made that' is really rewarding.

    Hayward said being the only female in her course was something she - and the rest of her class - had to get used to. She said:
    But it didn't take long for us all to realise how similar we were. I do feel as though I try a lot harder because I think I need to prove myself but that's just not true, it's just something I feel. Once they have seen my work, they say I'm just like any other carpenter.

    Ruth Wilson's path to the tradie realm was less direct. She explains:
    I finished a Bachelor of Legal and Justice studies, which I loved, and ended up travelling for two years. When I came back though, it just wasn't appealing to me, which was really hard.
    I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do and every single element of becoming an electrician appealed. The hours are great, you don't have to sit behind a desk all day and it's a great challenge.

    When Wilson tells people what she does for a living, she is often met by surprised faces. She said:
    That fact it is a male-dominated trade was something I considered but it was in no way going to stop me from having a go. I prepared myself for negative responses but I've never got one.

    Story by Robyn Williams
    Interesting links
    E&S Trading will be the official kitchen, bathroom and laundry supplier for Reno Rumble
    HNN Sources
    Muji's third store in Australia will open in Sydney's CBD next month
    IKEA ranks highest in customer satisfaction with kitchen cabinets
    Click to visit the HBT website for more information
    An additional roundup of home improvement stories. E&S Trading is partnering with Channel Nine's upcoming home renovation TV show Reno Rumble; international retailer Muji will open its Australian flagship store next month; IKEA kitchen cabinets rank highly in customer satisfaction; and like-for-like revenues increase 4.4% at Germany's Hornbach DIY stores in its last fiscal year. More stories below.

    For further information, simply click on the images provided.
    Local News
    Reno show features E&S Trading

    Victorian-based retailer, E&S Trading will be the official kitchen, bathroom and laundry products supplier for upcoming home renovation competition TV show, Reno Rumble. Other brands taking part include Miele, Smeg, Fisher & Paykel, ILVE, Electrolux, ASKO and Siemens.
    E&S Trading will take part in Reno Rumble on Channel Nine
    Muji flagship in Sydney

    Muji's third store in Australia will open in Sydney's CBD next month. The retail giant has 610 stores globally and is found in 25 countries. The brand is known for eco-friendly basics with a no-frills, no-labels quality. It launched its first store at Chadstone Shopping Centre (VIC) in 2013 followed by Emporium Melbourne in April 2014.
    Japan's Muji will open a flagship store in Sydney in May
    International News
    IKEA kitchen cabinets win again

    IKEA ranks highest with customers when it comes to kitchen cabinets for a second consecutive year, according to the US-based JD Power 2015 Kitchen Cabinet Satisfaction Study.

    The study measures customer satisfaction with kitchen cabinets by examining five factors (in alphabetical order): design features, operational performance, ordering and delivery, price, and warranty. Satisfaction is measured on a 1,000-point scale.
    IKEA ranks highest in customer satisfaction with kitchen cabinets
    Hornbach stores boost revenues

    Hornbach DIY stores increased their turnover by 6.5% to 3.357 billion euros in the past fiscal year, ending 28 February 2015. Revenues increased at its like-for-like stores by 4.4% (currency adjusted). The 97 DIY and garden centre stores in Germany turned over 1.966 billion euros, an increase of 7.6% from the same period, last year. Figures include sales from seven new stores.

    Turnover from the 49 stores outside Germany achieved an adjusted sales growth of 2.8%. In total, their turnover increased by 5.0% to 1.390 billion euros.
    Hornbach DIY stores increased their turnover by 6.5%
    Redesigned mini bolt cutters

    The KNIPEX CoBolt mini bolt cutters' heavy-duty design incorporates etched blades that require less force to make cuts up 1/4". Constructed with patented micro-structured cutting edges, the tool is designed to stop thicker, round objects from slipping out during a cut. It can grip both round and flat objects.
    KNIPEX CoBolt mini bolt cutters have been redesigned
    Affordable smart bulb

    LIFX, maker of the Kickstarter-funded smart bulb, has added a new value bulb to its Wi-Fi-enabled product offering. The White 800 can emit light ranging from rich warm to cool white, controllable via a mobile app. It also features 890 lumens (a 60-watt equivalent). As with other LIFX products, the White 800 features "Powered by LIFX" software and Cloud, which enables users to control the light from anywhere in the world.
    LIFX has added a new value bulb to its Wi-Fi-enabled product offering
    WD-40 tops expectations in Q2
    WD-40 has beaten analysts' expectations in terms of its Q2 earnings and revenue
    Sales in its Asia-Pacific business climbed 28%
    WD-40 celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2014
    Subscribe to HNN weekly e-newsletter
    Homecare and cleaning products maker WD-40 reported an increase in second-quarter profit, driven largely by sales growth and improved gross margins. Both earnings and revenue in this quarter have beaten Wall Street estimates.

    But moving ahead, the company has lowered its full-year financial guidance.

    WD-40's second-quarter profit rose to US$11.3 million compared to US$10.3 million in the same quarter, last year.

    Revenues for the second quarter grew 3% to US$97.3 million from US$94.2 million a year ago. Analysts had a consensus revenue estimate of US$97.0 million for the quarter. Analysts' estimates typically exclude special items.

    Net sales of multi-purpose maintenance products rose 3% in the second quarter to US$86.6 million from the prior year, while homecare and cleaning products sales also increased 3%.

    Sales in its Asia-Pacific business climbed 28%, while sales in the Americas slipped 1%. Sales in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) climbed 1%.

    Gross margin for the quarter improved to 52.6% in the second quarter versus 51.6% in the same period, from the previous year.

    Selling, general and administrative expenses rose 3% in the quarter to US$27.4 million, while advertising and sales promotion expenses slipped 9% to US$5.5 million.

    Vice president and chief financial officer Jay Rembolt said the company lowered its outlook due mainly to foreign exchange rates. He said:
    Our underlying business is performing in line with our previously issued guidance. However, in view of current foreign currency exchange conditions, we have updated our previously issued guidance.
    Foreign currency exchange fluctuations have impacted our business performance in the first half of the year and are expected to do so for the duration of the fiscal year.
    We also remain somewhat uncertain how the recent declines in the price of crude oil will embed into our financials over the long-term. We had a number of price increases planned for this fiscal year to offset the costs of implementing some new regulatory requirements, primarily in our Americas segment. However, the declines in the cost of crude oil have allowed us to delay these planned price increases.
    Home building drives construction growth
    Detached home construction expanded strongly in March
    Australian Financial Review
    The apartment sector (led by Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) is growing solidly
    The March figures from the AIG-HIA Performance of Construction Index have been released
    Click to visit the HBT website for more information
    Australia's economic shift away from mining to housing gathered momentum in March as detached home construction and apartment building expanded strongly over the month, according to the Australian Industry Group-Housing Industry Association Australian Performance of Construction Index.

    The AIG-HIA Performance of Construction Index jumped 6.2 points in March to just scrape back into expansionary territory at 50.1. The 50-point level separates expansion from contraction. It is the first time since October last year that it has been in the black.

    A 10.4-point surge in house building to 55.8 led the improvement. This represents a return to growth after three months of contracting. The apartment sector (led by Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) kept growing solidly at 54.9. This is the healthiest pace of expansion in four months. The Australian Industry Group's head of policy Peter Burn said:
    Renewed strength in house and apartment building drove the Australian construction industry back into growth territory in March.

    A rise in new orders in house building (work in the pipeline) also returned to growth in March (up 8.2 points to 50.6 points) after declining over the previous four months. The report said that "growth in house building sector is likely to be sustained in coming months".

    Apartment new orders also strengthened with the sub-index rising by 4.7 points to 52.4 points, its first increase in six months.

    In contrast, engineering construction, much of it mining-related, slid again to a 10-month low of 41.2.

    Commercial construction also declined, but at a slower pace than in February, rising 5.2 points to 47. Burn said:
    The lift in these residential construction sub-sectors from already healthy levels more than compensated for a steeper fall in engineering construction in line with the retreat from investment in mining-related projects and further weakness in commercial construction.
    While new orders for residential construction look positive for the near term, the time is now ripe for higher levels of investment in commercial construction and particularly in infrastructure.

    The new orders sub-index rose 12.1 points to 50.8, the first time this critical bellwether of future activity has been positive in five months.
    DIY home security goes mainstream
    The Canary DIY security system is preparing for its retail release through Home Depot
    Tech Hive
    It remains cost-effective because it is an all-in-one, self-contained unit
    Canary has developed apps for both Android and iOS smartphones
    Click to view details of the SpotOn golf ball competition
    The Canary DIY security system is embarking on what the company says is one of the largest retail releases of a crowd-funded product, with four major retail partners: Amazon, Home Depot, Best Buy and Verizon Wireless.

    Canary co-founder Adam Sager said at the time of its crowd-funding effort in 2013:
    The [home-security] market is dominated by the major installers with expensive, complicated solutions on the one hand, and by DIY systems which for the most part are pared-down products from the major installers on the other. Canary will be as effective as those expensive custom-installed systems at a fraction of the price.

    Most home-security systems depend on a raft of sensors on doors and windows, and motion detectors that are mounted in common areas. These are supplemented with discrete smoke and CO detectors, and everything communicates with a central control panel that's connected to a Wi-Fi network, backed up by a battery and a GSM module in case of a power failure. Security cameras, and the cloud storage needed to make them useful, are typically a pricey option.

    The reason Canary is far less expensive is that it's an all-in-one, self-contained unit. It is loaded with sensors and a siren to help frighten intruders.

    The cylindrical enclosure houses a smoke and heat detector, a high-definition microphone, a motion sensor, an accelerometer, a security camera with night vision, a capacitive touch sensor, an air-quality monitor that can detect both carbon-monoxide and volatile organic chemicals, a humidity sensor, a 110dB siren, Bluetooth, and a Wi-Fi client adapter.

    Early backers of Canary would have paid US$199 for the unit. The retail price has been set at US$249.

    At the moment, the Canary doesn't include a battery backup or a GSM module, so if a burglar cuts off the power, the service that connects the home to the Internet, or both, homeowners won't be alerted to a break-in.

    The device currently doesn't include any hooks to lighting controls or other connected-home systems either, so homeowners won't be able to arm or disarm the system when they lock their smart door locks, or have the lights turn on if the motion sensor detects an intruder's presence when the home should be unoccupied.

    Canary has developed apps for both Android and iOS smartphones.
    One-hour deliveries at Wolseley UK
    Wolseley UK is using geofencing for faster deliveries to its branches
    Builders Merchants Journal
    It has received positive feedback from the branches that have been trialling geofencing
    Plumb Center is just one of Wolseley UK's trading brands
    Subscribe to HNN weekly e-newsletter
    One of the world's largest distributors of building products, Wolseley UK is using geofencing for faster (one-hour) deliveries to its branches. The company sells to a professional market through brands such as Plumb Center, Parts Center, Pipe Center, Climate Center, Drain Center, William Wilson, BCG and Burdens.

    Geofencing is a system where virtual "fences" are drawn around a location. When a delivery vehicle "hits" one of these fences, an automatic alert is triggered, letting the recipient know that the driver is just 20 minutes away.

    Wolseley UK's Melmerby Distribution Centre has been trialling geofencing on three branch delivery routes, and has received positive feedback from all the branches involved. Nye Whittaker, branch manager at Beverley Plumb Center, said:
    Geofencing is a great invention! The automated alerts let us know when a delivery is due so that we can prepare accordingly. It's really handy if a customer is waiting on a particular item, as we can call ahead and let them know that their order will arrive with the hour.

    The one-hour delivery slots for each branch are based on analysis of data that tracks the time each vehicle leaves a distribution centre and when it enters the geofenced proximity of each branch on its itinerary. Alan Newton, head of distribution and fleet at Wolseley UK, said:
    As the leading distributer in our industry we are keen to embrace any new technology that will help us improve our service. Ultimately, we want branches to be able to order their goods from DCs as late as 5pm, and still be guaranteed delivery within a one-hour time slot the next day - an unprecedented branch delivery service in any sector.

    Geofencing and automated delivery alerts will be in place across the entire delivery network by the end of April 2015.
    Lowe's, retailer of the future
    The aim of Lowe's Innovation Lab is to build technologies that address consumer problems
    The Holoroom app allows Lowe's to blur the lines between its website and stores
    Its in-store robots are designed to help customers find what they need
    Click to visit the ITW website for move information
    These days, retailers that engage their customers through the right touchpoints at the right times, ultimately create seamless shopping experiences. As a result, they will perform better financially and brand-wise over ones that silo their digital and physical locations.

    Lowe's experiments present an interesting case study of this, and offer a sign of things to come in the wider world of retail.

    In a scene that would be right at home in a futuristic sci-fi movie, Lowe's in-store robots help customers find what they need when they enter one of its locations. According to Engadget, each robot is equipped with a touchscreen as well as a voice recognition module that a customer can use to input a command.

    While leading the customer to the requested product, the robot will show relevant advertisements and coupons along the way.

    Lowe's is also effectively blurring the lines between its website and stores with the new Holoroom app. DIYers will be able to visualise projects in an API (application programming interface) on the Lowe's website. When they have finished, they can head to a store location and use an Oculus Rift (virtual reality headset) to virtually walk through the room they designed.

    With these initiatives, Lowe's is proactively seeking innovative ways to soothe real pain points for its customers, and it is coming straight from the Lowe's Innovation Lab.

    The Lab's aim is to be a leader in innovation for the retail industry. It focuses on building technology solutions that address common consumer problems in partnership with "uncommon" partners like tech start-ups, academics and other companies.

    From getting quick help via the in-store robot, or helping DIYers imagine and execute projects, the implementation of these tools could be the game changer for Lowes -something to differentiate it from competitors.

    Facilitating a convenient and enjoyable customer experience is one way Lowe's is positioning itself for the future of retail. Its approach to packaging an emerging class of products may be what gives the retailer a needed leg up in a growing market, as well as teeing them up as the leader in the home goods and improvement channel.

    But it doesn't stop there. Lowes is looking at what's already been innovated, and further customising it.
    Home energy management

    Lowe's has added Nest thermostats and other smart home products to its list of offerings in the home energy management (HEM) market.

    But the way in which the company is positioning and selling these products could change the way it dominates the space, as well as give a boost to a market that hasn't yet lived up to expectations.

    HEM is defined by Energy Lens, an HEM software developer, as "the process of monitoring, controlling and conserving energy in a building or organisation." For homes, this means using smart thermostats and appliances, advanced electric meters and other internet-connected, energy-saving products that can be controlled and monitored digitally.

    The idea here is to give homeowners a way to better track and manage their energy usage - and to lower bills.

    Sounds good in theory, but unfortunately it hasn't worked that way. An article on the Utility Dive website explained that the biggest barrier HEM product manufacturers and retailers have had to overcome is getting homeowners to change their habits and routines to actually use the products to their fullest capabilities.

    It seems that once the novelty of having a smart thermostat wears off, people lose interest in using them.

    According to market research firm Manifest Mind, the problem is that HEM products are too inconvenient for consumers to handle individually. Homeowners typically buy their smart gadgets and appliances separately, and then must install and manage them one by one.

    HEM products, for the most part, are not integrated into one comprehensive system, nor are they tied into something more familiar like home security systems. For as much convenience as they promise, they're ironically too much work to use.

    That's exactly the problem Lowe's aims to solve. A ZDNet interview with Anne Seymour and Jason Rogers, directors on Lowe's Iris Smart Home platform team, revealed that the retailer plans on refocusing HEM to be more about the customer, rather than the products: Seymour told ZDNet:
    It's about the education of the consumer and taking the technology out of it from their perspective. It's not about worrying what the technology background is. They should care that it is an easy experience for them.

    Lowe's vision is to enable the homeowner to use a tablet to set his or her thermostat, run the dishwasher when power is cheap, set the alarms, lock the windows and other key tasks. Rogers added:
    Users don't want a thousand apps on their phones. They want things to work together. There is value in the products working together as a service. Of all these folks making awesome products, we're able to connect them for the consumers. They'll get frustrated if they have to manage 15 of them 15 different ways.

    Manifest Mind projected the HEM market to reach a total size of US$2.2 billion by 2022, and selling these products in a way that consumers will not only buy them, but use them, will be key. Lowe's has an opportunity to capture a large share of this market for itself.

    Consumers are going to flock to the retailers that make things easy for them, from their first visit into a store to the post-purchase experience. And those retailers that take it a step further, by engaging with their customers to learn what they want in terms of product, technology and in-store experience, will be the real winners.
    "Agri-hoods", millennials in 2015 gardens
    Millennials, particularly young men, represent the latest gardeners
    Bend Bulletin
    The Root Assassin shovel helps make gardening physically easier
    The Garden Media Group has been tracking garden trends since 2003
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    The Garden Media Group (GMG) has been tracking garden trends since 2003. The 2015 GMG report states that brands are being held to ever higher standards as customers demand products that are not only reliable but also have a positive impact on the planet. Consumers want products that are environmentally friendly and safe for pets and children.

    Surprisingly, the latest gardeners aren't the newly retired looking for a hobby, but rather belong to the millennial generation (generally, people ages 18 to 35).

    Young men in particular are spending US$100 more per year on garden-related items than the average consumer. This is a bigger trend in this age group in Europe than it is in North America.

    Attracting pollinators - bees, birds and butterflies - is still a prime concern for gardeners worldwide. Pollinator gardens should include a variety of nectar-rich annuals and perennials that will provide pollen from early spring to the first killing frost in autumn. There is a continuing demand for organic, pesticide-free plants and products.

    It is more important to understand the plant and its optimal growing condition than to follow a trend that might not suit specific climates. Water conservation should continue to be a major consideration with new plantings.

    GMG also predicts a growing movement to change city ordinances and neighborhood codes, covenants and restrictions in the US to allow front-yard gardens and backyard greenhouses, as well as allowing urban chickens and beekeeping. The new term for this is called "agri-hoods".

    Trending colour pops range from vintage to muted rustic to teal. Exploding colour combinations such as pink and teal will be popular.

    Plant botanists continue to develop plants, flowers and vegetables for container gardening. To help meet the need for more mobile gardening, containers are being designed with wheels and handles in more lightweight materials.

    "NOwners" is a new term for those who prize freedom over homeownership. They are renting, sharing and bartering and want their gardens to travel with them, according to GMG's latest report.

    Garden suppliers also continue to develop products to make gardening physically easier. The Root Assassin shovel is a good example of less pain and less strain. The shovel has a saw-toothed blade on each side, making it easy to cut through roots, slice turf, dig out dead or unwanted shrubs and make holes for new plantings.
    Simplifying drawer slide installations
    The Universal Drawer Slide Jig which fits most types of drawer slides
    PR Web
    Featuring a locking wedge, it holds the slide securely for installation
    The user can hold the jig in place using the ergonomic handle
    SpotOn is your source for laser levels and other tools
    Rockler Woodworking and Hardware has introduced the Universal Drawer Slide Jig. It fits most types of drawer slides, including ball-bearing and epoxy-coated side-mount slides as well as centre-mount slides.

    Featuring a locking wedge, it holds the slide securely for installation. Once the slide is locked in place, the user then presses the jig guide against the face of the cabinet, which levels and squares the slide, and positions it with the proper setback.

    Cutouts in the jig body allow access for drill and driver bits as the user secures the slide with screws. Once the slide is fastened, the user slides the locking wedge open, which releases the jig from the newly installed slide. Steve Krohmer, Rockler's vice president of product marketing and strategy said:
    The Universal Drawer Slide Jig simplifies every step necessary to install drawer slides accurately. From alignment to levelling to spacing, this jig does it all...

    An adjustable indexing rod can be extended from the top or bottom of the jig to set slide height settings, to ensure each pair of slides will share perfect lateral alignment. The indexing rod is stored onboard when not in use.

    The user can either hold the jig in place using the ergonomic handle or clamp it in place to steady the apparatus while the slide is affixed to the cabinet with screws.
    Carter Holt IPO, one step closer
    Carter Holt Harvey has assigned advisors on its plans to become a public company
    The Australian
    Graham Hart controls the Carter Holt business through his private company
    Carter Holt employs 5000 people and has annual sales of about $2.1 billion
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    According to a report in The Australian, Carter Holt Harvey Building Supplies has assigned Credit Suisse/First NZ Capital, Deutsche Craigs and Forsyth Barr to advise on taking the company public.

    The appointments as advisers, revealed by DataRoom (part of the Business Spectator website), come after Credit Suisse has been working with the wood products supplier on a potential sale.

    Macquarie, UBS, Deutsche and Forsyth Barr all pitched in New Zealand for a joint lead manager role for the initial public offering, working alongside Credit Suisse.

    The pitches came as Credit Suisse held meetings in Sydney with Australian fund managers about the offering.

    The Carter Holt business is controlled by Graham Hart's private company, The Rank Group. It comprises three divisions - Woodproducts Australia, Woodproducts New Zealand and Carters Building Supplies. It employs 5000 people and has annual sales of about $2.1 billion.

    Sources indicate that Hart is pitching the offering to potential investors as one that generates most of its earnings out of Australia, and one that will prosper on the back of its exposure to the thriving home building market here.

    He is expected to list the Carter Holt business on both the New Zealand stock exchange and the Australian Securities Exchange between June and July.

    Hart plans to sell up to 60% of Carter Holt Harvey in a deal worth up to $1 billion, according to Radio New Zealand.
    Housing development for Goonellabah
    The Altitude 2480 development in Goonellabah (NSW) will deliver more than 220 units
    Echo Net Daily
    Green Vision Developments will build the development
    Lismore Housing Strategy 2012 identified a need for affordable apartments in the region
    Give to Amnesty International
    A proposed $20 million development that will deliver more than 220 units in Goonellabah (NSW) has been approved by the joint Regional Planning Panel.

    The Altitude 2480 development will occupy 32 acres and comprise 60 buildings. They will be made from natural materials and all fitted out with the latest solar and storm-water recycling technologies.

    Green Vision Developments, headed by Scott Wharton, will build the development.

    A key feature of the proposal is that the vast majority of the development will be constructed off-site in industrial sheds in Lismore, creating about 100 jobs.

    There will be minimal disturbance to the site due to construction methods which don't require a concrete slab. A stormwater management system will supply all toilets, washers, common areas and landscaping.

    Wharton said the housing community will be constructed on land adjoining Fisher Street and Casuarina Drive in Goonellabah. He said it would be developed over four stages.
    Quicklock uses smartphones
    Quicklock unlocks using either an app or a key based on "near field communication"
    CBS News
    It has no key to carry or lose, and no combo to misplace or forget
    A QuickLock can recognise up to about 50 keys
    Click to view details of the SpotOn golf ball competition
    QuickLock is a Bluetooth-powered padlock that updates the classic portable lock for the smartphone age.

    It doesn't use a key or combination of any kind. Instead, it unlocks using either an app or a key based on "near field communication" (NFC), a mobile technology that enables wireless transactions.

    The lock itself looks like an ordinary padlock, except for the lack of a keyhole or spinning dial. The only disturbance in the lock's smooth front face is a small button. Press it to wake up the lock and launch the iPhone or Android app. After a few moments, the lock disengages after pressing the button.

    If users prefer to use the NFC key, which they can slide into their wallet or place in a credit card pouch in a smartphone case, the process is similar. Press the button and wave the NFC key in front of the padlock to unlock it.

    QuickLock relies on a rechargeable lithium ion battery that's good for about two years on a charge. It's also waterproof and seemingly as rugged as any traditional padlock.

    This padlock doesn't necessarily offer more security. Any padlock's greatest weakness is its shackle, and a determined thief will simply slice through the QuickLock's shackle with a pair of bolt cutters.

    However QuickLock does offer convenience. It has no key to carry or lose, and no combo to misplace or forget.

    If users would rather use an NFC key, a QuickLock can recognise up to about 50 keys, so they can share the lock with multiple people without also trading the NFC key. Just as convenient, multiple QuickLocks can be trained to recognise the same NFC key.

    The NFC option is a good one, since that makes the QuickLock practical for people who don't carry smartphones, like young children. There are NFC accessories such as rings and key fobs that put the QuickLock "key" within easy reach.
    TTI adds to outdoor power equipment line-up
    The 2000 PSI electric pressure washer is ideal for cleaning driveways, decks and windows
    PR Web
    The 1600 PSI electric pressure washer is small enough to carry around the house
    The 1700 PSI electric pressure washer made its debut last year
    Click to view details of the SpotOn golf ball competition
    Techtronic Industries (TTI) will now offer a 1600 PSI electric pressure washer and a 2000 PSI electric pressure washer from Ryobi.

    All Ryobi electric pressure washers combine the convenience of a gas-free unit with the power of a 13 amp motor. Each unit comes with a Turbo Nozzle that provides 50% more cleaning power and on-board accessory storage for user convenience.

    The 1600 PSI electric pressure washer is small enough to carry around the house, boat or job site, but powerful enough to tackle cleaning projects. Featuring a unique handheld design, detergent tank and compact roll-cage fame; the unit is both portable and durable.

    The 1700 PSI electric pressure washer made its debut last year, highly rated for its easy-to-use design. It has an on-board detergent tank for easy soap application, and a metal roll cage frame for durability.

    The 2000 PSI electric pressure washer is ideal for cleaning driveways, decks and windows. The unit boasts Pressure Plus Technology[tm] for added power, a hose reel for user convenience and a removable detergent tank for simple soap application and hassle-free clean up.
    Emerging advertising trends for 2015/16
    Lowe's goes vertical big time in the cat market
    HNN sources
    Home Depot highlights online e-commerce
    Socks have feelings, too
    Give to Amnesty International
    There are clear indications in both the US and UK markets of trends that will likely find their way into Australia's home improvement advertising, both for the retailers themselves and for leading products.

    The indications are that the standard advertising setup - situation, problem, solution, result, endorsement - has been altered dramatically to cope with the times.

    Not that the standard setup isn't a highly effective technique. It provides many opportunities to introduce drama and interest by describing the extent of the problem:

    The problem as it develops can be used to build tension and expectations:

    Until things reach a stage where at one time anything can be believed, and also nothing can be believed:

    But there is a problem with the problem: it creates the kind of tension that is needed to introduce great drama, like the first few moments on a roller-coaster. That tension can itself be perceived by viewers as directly stressful, causing them to disconnect from the ad's message.

    This is particularly the case during tough times, and you could - modestly - say that the times we are living through right now are quite stressful. Economies that are recovering from the global financial disaster in unfamiliar ways, concerns about terrorism, high levels of technological change, an ageing population, fluctuating employment numbers - all these and more contribute to high levels of personal stress.

    Under these pressures, it seems likely the standard advertising roller-coaster will not work as well as it did in past, more relaxed times.
    Distracting problems

    One way around this is to at one time introduce the problem, but also distract the consumer from the real nature of the problem at the same time. A simple way to do this is to use music and dance, as in this Loctite adhesive ad:

    Things are broken and getting fixed with glue, but it seems to be not such a big deal.

    A similar technique has been used by lock manufacturer Kwikset. The opportunities for stress, tension and concern abound with locks, but Kwikset, by introducing a more lighthearted, less serious set of concerns, manages to get the message across without alarming consumers:

    The piano teacher who wants to play the Steinway simply isn't a real threat. Kwikset manages to take this one stage further by removing the last traces of unwelcome tension by creating a complex social group, a situation that further delivers the product message:

    Then there is the possibility of making a product point by introducing a set of completely unrelated concerns, that nonetheless tend to rivet the attention. Bissell does this in a Canadian ad for one of its combined steam-vacuum cleaners:

    The Lowe's solution

    US big-box home improvement retailer Lowe's seems to have developed something of its own solution to this tension problem by using a kind of "tension displacement" instead of distraction.

    It has launched a series of ads which actually begin not with a problem but with the delivery of a home improvement solution. The problem is then introduced on a secondary storyline, and is a little silly but somehow understandable. Or sometimes more than a little silly.

    The star example of this advertising is the Lowe's hats for cats TV commercial:

    Note that the ad begins with all the home improvement task already finished, and a complete success. This gives the DIYer a burst of self-confidence - which leads to something not quite so good. The tension in the ad has been displaced into this secondary place, where instead of being troubling, it is funny.

    Lowe's has boosted the assets deployed with this one ad. In response to a high level of activity on social media, Lowe's ad agency BBDO in New York has created an entire one-minute "infomercial" for the hat product:

    The first 2,250 people who responded on a microsite set up for the infomercial were given a chance to receive one of the actual hats for free.

    Lowe's has a number of other TV commercials in this set:
    Fedora twins

    A different kind of hat story.

    Sign language

    Man's inhumanity to apes.

    Fitted sheet

    This is HNN's favourite from this series - because it is so...true.

    Earlier Lowe's TV ads

    The four ads above are new for March 2015, timed to coincide with basketball playoffs. Prior to that, Lowe's published some ads that managed the tension issue, but did not provide the displacement of tension to a new storyline. They remain effective, but are also a little flat.

    A new word, but what does it relate to?

    Zeus and Apollo

    Just not really enough there.

    True Value hardware advertising

    True Value has its own approach to this kind of advertising. It is much softer and gentler than Lowe's, and possibly more suited to a culture such as Australia's. There is the same aspect of the ads presenting a situation where the project has been completed, but there is a considerable callback to the planning, work and effort that went into that project.
    Opening night

    The great outdoors is its own stage.


    As an incentive for spring planting it certainly works.

    The Home Depot

    Home Depot, the largest home improvement retailer in the US, has kept its past approach to advertising largely intact from 2014.

    Its ads are fast paced, driven, with short cuts featuring material derived from a wide variety of sources. They show shopping online, product selection, a store visit, and the actual activity of DIY in a linear collage.

    It is a compelling, confident style of advertising, that is particularly notable for its high inclusivity of women. Something that is actually somewhat lacking from the Lowe's ads.
    All grown up

    A mother helps convert a little girl's bathroom into something better suited to a teenager.

    Spring, big time

    A woman lays the groundwork for her garden during spring.

    And then there is the UK

    The two largest home improvement retailers in the UK have continued their basic ad campaigns from 2014 into 2015.

    This is a revisit of an earlier "morph your house into a home" ad. It retains its sense of surprise and delight.


    B&Q partners with Valspar to demonstrate its colour matching ability in a slightly unique way.

    UK paint brands

    Outside of the idea of solutions we've seen through the pure home improvement retail ads, there does seem to be a new trend developing in ads for paint brands in the UK.

    The theme that seems to run through these is "transformation". It is quite possible this is an early look at a general home improvement trend that will grow stronger towards the end of this calendar year.

    This is a comparatively gentle, inspiring ad that seeks to turn a bleak landscape into something more colourful and individual.

    Dulux UK

    In contrast with the more gentle Valspar ad, this is futuristic and really a little harsh. It seems to be a quite strong call to action.

    The Australian story

    Where home improvement advertising is headed for the 2015/16 financial year is difficult to determine. Much of this is likely to depend on what the Woolworths' owned Masters chooses to do with its advertising.

    Indications are that it will probably not have an excess of funds with which to work. However, there is the possibility that, as it may be adopting a store-in-store approach to retailing, it may also adopt a cooperative approach to advertising.

    This could see individual brands seek to advertise their wares in a Masters-centric manner.

    Whether or not that would trigger a response, or how much of a response, from Bunnings would be difficult to say. The other force at work on Bunnings is the need for it to expand both its product categories and markets to meet growth needs for the future.

    Before we go, you can also see the official highlights of the Home Timber and Hardware Group's National Conference on HNN's YouTube channel. To view it, click on the following image.

    Until next time,


    You can contact me directly via email or Twitter @HNN_Australia

    To receive a daily dose of HNN, download the free HNNBrowser app from the Apple store:
    HNN iPad App
    Changes in Harper Review reflect bias towards future
    Professor Ian Harper
    Competition Policy Review
    Heated debate on the Harper Review
    Decline of tariff rates
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    One recommended change in Australia's recently released Competition Policy Review has led to heated debate in the retail sector.

    This change touches on the misuse of market power provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA). If adopted, the recommended measures could directly affect the home improvement retail industry.

    In brief, the recommendation seeks to widen the definition of what constitutes misuse of market power. Instead of basing the test for misuse on the intent behind actions, as the current CCA legislation does, it suggests basing the test on the actual effects the actions have caused or would cause.

    This new definition would tend to inhibit the expansion of large retailers into under-serviced ex-urban and semi-rural regions.

    HNN believes much of the public debate about this change has not engaged with the its central point.

    The debate has dealt for the most part with issues of "big" versus "little" retail. HNN's research indicates that the recommended change is less concerned with "big" and "little", and more concerned with "new".

    The recommended change seems to look ahead to developing services that could enter retail markets. It is designed to assist with the rapid development of these services, largely through ensuring that barriers to entry in these markets remain low.
    Understanding context

    To explore this possibility, it is necessary to look more closely at the context around the Competition Policy Review. The external factors that affect this context include the previous competition review, the Australian economy's progress from being restrictive and highly protected to liberal and less protected, as well as international market protection legislation, especially in the US.

    The internal context of the review itself includes its core intent, what it sees as the main drivers of change in competition, and its focus on the development of the future economy.
    Competition reviews

    The Competition Policy Review was commissioned in late 2013, and the final report was released to the public on 31 March 2015. It has come to be called "The Harper Review", after its chair, Professor Ian Harper.

    Holding the review has fulfilled one of the election promises of the current Australian Federal Government, headed by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

    A good starting point in understanding this review is to see how it contrasts with the previous review into competition, the National Competition Policy Review, which published its final report on 25 August 1993. This has come to be known as the Hilmer report, after its chairman, Professor Frederick Hilmer.

    The Hilmer report states its purpose in its Preface like this:
    It is recognised that Australia, for all practical purposes, is now a single integrated market, increasingly exposed to domestic and international competition. A national competition policy aims to promote and maintain competitive forces to increase efficiency and community welfare, while recognising other social goals.

    The Harper Review states its purpose in its initial "Message from the Panel" like this:
    Taken together, our recommendations comprise an agenda of reinvigorated microeconomic reform that will require sustained effort from all jurisdictions. We believe this commitment is necessary if Australia is to boost productivity, secure fiscal sustainability and position our economy to meet the challenges and opportunities of a rapidly changing world.

    Though similar, there are also marked differences in the approaches outlined here. The Hilmer Report is concerned with increasing "efficiency and community welfare", while the Harper Review is geared towards "an agenda of reinvigorated microeconomic reform".

    You could say that Hilmer is concerned with a socially ethical approach to competition that is inflected by economics, and Harper is an economic approach that is inflected by ethics.
    Points on the arc

    This might make it seem as though the two are in some ways opposed, but this is not actually the case. They both represent points along the same developmental arc.

    The first, foundational points on that arc were really made by what the journalist Paul Kelly was to characterise as "The Australian Settlement". Instituted early in the 20th Century, this was marked by high rates of tariffs, to protect both primary producers and industry, and a series of centralised governmental controls over industry and employers.

    Post World War II, this regime was carried over and intensified by the government of Sir Robert Menzies, with his Trade Minister, John McEwan, particularly vigorous in enforcing the tariff regime.

    The first noticeable breach in the tariff wall occurred in the Labor Party government led by Gough Whitlam, which instituted an across-the-board tariff cut of 25% in 1974. Many of these reductions were later reversed or blunted by the subsequent Coalition Party government led by Malcolm Fraser.

    The most recent phase of reforms is described by Geoffrey Brennan and Jonathan Pincus in their essay "From the Australian Settlement to Microeconomic Reform: the Change in Twentieth Century Policy Regimes" like this:
    Wide-ranging micro-economic reforms began under the Hawke and Keating Labor governments, 1983 to 1996, and continued under the Howard Coalition governments that followed. The old developmental strategy was largely overthrown. In its place was a set of policies that encouraged competition in product markets and in capital markets. The change was dominated by the Commonwealth's decisions to reduce and almost eliminate tariff protection.
    From the Australian Settlement to Microeconomic Reform (p18)

    As the Hilmer report came towards the end of this transformation, its primary concern is, given the rapid liberalisation of the Australian economy, how could the past patterns of social justice and ethical competition be enabled to continue?

    The Harper Review takes place in a very different context. There are three primary drivers described by the report, which are:
  • Rise of Asian economies
  • The rise of Asia and other emerging economies provides significant opportunities for Australian businesses and consumers but also poses some challenges. A heightened capacity for agility and innovation will be needed to match changing tastes and preferences in emerging economies with our capacity to deliver commodities, goods, services and capital.
  • Ageing population
  • Our ageing population will give rise to a wider array of needs and preferences among older Australians and their families.
  • New technologies
  • New technologies are 'digitally disrupting' the way many markets operate, the way business is done and the way consumers engage with markets. The challenge for policymakers and regulators is to capture the benefits of digital disruption by ensuring that competition policy, laws and institutions do not unduly obstruct its impact yet still preserve expected safeguards for consumers.

    What is clearly common to both reviews is that they deal not with the endpoints of certain developments, but rather with the transition from a familiar set of circumstances to a less familiar set.
    Section 46: Misuse of market power

    While it sees room for simplification through much of the CCA, there is one area where the Harper Review seeks change. This is in Section 46 of the CCA, which has to do with misuse of market power.

    The suggested changes would widen the definition of what constitutes misuse. The changes are detailed in the report's Recommendation 30 (R30).

    The Harper Review recommends that the test applied to determine if an abuse of market power will occur should not be based on the intent of a competitor, but rather on the effect the competitor will have on the market.

    The statement of the recommendation is presented like this:
    The primary prohibition in section 46 of the CCA should be re-framed to prohibit a corporation that has a substantial degree of power in a market from engaging in conduct if the proposed conduct has the purpose, or would have or be likely to have the effect, of substantially lessening competition in that or any other market.

    One reason for this suggested change by the Harper Review is that it believes international views on this subject have shifted substantially over the past 20 years.

    This contrasts sharply with the Hilmer report, which supported the intent test in part because it saw international law as not providing a clear direction:
    A consideration of international experience indicates that there is no universally accepted method of dealing with misuse of market power, although many nations have adopted a purpose-based approach.

    The Harper Review disagrees, and sees the laws of other countries as broadly supporting an effects-based regime. It cites section 2 of the US Sherman Act, and quotes the American Bar Association as stating:
    Modern US decisions hold that it is not subjective intent but objective intent that is relevant, and that intent can be inferred from conduct and effect. The focus of the US courts is on evidence of monopoly power and proof of exclusionary conduct. Harper also sees a similar pattern in both Canadian and EU legislation.

    This seems more than a little disingenuous. There is in fact a very active and vibrant debate in the US over the provisions of the Sherman Act, and it is a debate that is quite far from reaching a real resolution.
    The push for change

    The question that needs to be asked is why Harper seeks to shift competition policy in this way. Most commentary has focused on situational analysis - the threat of a big company supermarket moving into a small country town and eliminating one or two smaller supermarkets.

    However, there really has not been all that much change in that kind of situation in the 20 years from the Hilmer period to the Harper period. If the specifics of that kind of competitive situation have been stable, what exactly has changed to trigger this new regard for misuse of market power?

    If we refer back to Harper's statement about the important new forces at work on the Australian economy - the rise of Asia, technological change and an ageing population - it might at first seem that none of these apply to this situation.

    However, one of them actually does apply: technological change.

    One path to understanding this is a very interesting paper prepared by Katherine Mereand-Sinha, Howard Bergman, and Donald I. Baker for the 2013 Kiev conference of The International League of Competition Law. The paper constitutes the US Report on Antitrust Efficacy in the Grocery Retail Market for that conference.

    Regarding the potential for large US companies such as Wal-mart to dominate regional areas in the US, the authors write:
    More certain than any of the other factors likely to affect this sector in the short term is an industry transformation - fed by technological growth and permitted by light regulations - that could have painful short term effects but dynamic long term outcomes.
    Wal-Mart's natural growth has been fast, and it may come to dominate food and non-perishable channels in some local or regional markets. Many onlookers are concerned that Wal-Mart will or already has gained effective monopolies in poor, rural communities and has exhibited monopsony power in many products. We believe that such control will be offset in the long term through the entrance of major players like Amazon that do not conform to traditional geographic markets and can and do provide a platform for small batch and niche products. Nonetheless the speed of such change in the communities most dominated by Wal-Mart today may be slow, as infrastructure like high-speed wireless and home amenities like computers lags...It remains too early to predict, however, how the layers of infrastructure will develop. (requires free membership) p10.

    In this vision, large companies such as Wal-Mart may dominate regional, under-serviced areas in the short-term, but in the longer-term will likely find their monopoly advantages undermined by more efficient and effective internet-based services.

    What the authors of this paper suggest is that this means Wal-Mart's current domination of both consumer and supplier markets ("monopsony" is effectively a form of supply-side monopolisation), while not welcome, is a temporary market state that will be soon be rebalanced by additional competitive forces.

    It is possible this will hold true for Australia's regional areas as well, though the circumstances are quite different. Infrastructure is even more of an issue, and, unlike with Amazon in the US, there is as yet not established, mammoth online alternative to established retailers.

    It is those differences that may be influencing the Harper Review's tilt towards effect over intention.

    Expansion by larger retailers into vulnerable areas will be more difficult to disrupt given the obstacles to online commerce in the Australian market. Through inhibiting this kind of expansion by current market participants, the Harper Review may be hoping e-commerce will have more of a chance to take hold in these under-serviced areas over the next five years.

    If this seems a touch far-fetched, it is worth noting that the Harper Review is explicit about its preference for technology driven solutions:
    The information revolution is just one facet of a rapidly evolving technology landscape. New techniques and applications utilising information are fostering new ideas and ways of doing business.
    New entry exerts a positive discipline on existing market players, encouraging them to be more innovative and responsive to consumer needs. By contrast, locking in long-term preferment risks Australia falling behind other countries, as potential new approaches and innovations pass us by.

    Harper is particularly explicit about this when it comes to the taxi industry:
    Technological change is also disrupting the taxi industry, with ride-sharing apps, such as Uber, connecting passengers with private drivers. Traditional booking methods are also being challenged by the emergence of apps such as GoCatch and ingogo.
    A number of state and territory governments have determined that Uber is acting outside current industry regulations and issued fines to Uber drivers.
    Although taxi reform is not expected to make a major contribution to national productivity, the sector is an important component of metropolitan transport and can be particularly important for the mobility of the elderly and those with a disability. More affordable and convenient taxi services give consumers options. Significantly, reduced barriers to entry could see more services operate at peak times, without needing to operate at off-peak times.
    The Panel considers that the longstanding failure to reform taxi regulation has undermined the credibility of governments' commitment to competition policy more broadly, making it harder to argue the case for reform in other areas. The Victorian example demonstrates that change is possible and technological disruption suggests that consumer-driven change is inevitable.
    The home improvement industry

    Supermarkets are a good test case to examine, due to the vitality of that market and its place as one of life's essentials.

    Home improvement has a slightly different place in the economy and people's day-to-day lives. The products are also quite physically different. While some degree of online disruption can be expected in the future, this is largely going to be disruption in certain specific segments.

    If the thesis stated here is correct, that there is a concern to leave some markets more open to future disruptions, this should mean that the smaller chance of such disruption in home improvement will mean a less strict application of market controls. A changed regime is most likely going to be felt in an additional sensitivity to exactly where new big-box hardware retailers locate their outlets.

    On the other side of the equation, smaller independent retailers seeking to build more of a buffer zone around their own stores might consider starting up some form, however minor, of e-commerce themselves. Being able to demonstrate that the "intrusion" of a big-box store would shatter the chances of such an enterprise growing and succeeding could be a compelling argument in the future.
    HNN Index for 4 April 2015
    HNN Home Improvement Index for 4 April 2015
    HNN sources
    Consumer confidence continues to lag
    Sydney dwelling prices have detached
    Click to visit the HBT website for more information
    In the run-up to Easter the Australian Stock Exchange traded for only four days, and returned slightly unenthusiastic results. The HNN Index fell by five points over the reporting period, while the underlying ASX 200 went down 21 points, or four points on the HNN Index adjusted scale.

    Shares in companies such as DuluxGroup, Fletcher Building and Boral continue to drift upwards, buoyed by ongoing building activity. But many retailers, including Wesfarmers, Woolworths, Metcash and Myer continue to drift downwards.
    USG Boral shifts focus

    Boral CEO Mike Kane has indicated Boral's joint venture, USG Boral, will focus on growth in Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. He sees China and India as markets that are "trickier". Mr Kane views the joint venture's activities in China as not yet providing adequate returns on the funds invested. Boral's next move may be an acquisition in the US.
    USG Boral shifts its focus: The Australian
    Charter Hall Group
    Charter Hall buys Sydney shopping centre

    Charter Hall's new retail funding partnership, RP6 has opened its account with the acquisition of the Pacific Square Shopping Centre. The property is located in Maroubra, near Sydney. The purchase price was $137 million. This will bring the company's total retail portfolio to $3.4 billion.
    Charter Hall buys shopping centre: The Australian
    Fletcher Building
    South Auckland retirement village planned

    Metlifecare will purchase a 5.5 hectare chunk of the Manukau Golf Course from Fletcher Living, a subsidiary of Fletcher Building. The price will be NZ$175 million. The golf course is located in Manurewa. Metlifecare will use the land to construct a retirement village. Development will commence in 2017.
    $175m South Auckland retirement village planned: New Zealand Herald
    Leighton Holdings
    Another Leighton probe

    The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is investigating a potential failure to disclose vital information by Leighton. Former Leighton senior technical manager Alan Henry revealed this problem in documents relating to an unfair dismissal case he is pursuing against Leighton. Mr Henry claims the company has not reported elements of its performance accurately, and that managers were pressured to improve results seen as casting a negative light on Leighton's prospects.
    Another Leighton probe: Fairfax Media
    Lend Lease Group
    Singapore joint venture

    Lead Lease will own 30% of a new joint venture in Singapore. The joint venture will redevelop a mixed-use site in Paya Lebar. The other 70% will be held by a major investment partner which remains unnamed.
    Lend Lease in JV: The Straits Times
    Metcash denies rumour of tax liabilities

    Speculation has emerged over whether Metcash may owe the Australian Taxation office up to $100 million for failure to pay fringe benefits tax. The tax relates to some aspects of overseas study tours taken by the company's employees. Metcash has denied the rumour.
    Metcash denies rumour of tax liabilities: Fairfax Media
    B&Q stores to be closed
    Kingfisher plans to close 60 B&Q stores in Britain over the next two years
    The Guardian
    CEO Veronique Laury still sees enormous potential in the UK's DIY market
    Kingfisher has scrapped its long-running attempt to buy French DIY chain Mr Bricolage
    Click to visit the ITW website for move information
    Kingfisher, Europe's biggest home improvement retailer, plans to close 60 B&Q stores in Britain over the next two years at a cost of Stg350 million, saying it has too many shops for the size of the market.

    CEO Veronique Laury, who took the helm of Kingfisher from Sir Ian Cheshire in January, is overhauling the 360-store network. This decision resulted in the departure of the head of the UK and Irish B&Q business, Kevin O'Byrne. Laury said:
    We've known for many years that we have too much space in B&Q...We have 360 B&Q stores (in the UK) and we have 100 Castorama stores (in France) for the same amount of population.

    The home improvement retailer believes profits would improve at its remaining outlets if the chain were trimmed back. Laury said:
    The problem with those [closing] stores is their sales per square foot is too low - they have all the costs of a very big store with very low sales.

    In addition to the 60 B&Q stores that will close, Kingfisher said it will "right-size" a further six locations and shut a "small number" of unprofitable locations in Europe. It will also be selling or sub-letting vacant space, and talks are taking place with several retailers.

    Roughly 3,000 staff in the UK will be affected, but the company said it hoped that half of those would be redeployed in nearby outlets to help improve service.

    The retailer plans to offer 900 staff jobs in the company's Screwfix chain, which opens 60 stores this year.

    In addition, Kingfisher will be increasing investment in its remaining stores by between Stg50 million and Stg100 million this year.

    The changing shape of the industry is among the challenges facing Laury.

    While the UK housing market is healthy, DIY stores face competition from a growing number of specialist online rivals such as Toolstation and Victoria Plumb. Consumer habits have also changed markedly since TV shows like Changing Rooms and Ground Force in the UK were on primetime.

    DIY has fallen out of fashion, and UK consumers now prefer to spend their time on leisure activities or buying clothes rather than on painting and wallpapering.

    However Laury said home improvement remained a market with huge potential in which Kingfisher had a strong position. But she said the retailer needed to organise itself in a "very different" way to unlock that potential. She said:
    This will involve taking what is essentially a locally managed set of businesses and creating instead a single, unified company where customer needs come first.
    One consistent vision

    Laury is seeking to create a "One Kingfisher" model that will allow greater coordination between the group's different operating companies. These improved efficiencies would allow it to pass on cost savings to shoppers.

    The number of products sold across the group will be reduced after a review showed that only 7,000 out of 393,000 are offered in more than one operating company. A large proportion of the total also relate to delisted and ex-promotional ranges.

    Kingfisher's chains, which include Screwfix, B&Q, Castorama, and Brico Depot, currently stock nearly 400,000 different products. Laury said she wanted to cut that dramatically, as half of those items accounted for just 2% of sales. For example, the group sells 1,000 different types of glove.

    She said that it was too early to tell if that would mean that the number of suppliers would also be cut by half.

    As well as introducing an IT system (based on SAP software) to help manage this and the whole buying and supply chain process, the company said it will streamline the management of Stg1.2 billion of goods that aren't for sale, like store maintenance, cleaning and merchandising equipment. Laury said:
    To deliver ['one' Kingfisher] I'm putting a new leadership team in place. This new team will focus on people, digital, offer and quality of operations. This is why I have decided to organise the company by format, with new heads for big box, medium box and omnichannel.

    A central team will coordinate stores across all the countries in which it operates so that they stock more of the same items and look more similar.

    Laury believes having a standardised store operating model will make it easier to expand. Segmenting the business in this way should reduce the amount of SKUs at Kingfisher and create more overlapping product lines between its different businesses.
    Kingfisher results

    The changes were announced as B&Q's sales in the UK and Ireland rose 1.9% to Stg3.8 billion while Kingfisher's Screwfix chain, which caters to professional builders, increased sales by over a quarter.

    Profits in the UK rose 16.2% as underlying sales at B&Q rose 1.4%, the strongest level for five years.

    However Kingfisher's pre-tax profits across the group fell 15% to Stg644 million in the year to 31 January, as it booked an impairment charge of Stg350 million on leases linked to the planned B&Q store closures.

    The fall reflected slower sales in France since the summer of 2014, Stg34 million of adverse currency movements and Stg22 million in costs for development activities in Romania, Portugal and Germany.

    It said total sales would have been up 2.9% if exchange rates had remained constant over the year, with 5.5% growth in the UK and Ireland and 5.0% growth in its international markets offsetting a 1.0% fall in France.
    Taking inspiration from Apple

    Kingfisher is seeking to learn lessons from the stellar success of Apple and fast fashion retailer Zara by creating a unique proposition.

    Laury believes Apple, Zara and Dublin-based clothing retailer Primark have succeeded by doing things differently from other retailers and have prospered because of their distinct propositions.

    Laury said Apple has proved it is possible to run large retail spaces with only a small quantity of product, while Zara has succeeded despite having little data about its customers, and Primark is thriving without an ecommerce operation. She said:
    There is no one winning formula, what they are doing is innovating and giving something unique to the customer. The reality is there is not one convenient home improvement format that has worked yet from a financial point of view.

    Laury said Kingfisher was also taking inspiration for new product design from Henry Ford, who famously said that if he had asked customers what they wanted they would have asked for a faster horse. She said:
    I'm not talking about asking what the customers want, I'm telling them about what they need.
    Mr Bricolage deal collapses

    Kingfisher has scrapped its long-running attempt to buy Mr Bricolage after the French DIY chain's board and major shareholder withdrew their backing over concerns about store closures.

    It is understood to be considering legal action after the unravelling of a binding agreement signed last July with Mr Bricolage's main shareholders.

    Kingfisher first entered exclusive talks in April last year to buy 26.2% of the share capital from the founding Tabur Family and 41.9% from ANPF (Association Nationale des Promoteurs de Faites Le Vous-Mene), the largest network of Mr Bricolage franchise holders.

    The deal valued the chain at 275 million euros (Stg201 million) and was subject to clearance on competition grounds by the end of March.

    The binding agreement carried a provision that it would lapse if anti-trust clearance was not obtained by 31 March - although an extension could be agreed by all parties.

    Kingfisher already owns the Castorama and Brico Depot chains in France. As a result, the French competition regulator wanted Kingfisher to shed 44 of Mr Bricolage's 500 stores in France to prevent it gaining too big a share of the DIY market.

    However the ANPF announced it would refuse any extension of the deadline for meeting competition requirements, leaving Kingfisher with little scope to secure the deal. The Tabur family maintained its support for the sale.

    In a statement, Kingfisher said:
    In light of the positions expressed to date by the ANPF and Mr Bricolage, the [competition] clearance will not be obtained by 31 March 2015 and therefore the July 2014 agreement will lapse on that date. Consequently the transaction will not proceed.
    Remote access devices
    The August Connect will allow Smart Lock users to access their home network remotely
    The Verge
    The Kevo Plus works with the Kevo deadbolt to enable remote access via the Ethernet
    The company behind the August Smart Lock has US$50 million from venture capital groups
    Click to view details of the SpotOn golf ball competition
    US smart lock maker August has launched a product that will allow remote access to its Smart Lock. The August Connect, released in January 2015, will allow Smart Lock users to access their home network remotely.

    Without the Connect device, and its gateway application, users must have their smart phone with them to control the lock using Bluetooth. The new US$50 product will enable consumers to lock their doors remotely and send electronic keys via smart phones.

    Perhaps the greatest potential offered by Connect is the possibilities for further home automation concepts. August has already joined forces with Nest Learning Thermostat to allow for remote control of home heating systems.

    Its collaborations with Logitech Harmony and SmartThings have also been announced. Jason Kastrenakes of The Verge website believes the value of Connect lies beyond its remote locking and unlocking capacities.
    Why you'd frequently need to do that is a fair question, but August suggests that it could be used to buzz in guests or someone servicing your home. It'll also allow you to check whether your doors are locked while you're out of the house, which could provide some comfort if you're both forgetful and slightly paranoid. The real bonus is that this will expand what other smart home products can interact with the Smart Lock, potentially giving owners more flexibility to set up scenes within their home.

    Lock company Kwikset with its Kevo smart lock has also partnered with Nest Learning Thermostat. It released its own product to allow for remote access to home security.

    The Kevo Plus works with the Kevo deadbolt to enable remote access via the Ethernet rather than Wi-Fi. It's a way of getting the Kevo online without Wi-Fi. But the router must be close enough to the door for it to get a signal. The Kevo system, available at Lowe's, will require Kevo account upgrades.

    August's latest product appears to already be a success among consumers, with its first batch of Connect devices selling out quickly. With US$38 million in fresh capital, August is well equipped to strengthen its position in the home automation and security market.

    So far, the company has raised a total of US$50 million from venture capital groups, including Bessemer Venture Partners, Qualcomm Ventures, Comcast, Maveron, Cowboy Ventures, Industry Ventures, Rho Ventures and SoftTech VC.

    According to August CEO Jason Johnson, it will continue to develop home security products and build on the success of its smart lock.

    Story by Robyn Williams
    Interesting links
    The official HTH Group video highlights can be viewed on HNN's YouTube channel
    HNN Sources
    Arlo is a wireless and battery operated DIY security camera for homes
    PPG Pittsburgh Paints has an exclusive partnership with Independent We Stand
    Click to visit the HBT website for more information
    An additional roundup of home improvement stories. Home Timber and Hardware Group has released its official video of the 2015 National Conference; Netgear enters smart home market with its Arlo security cameras; PPG Pittsburgh Paints brand works with an organisation that supports independent dealers in the US; and Philips extends its smart lighting lineup with the Hue Go portable lamp. More stories below.

    For further information, simply click on the images provided.
    Local News
    HTHG official show reel

    Highlights of the recent Home Timber and Hardware Group event on the Gold Coast can be seen on HNN's YouTube channel. To view it, just click on the image below.
    HTHG 2015 official video highlights
    Smart home security camera

    Arlo is a wireless and battery operated security camera for homes, from Netgear. It offers high definition video and has night vision. The DIY system is also weatherproof for use outdoors.

    Owners can check in on their home or business at any time from the Arlo app. The camera can also be set to start recording if it detects movement and send owners an email or app notification.
    Arlo is a DIY wireless and battery operated security camera
    International News
    PPG supports US indie retailers

    PPG Pittsburgh Paints has an exclusive partnership with Independent We Stand, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the revival of independent, locally-owned and operated businesses. The paint brand is sold exclusively through independent retailers across the US. The non-profit group encourages consumers to shop at independent businesses to help stimulate the economy in their communities.
    PPG partners with US-based Independent We Stand organisation

    Allegion buys Zero

    Global security products company Allegion has completed the acquisition, through Schlage Lock Company, of the assets of Zero International.

    Zero is a supplier of door and window products for commercial spaces. Its product lines will expand the Allegion portfolio to include a range of premium sealing systems such as sound control, fire and smoke protection, threshold applications, door louvers, intumescent products, photo-luminescent and flood barrier for doors.
    Allegion has purchased the assets of Zero International
    Wi-Fi enabled LED light

    Philips' new Hue Go lamp introduces portability and autonomy to the company's iOS-connected Hue smart lighting range of products. It is a small, translucent hemispherical lamp that has a built-in rechargeable battery good for a guaranteed three hours of cordless use.

    Designed to complement smart home lighting, the lamp is capable of reproducing more than 16 million colours, each selectable via onscreen controls in Philips' app.
    Philips' Hue Go is a small, translucent hemispherical lamp
    Apex closes auto acquisition

    Apex Tool Group has confirmed the acquisition of China-based Shanghai Yecen Auto Technology Ltd. (Yecen). The transaction was effective March 30, 2015 and was financed with cash on hand in China.

    Yecen's wheel aligner and automotive lift product lines now will be part of Apex's broad SATA brand portfolio. SATA is one of the major suppliers to the hand tool market in China. Yecen is serves the Chinese automotive repair channel and has 120 employees.
    Apex takes on Chinese tool company

    :Fortune Brands buys Norcraft

    The owner of Master Lock and SentrySafe security products, Fortune Brands Home & Security is buying kitchen cabinet maker Norcraft Companies for US$600 million. Norcraft manufactures kitchen and bathroom cabinetry and had about US$376 million in sales for 2014.

    Fortune Brands says the deal strengthens its product offering and rounds out regional market penetration.
    Fortune Brands is buying kitchen cabinet maker Norcraft Companies
    Sears' appliances strategy

    Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores is undergoing a two-phase refresh of 51 Sears Hometown Stores across the United States. The revamp includes a different product assortment, redesigned merchandising, new fixtures and signage, and comprehensive training for floor staff.

    In the latest store design, appliances will occupy more than half of the sales floor and include more brands with an improved presentation. The stores will also focus its appliances on innovative and value-added products from Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid, Samsung and Kenmore.
    Sears Hometown Stores will offer more appliances
    Indie store update
    BMS Mitre 10 in Toowoomba (QLD) is one of the business involved in a row with Bunnings
    HNN Sources
    Queensland's Farmcraft Kalbar won two major awards at the CRT National Conference
    TGT is one of the oldest exhibitors at the Rotary FNQ Field Days
    Click to visit the Globel Industries website for more information
    The main street in Toowoomba (QLD) is the focus of a row between Bunnings and local business owners; Combined Rural Traders hands out its annual awards; and North Queensland-based TGT is supporting a major agricultural field day.
    Business disruption row

    Bunnings and local business owners are at war over a small yet vital section of Ruthven Street, Toowoomba's main street. The argument centres on disruptions to the operations of several small businesses and traffic flow.

    Bunnings wants to build a hardware warehouse at the site of the former Toowoomba foundry, but needs major changes made to Ruthven Street to accommodate the development. Small business owners on the other side of the street say the changes could devastate their customer-base and devalue their businesses. The most controversial changes include a new set of traffic lights which would remove car parks and 12 mature trees, and limiting access to side streets.

    Business owners are upset by the lack of consultation from Bunnings, Toowoomba Regional Council and the Department of Main Roads and Transport.

    BMS Mitre 10 chief executive Lex Greenhalgh said he had no issue with Bunnings building its new warehouse close to his business. He told The Chronicle: "It's the fact that the road works have been included without any consultation and appear to favour the developer at the disadvantage of all the existing businesses, which doesn't appear to be appropriate.

    Bunnings' development application will be considered at an ordinary Toowoomba Regional Council meeting on April 21 after it was deferred by a development assessment panel.
    CRT awards for Farmcraft Kalbar

    Customer service can make or break a business especially when it comes to farm supplies stores. Farmers don't have the time or the inclination to talk to someone who knows nothing about the land.

    Outstanding customer service and local knowledge won Queensland's Farmcraft Kalbar two major awards at the CRT National Conference in Adelaide recently. It was named the CRT Queensland Business of the Year for 2014.

    When accepting his award, managing director Alistair Ross thanked his family and, in particular, his late father. He said: "My father started the business 22 years ago. I can't thank him enough for the opportunities he gave me. We have been with CRT for 21 years and we haven't looked back. It is a credit to dad."

    The Business of the Year Award recognises professionalism, support for staff, suppliers, fellow CRT Local Blokes and a commitment to the community. Farmcraft Kalbar has been a finalist for the last four years and was Queensland Business of the Year winner in 2013.

    CRT NSW/Queensland state manager James Nott said Farmcraft Kalbar was "a leader in the CRT family". He said: "CRT in Queensland has built its success on the back of a group of exceptional stores...Over the last 12 months, Alistair has given a great deal of time to work with CRT management to build a better group for the wider membership."
    TGT supports field days

    Tablelands business, TGT will be one of the oldest exhibitors at the Rotary FNQ Field Days event in North Queensland. TGT general manager Sheldon Mulla said the field days are a premier event for the region. He told the North Queensland Register: "TGT is very diverse local company and the field days provide us with an opportunity to showcase our diversification through a wide range of agricultural, rural and hardware related products.

    "Through the success of the field days we are able to reach a greater number of our customers..."

    The field days, being held on May 27-28, is a joint initiative of the Tableland Rotary Clubs of Atherton and Mareeba.
    Home Depot testing delivery network
    The Home Depot is testing a delivery network to help boost online sales
    DC Velocity
    Home Depot chairman, president and CEO, Craig Menear
    Home Depot's delivery initiative is being tested at a handful of the company's US stores
    Click to visit the ITW website for move information
    The Home Depot is testing a delivery network to support the shipment of goods ordered online and delivered from one of its stores to a residence or job site.

    The initiative, called "Buy Online and Deliver From Store," will enable online users to order goods and specify a narrow time window for their deliveries. The product will then be pulled from store inventory, loaded on one of the company's vehicles, and delivered to the end customer, according to Steve Holmes, a spokesman for the home improvement giant.

    The program is being tested at a handful of the company's nearly 2,000 US stores.

    Craig Menear, Home Depot's chairman, president and CEO, told the 7th annual Georgia Logistics Summit in Atlanta that the program is part of the company's plan to increase digital sales by expanding its pickup and delivery offerings.

    Home Depot already allows customers to place online orders and pick them up at the store.

    Menear said the ship-to-store online model has become an effective sales tool because about one quarter of the users buy additional products once they arrive at the store to pick up their original order.

    Home Depot, which posted fiscal year 2014 revenues of more than US$83 billion, increased online sales by 36% in its fiscal year, according to the big box retailer. Online sales growth of about US$1 billion accounted for about a quarter of the slightly more than $4 billion year-over-year overall increase in the company's top line.

    During its third quarter, Home Depot will open a 1.5 million-square-foot direct-fulfillment centre in Ohio, to support its e-commerce efforts. The Ohio facility will join a 1.1 million-square-foot facility in Georgia, and an 859,000-square-foot complex in California, to provide two-day deliveries of online orders to 90% of the US population.

    In his remarks, Menear said that nothing else matters if the right goods aren't available when, where, and how the customer wants them.

    Menear also declared that the days of customers accepting what suppliers and retailers push in front of them are over. "The customer is in control," he said.
    Seeking opportunities
    Home Timber and Hardware Group has a career opportunity for a business manager
    HNN Sources
    An electrical goods supplier has a role that involves managing the Bunnings account
    A business manager role with responsibility for growing a network of Plants Plus stores
    Visit the Mecca Website
    A selection of job opportunities in the home improvement industry. HTHG is seeking a candidate with a strong understanding of wholesale and retail channels; a supplier of electrical products needs a national account manager; and a role managing Plants Plus garden centres is available in Victoria.

    For further information, simply click on the images provided.
    HTHG business manager role

    Home Timber and Hardware Group is offering a career opportunity for a business professional to develop and drive successful sales and outcomes for its Victorian and Tasmanian store network. An individual with significant multi-store area management experience is ideal.
    Home Timber and Hardware Group is seeking a business manager
    Selling electrical products

    An electrical goods supplier has a role that involves strategic development and planning. The successful candidate will have the responsibility for the retention, growth and development of the Bunnings account. The individual will have demonstrable experience working with a large number of SKUs as a national category manager, business or account manager in hardware, electrical products, homewares, FMCG or related industry sectors, servicing major accounts.
    National account manager for electrical goods supplier
    Garden retail management

    Home Timber and Hardware Group has a business manager role with responsibility for growing a network of Plants Plus garden centres in Victoria and Tasmania. It would suit a professional who is sales and people-focused, with a can do approach.

    The individual would undertake regular store visitations to motivate, develop and improve individual Plants Plus store performance.
    Business manager role within Plants Plus retail group
    More women doing DIY in New Zealand
    Mitre 10 NZ research found almost 95% of women said they did some form of DIY
    New Zealand Herald
    Research found that couples talked about DIY in terms of building their relationships
    Almost 30% of men surveyed still felt DIY was a task reserved for the bloke of the house
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    Research conducted 10 years ago by Mitre 10 New Zealand found 61% of women had done DIY in the past two years. This year, the hardware chain's research found almost 95% of women said they did occasional, some or a lot of DIY. Just 5% did none.

    It found that 66% of women disagreed or strongly disagreed that DIY was a man's job, compared to 38% of men.

    But while women were increasingly confident about getting stuck in, men were not in a hurry to hand over the tools. Almost 30% of men still felt DIY was a task reserved for the bloke of the house.

    If the Mitre 10 survey is anything to go by, women are getting better at DIY with every generation.

    It found 61% of women think they are better at it than their mothers, compared to 47% of men who rate themselves as being more skilled than their fathers.

    But men are still more confident about their abilities. Nine per cent of men rated their skills "excellent", compared to just 1% of women and, while half of the men surveyed say they're "above average", just a quarter of women say the same about themselves.

    Mitre 10 New Zealand CEO Neil Cowie says the survey's findings still show a gender gap, but it is closing. He said:
    We started researching this more than a decade ago, and back in 2004 we saw a noticeable increase in women getting into DIY and acquiring more skills.
    Now we're seeing that the skills gap has closed, but women tend to underrate their knowledge and abilities.

    Cowie says there are differences in how men and women approach their DIY work. He said:
    Our research shows women are happy to ask their partners for help with DIY but men almost never do. Men are more likely to visit a home improvement or building supply website to get the information they need.
    We discovered that men are comfortable with a multitude of tasks across the board, in particular building and construction, repairs and using power tools.
    Women, however, are happy tackling gardening, painting and wallpapering but otherwise don't rate their knowledge with other DIY tasks.
    DIY nation

    New Zealanders are more likely to get into DIY than people in other parts of the world.

    Kiwis spend about NZ$1 billion a year at DIY stores and it is a big part of the country's popular culture, reflected in television shows, such as Grand Designs, The Block and the latest in the genre, Our First Home.

    And with rapidly rising house values, many are using the extra equity in their home to renovate rather than searching the competitive market for a new property.
    National identity

    University of London senior lecturer Dr Rosie Cox has researched DIY and gender in New Zealand, and says mastering DIY is a big part of Kiwis' sense of identity. She said:
    Home ownership and the tradition of working on houses - including building houses from scratch - is part of the history of European settlement of New Zealand.

    But it has traditionally been a man's story.
    There has been a tendency for this history to be told in male terms and this can mean women's contribution to the practical aspects of home building and home maintenance, and their proficiency at DIY, is overlooked.
    It turns into a simple story of New Zealand identity whereby what it means to be a 'proper Kiwi bloke' is to be good at DIY and there is little space for women.

    But she says it should not be surprising that women are embracing the image of a New Zealander being someone who can mend anything. She said:
    The question that remains is how Kiwi men will deal with this: will they cling to the idea that DIY is men's work or in 10 years' time will we see even more couples working on their homes together, enjoying the fruits of being the most 'handy' nation on earth?

    When Cox started her research, she was surprised at how much practical work Kiwi women were doing. She said:
    I had never been to New Zealand and I thought it wouldn't be different from the UK but it was.

    Of the people she spoke to, the only person who did not do any DIY was a woman married to a builder.

    Younger people told her DIY was a part of their social life - a group of friends would come over and work on someone's home, pour the concrete for the driveway, then have a barbecue. The next weekend it would be someone else's turn. She said:
    People talked very much about how social it was. It was part of being a good family member or friend.

    Couples talked about DIY in terms of building their relationships, "making a little world together". That was driven by how expensive housing in New Zealand is, she says.
    It's increasingly common to find somewhere that isn't up to scratch and have to work on it.

    One man told Cox that while his wife was pregnant, he felt painting the house was a way to make a contribution. Cox expects the gender split on DIY will become less apparent over time. She explains:
    If children see mum and dad working together on their house, they're more likely to think that's what you do.

    Dr Virginia Braun, associate professor of psychology at Auckland University, says gender differences in New Zealand have traditionally been less stark than in some other countries. She said:
    The first female European settlers pitched in to get things done in a way they might not have done in their home countries.

    She says it's not surprising women are taking on more DIY, in part because there are fewer traditional heterosexual relationships. She said:
    There are many contexts in which women are not in a relationship with a man and DIY might be necessary. And that's aside from situations where women in relationships with men might want to do it as well.

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