Products
Advanced fastening strength
Scotch Extreme Fasteners has undergone laboratory testing
Marketwatch
The product line also includes Scotch Indoor Fasteners
Scotch Outdoor Fasteners are part of the same range
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The Scotch brand has launched its new Extreme Fasteners, tested and proven to lock three times stronger than Velcro(r) Industrial Strength Fasteners*.

Designed to withstand harsh conditions once bonded, such as rain, mud and dirt, Scotch Extreme Fasteners are reusable closures that feature 3M Dual Lock Technology. It clicks together to secure heavyweight items in place.

They resist wear and tear to hold bulky items such as fire extinguishers, tool kits, light fixtures and more, to difficult surfaces in the home, garage, yard and boat. Matt Callahan, marketing manager for 3M's Construction and Home Improvement Markets division says:
The line of Scotch Fasteners is designed to give do-it-yourselfers peace of mind when mounting, securing and transporting items and equipment. Scotch Extreme Fasteners equip homeowners with a reliable organisation solution to help make heavy duty hanging and bundling projects easier.

In addition to Extreme Fasteners, the full range of Scotch Fasteners includes Indoor Fasteners, Outdoor Fasteners, and Bundling Straps.

3M is well-known as a innovation company with a culture of creative collaboration. With US$31 billion in sales, 3M employs 89,000 people worldwide and has operations in more than 70 countries.
Retailers
FedEx expands through Canada's Home Hardware
Canada's Home Hardware will be able to house full-service FedEx Authorised ShipCentres(r)
Market Wired
The alliance with Home Hardware with expand FedEx's retail footprint across Canada
Home Hardware was recognised as one of Canada's Best Managed Companies in 2013
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Federal Express Canada Ltd. (FedEx Express Canada) has reached an agreement with Home Hardware Ltd. that allows individual dealer-owners the ability to house full-service FedEx Authorised ShipCentres(r) in their stores. Lisa Lisson, president of FedEx Express Canada explains:
The rise in e-commerce has presented both Home Hardware and FedEx Express Canada an opportunity to enhance our respective business models. Our alliance with Home Hardware expands our retail footprint across Canada, giving online shoppers more points-of-access options to meet their shipping needs.

E-commerce is the largest driving force in the global economy and is projected in the 2013 FedEx Annual Report to reach US$1 trillion in sales by 2016.

In November, FedEx Express Canada forecasted that 60% of Canadians would do some form of online shopping for the 2013 holiday season. In order to meet the needs of Canadian e-consumers, transportation companies are required to offer more proximate "points-of-access" options for drop-off and pick-up services.

With close to 1,100 stores across Canada, Home Hardware stores will soon be able to offer FedEx's full suite of domestic and international shipping solutions for their respective communities. Paul Straus, president & CEO for Home Hardware Stores Ltd says:
As e-commerce continues to grow, we are excited to work with FedEx which is a leader in the global transportation industry. This partnership will bring more traffic into our stores as well as increase convenience for all customers.

As the country's largest independent, dealer-owned hardware, timber, building materials and furniture cooperative, Home Hardware was recognised as one of Canada's Best Managed Companies in 2013. Lisson says:
Home Hardware is a strong, renowned Canadian brand and the opportunity our alliance creates will result in a better e-commerce experience for more Canadians. Through Home Hardware, FedEx Canada will be more easily accessible to Canadian communities than ever before. Conversely, hosting a FedEx Authorised ShipCentre allows Home Hardware to connect their customers within their respective communities to the rest of Canada and the world with efficiency and effectiveness.

The FedEx Authorised ShipCentres will be rolled out across Canada in a series of implementation waves throughout the year. Straus says:
As Home Hardware celebrates our 50th anniversary this year, we also look ahead towards the next 50 years. This exciting relationship with FedEx Express Canada is one of the many ways in which we continue to innovate to add more value to our customers' shopping experience.
Retailers
In-store displays improve customer service
From concept to design: one of InReality's in-store vignettes
InReality
InReality help Danze develop its "smart shelf" in-store display
Danze display promotes interaction
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As Australia's hardware contest begins to heat up in FY 2014/15, one of the points of focus will be customer service. A major issue larger companies have with customer service is determining what exactly the service quality level is. One US-based company with the interesting name of InReality offers services to help retailers work out what really goes on in-store, and how customers perceive service.

One of the interesting conclusions that comes from InReality's work in the home improvement industry is that customer service is not only about what sales representatives do in the store, it also has a lot to do with how a product is displayed. By taking control of and enhancing in-store displays, product manufacturers can get better results. This requires an extensive development process, and constant monitoring to ensure the display stays in-step with customer needs.
Customer service focus to grow

At the moment the two major contenders, Bunnings and Masters, are focused on simply getting enough retail space into enough locations. More retail space means more staff. During 2013 it became fairly clear for many customers that staff were not always thoroughly knowledgeable about their product lines, nor did they always cope well with the stresses of customer interaction.

As HNN has commented elsewhere, one of the interesting parts of Woolworths' disruption approach with Masters has been to place additional stresses on employee training and retention. The entry of the second big-box hardware chain into the market not only meant there were fewer candidates to go around, it also changed the entire equation when it came to investing in employee training. Today if and when Bunnings invests in staff training it has to figure in the possibility that well-trained staff members might move over to Masters, taking all that investment with them. This creates a situation where not only do retailers have to train staff, they then have to pay them more to retain them.
Customer service perception and reality

One way out of this problem is to enhance the store space itself, so that product displays do a much better job of selling products. In the US there has long been a developing trend where manufacturers and distributors of products provide high-level product displays that help to sell their products better. Companies such as IKEA do this kind to extensive merchandising very well.

Developing product displays that really sell is where companies such as InReality come in, offering a service that uses a range of metrics to work out what really is happening in the store. InReality offers what it calls its "Reality Gap Analysis, which seeks to deliver a quantifiable assessment of gaps between a brand's self-perception and the perception of the actual customers. InReality looks at details such as customer feedback on the retail space itself, how the retail assistants portray the brand, and whether product displays are effective, then provides a visual "gap map" to show where things could be improved.

InReality has worked in the home improvement area in the US, specifically with LP Building Products, which markets pre-finished moulding in Lowe's stores. The company's research found that there was a big gap in the knowledge of retail assistants who could not assist customers in selecting the correct product. Once they discovered that problem, they helped to solve it by supplying compact vignette's of room "scenes" where the moulding had been used as a design feature.

Craig Miles, international sales and marketing manager for LP explains the change like this:
We gave customers the license to be individuals in a way that had never been done before in this category. The new solution has allowed us to take a position as a thought leader and an innovator in the category and establish a foundation to build this brand differently than all the other brands in this category.

The mini-scenes were only one half of the solution. The other half was developing a simple "decision tree" customers could follow - even without help from sales staff - to work out the best product to suit their needs.

InReality provided an even more innovative solution for Danze, a company that makes plumbing fixtures for kitchens and bathrooms. They developed a "smart shelf". The vertical display consists of a series of product "pods" attached to the display wall. If a customer is interested in a specific product, he or she takes the pod and places it on the smart shelf. This triggers the system to read the RFID tag on the pod, and a touch-screen display then starts an interactive dialog with the customer about the product. It is a brilliant way to combine customer interactivity with information on-demand.
Products
Insulated tool line expanded
Klein Tools has launched its full line of Electrician's Insulated Tools
Utility Products
New injection-moulded grips feature Klein's unique, three-part insulation
The multi-colour design features small thumb guards
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Klein Tools has launched its full line of Electrician's Insulated Tools with slimmer, sleeker profiles, certified by VDE and made in the US.

New injection-moulded grips feature Klein's unique, three-part insulation that includes a white underlayer which acts as a continuous sleeve around the steel handle. This serves as a warning sign if the insulation is compromised. It also adds an extra layer of protection.

The multi-colour design features small thumb guards for ease of handling and storage in the tool belt. This range includes the core tools an electrician needs to get the job done safely including side cutters, diagonal cutters, long-nose pliers, cable cutters, pump pliers and wire strippers.

Each tool is marked with the official 1000V symbol, signifying the tool has been tested to 10,000V. They are also marked with the official VDE GS logo, meaning each tool is certified by the VDE Testing and Certification Institute in Germany. It is one of the world's leading independent testing organisations for electric and electronic products.

To conform to these standards, Klein's insulated tools are put through a rigorous testing process to ensure that the tool can handle any situation it might come across in the field. Klein Tools controls the entire manufacturing process in its US factories starting with a proprietary blend of steel forged by the company, through to its own three-stage heat treating and testing process.
Products
Slim fry appliance
Samsung's Slim Fry Microwave will cook fried food without frying it
Gadget Review
It has a function that combines a grill with warm air circulation
The microwave also has 12 pre-programmed recipes
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Appliances are not a major category in most traditional hardware stores in Australia but a new product from Samsung could introduce them to a new type of customer.

The company seems to understand that fried food is a favourite with most people even when they are trying to be more health conscious. It's new Slim Fry Microwave will automatically cook food that is crisp on the outside and flavourful inside (with no additional oil) thanks to a function that combines a grill with warm air circulation. There is no need for a deep flyer or a skillet.

So once the frying is done, users can easily cook fresh vegetables, seafood, pasta and more.

The unique microwave also features a Smart Moisture Sensor that can determine interior air humidity for natural texture and original taste of ingredients - all at the simple bush of a button. It comes with 12 pre-programmed recipes for added convince and users should be able to cook anything and everything in it.

In terms of aesthetics, the 900-Watt Slim Fry Microwave has a sophisticated look that can seamlessly fit in any modern kitchen decor. It has a transparent black Crystal Gloss handle and dial. This microwave also has an ice blue display that brightly illuminates the settings and clock.
Editorial
Omni-channel is all about the second sale
Click on the video to see how iBeacon works in Macy's department store
HNN Sources
Apple introduced its iBeacon services in mid-2013
Amazon excels at second sales
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All too often when we look at new innovations in the retail sector, such as "omni-channel" or "channel-less" sales systems, we tend to see how these suit the customer, but fail to see the advantages for the retailer.

Adding on internet-based retail facilities can seem like just another one of those costly services that must be offered, such as good air-conditioning in a store, which are necessary but not a direct source of profit. You do it because the competitors are doing it and you don't want to get left behind.

I think this is a little pessimistic. In fact, channel-less retailing, where customers see a retail operation as a blend of its online and physical stores, offers a number of advantages to retailers.

The primary advantage channel-less retail offers to retailers is the ability to encourage the second-sale. This takes advantage of the "golden moment", just after the customer has committed to a purchase by picking up an item in-store, or placed an item in an online shopping cart. They are going to make a financial transaction, and are suddenly open to the option of buying more than one thing. Many scan their memory to see if there is something else they had planned to pick up. Batteries? A new sponge for the mop? A small ladder to replace the old rickety one? Duct tape?
Where Amazon excels

No other retailer on the planet does as well with this situation as Amazon. In fact, Amazon begins selling the second purchase the moment a customer starts looking at any item. Automatically a list appears of items customers who simply looked at a particular item ended up buying. One the customers has committed to the purchase the second list appears, showing a different list of items that customers bought after they had gone ahead and bought that specific item.

Furthermore, these lists are not the same for everyone. Amazon checks a customer's past buying history to work out what he or she is most likely to buy at both pre-purchase and post-purchase moments.
What "big data" is all about

Being able to process customer information and make these predictive suggestions is a major part of what has come to be called "big data" is all about. Most Australian retailers are only at the beginning of implementing systems that provide this kind of analysis.

The fact is that retail in the future is going to depend on this kind of analysis every bit as much as it currently depends on careful supply-chain analysis. A similar investment will be required, and a similar effort at implementation has to be made. Today Coles and Woolworths supermarkets compete on supply-chain metrics. In 2016 Bunnings, Masters and Mitre 10 will compete on big data metrics.
Bringing online in-store

The need to foster the second-sale is one of the driving forces behind the increasing use of in-store smartphone apps. Just two years ago these apps seemed like a good idea, but there were few implementations. Apps such as the Australian StreetHawk offered the capability of alerting customers with notifications when they were near a store - but they required the customer to be actually running the app.

All this began to change when Apple introduced its Passbook services with iOS 6 in 2012. Passbook was the equivalent of an "always on" customer app. When an iPhone wandered into an area defined by a Passbook app its owner had downloaded, the app would activate itself as the background image on the iPhone's screen.

The next step forward came when Apple introduced its iBeacon services in mid-2013. The iBeacon is a proximity location device that works off of Bluetooth Smart (BSmart) technology. Essentially, when an iPhone with a Passbook app gets close to the iBeacon, it can trigger actions on the iPhone. So, a customer approaching a display of paints could have a paint coupon flash up on the screen, for example.

Today, getting these services implemented is as easy as picking up the phone and calling a supplier. As we have already covered in HNN, many of Australia's major shopping malls have done just that, implementing iBeacon technology from the local supplier for US company Estimote, which makes one version of iBeacon technology.
Big data for smaller retailers

All this might seem to be advantageous for big retailers, but less so for small ones. Yet, in fact, it might provide just as many opportunities to small retailers. The reason for this is that to make it all work on a grand scale requires considerable expenditure on custom infrastructure. You need statistical analysis, and some kind of artificial intelligence software to make it all happen for thousands of customers.

For smaller retailers it will be possible to customise the experience of customers on an individual basis. You will be able to sit down with the profiles of your best customers and work out what is likely to increase their expenditure.
The infrastructure

HNN will soon be providing a guide for retailers seeking to set up "loyalty club" systems that rely on in-store WiFi and smartphone applications. Keep an eye out for this, as it will have some surprises attached to it!

Until next time,

Betty

For any feedback or comments, you can contact me directly via email betty@hnn.bz or Twitter @HNN_Australia
Retailers
Indie store update
Woodman's Mitre 10 Cannonvale store gets its own renovation (Photo: Dalily Mercury)
HNN Sources
Home Timber & Hardware will announce its Best Young Retailer Award at its annual conference
Crazy Jim's Mitre 10 in Wagga closes its doors
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Woodman's Mitre 10 Cannonvale store gets its own renovation. In other news, a young retailer award finalist enjoys her job at WA-based Merredin Two Dogs Home Hardware and Crazy Jim's Mitre 10 bids good-bye.
Woodman's Mitre 10 gets reno

Woodman's Mitre 10 in Cannonvale (QLD) is being revamped. General manager Kerry Woodman said it is an indication of the company's commitment to the Whitsunday region. He told the Whitsunday Times: "We first invested in this region 44 years ago and despite the downturn and how tough it's been for business in recent times, we will continue to be here for the long haul".

Woodman's Mitre 10 is downsizing its footprint in the Centro centre from 3000sqm to about 2200sqm but Woodman said the revamp will enable them to showcase new ranges, and enhance shelf displays to facilitate customer access and product selection. He believes business confidence is growing again in the Whitsundays with the main street upgrade completed and tourism market getting better. He also remains upbeat about Chinese investment in construction and property development, new sub-divisions in the area and significant growth in the local home improvement market.
WA produces young retail talent

Merredin Two Dogs Home Hardware team member Julia Hendricks, is a finalist in Home Timber & Hardware's Best Young Retailer Award. The award recognises the high calibre of people aged under 30 employed in the retail group that also includes Thrifty-Link Hardware and Plants Plus banners. As a finalist, Hendricks who is the paint department manager at Merredin, is in the running to win a $5000 education grant to help develop new skills. She told the Merredin Mercury: "I love retail and winning the Best Young Retailer award will give me the opportunity to learn more about the industry and equip me with invaluable skills for my career".

To enter, Hendricks submitted a short video demonstrating how she has implemented positive change in her store through her product knowledge, customer service and store planning. She is also enrolled in an online interior design course to improve her knowledge of design trends so she can give customers the best advice.
Crazy Jim's says good-bye

As owner and operator of Crazy Jim's Mitre 10 in Wagga Wagga (NSW), Nick Ligakis is naturally sad the business is shutting down. Ligakis said he had no hard feelings, but Bunnings and Masters moving to Wagga drastically altered the supply chain, with big brands having a stranglehold on many products. Ligakis told the Daily Advertiser: "Twenty-five years is enough and the market is getting out of hand." He enjoyed operating the family business for so long and said it was the Wagga community that drove him. Thanking his customers for their ongoing support, Liagkis had a few parting words: "I'm going to miss it."
Products
DIY "dream" tool
The new WORX 20v Sonicrafter has 39 accessories
HNN Sources
The Sonicrafter uses micro-sonic high frequency technology (Click on image to watch video)
The WORX 20v Sonicrafter features vibration reduction (Click on image to watch video)
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The new WORX 20v Sonicrafter has 39 accessories which can change the way DIY and home renovations jobs are done.

The Sonicrafter uses micro-sonic high frequency technology, enabling the user to apply the tool to a wide variety of tasks such as cutting, sawing, scraping, sanding, and polishing. The variable speed control and multi-angle adjustment system makes this tool suitable for use on wood, metal, gyprock, plastic, tile and cement.

The WORX 20v Sonicrafter features vibration reduction to keep operators feeling steady while they work. Featuring a robust 2.0Ah 20 volt battery, it fully charges in just 1 hour. An LED light has also been fitted to keep users working in dark spots.

The Hyperlock[tm] system is an Australian developed, tool-free, universal locking mechanism, which exerts over one tonne of clamping force to the tool accessory, ensuring that the attached tool is secure. It also makes switching between accessories simple and speedy. It features a universal accessory interface, which is compatible with other oscillating brand accessories.
Statistics
More lady tradies required
There has been growing government support for women to pursue a trade career
The Herald
The number of women in vocational training has risen 80% since 2008
NSW Minister for Women Pru Goward
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There has been growing support for women to have the opportunity to pursue a trade career over the past five years. This will eventually influence the type of tradies making purchases at hardware stores.

Last February, Minister for Women Pru Goward announced a $200,000 boost in NSW to assist women in entering ''non-traditional'' roles. Goward said:
We want the best ideas from local government, community organisations and industry bodies to work with the NSW government to increase women in non-traditional occupations.
We are encouraging projects which support women into non-traditional occupations - trades with 25% or less participation of women, such as electricians, cabinet makers and motor mechanics.

Newcastle support group Lady Tradies is one of many incentives benefiting from the state-funded scheme. Founder Wendy Pinch believes it's imperative to provide support and initiative for women to pursue careers of their choice. Pinch told The Herald:
It can be very intimidating and very daunting to be on that very male-dominated industrial site when you're a girl. You've got to have a backbone to work in that industry and you've got to have thick skin and the guys, if they've been brought up right, treat the girls the way they should be treated - as any other employee. But there is still that sexism that goes on.

Twenty-something budding electrician Ella Hepplewhite believes women have a lot to offer on a job site. She says that female tradespeople bring a concentration and a multitasking ability that can make the job flow a lot more smoothly. She explains:
I feel like we have so much to give, we do have a lot of qualities men don't have. Between working full-time jobs and balancing kids, we can multitask, we have an eye for detail, and we don't miss the stuff that guys might, whereas guys might be more one-track minded.

Pinch says one of the main reasons she decided to establish Lady Tradies was because she wanted to provide a better opportunity for female tradespeople such as Hepplewhite. She says:
I was renovating my house at the time and I was just getting fed up with male tradies. They wouldn't turn up on time, they wouldn't return your phone call, they'd talk down to you and I thought other people must be as frustrated with tradies as I am - and they are!
So a couple of times I asked people, 'were there any girls in your course when you were an apprentice?' or, 'do you know any of any female electricians?' and people were saying 'yes'. I was starting to think, well how do you find these girls? If I wanted to employ a female tradie, how do I find her?

With the number of women in vocational training rising 80% since 2008 and the number of women taking part in government-subsidised vocational training almost doubling from 139,800 in 2008 to 251,900 in 2012, it's unsurprising that Lady Tradies received so much attention from female tradespeople seeking work.

Lady Tradies has more than 1500 likes on Facebook and a website in the making, which Pinch says will provide an opportunity for female tradespeople such as Hepplewhite to upload a resume, providing a direct connection for the consumer to find the right tradesperson for the job.

Pinch says female tradespeople are increasingly in demand despite the blue-collar glass ceiling they can face. She says:
People are renovating their homes and more often than not, it's a woman who's at home waiting for the tradie to turn up. She's deciding on colour schemes, she gets a big say these days in the way a house is built or renovated...She wants to deal with someone who can see her perspective better. And we bring that perspective to the industry.

Pinch believes a sexist attitude permeating the trades is what holds back female tradespeople such as Hepplewhite. Pinch says she knows female tradespeople who changed their name to a generic male name on their resume just to get to the interview stage.

Russell Holtham, the national head of apprentices at the Housing Industry Association, agrees that it's ''ignorance more than anything else'' that holds women back in the trades. He says:
The percentage of female applications to male for a position we have would be less than 1%. But at the end of the day, when you're hiring an apprentice if they've got the right attitude and want to be there then it doesn't matter if they're a male or female.

A survey conducted by the Institute of Automotive Mechanical Engineers found that a lack of female toilets was among the top concern for why workshops would not employ or train females, along with maternity leave fears and swearing concerns.
Companies
Stanley briefly discusses 2013 results
Stanely's total revenues increased 8% to US$11 billion with organic growth of 3% in 2013
New Britain Herald
During the year, the company invested approximately US$900 million in acquisitions
CEO and chairman John Lundgren
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Today Stanley is a diversified global provider of hand tools, power tools and related accessories, mechanical access and electronic security solutions, healthcare solutions, engineered fastening systems, among other businesses. CEO and chairman John Lundgren noted the following 2013 results:
  • Total revenues increased 8% to US$11 billion with organic growth of 3%
  • Earnings per share were US$4.98 compared to US$4.76 in 2012
  • Free cash flow totaled US$854 million and the dividend was increased during the year.

  • The directors approved a regular second quarter cash dividend of 50 cents per common share. This extended the company's record for the longest consecutive annual and quarterly dividend payments among industrial companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
  • Working capital turns increased to 8.0 from 7.6, as the impact of the Stanley Fulfillment System continued to drive gains in operating efficiencies
  • During the year, the company invested approximately US$900 million in acquisitions, most notably relating to Infastech, one of the world's largest producers of engineered mechanical fasteners and GQ (a tool company in China)
  • Stanley's Security segment underperformed against both its expectations in 2013 and the business' potential. Lundgren said:
  • Improving our Security segment is one of our key near-term operational priorities as we move into 2014 and beyond.

    Lundgren said the company's mission remains to continue to invest in building world-class franchises with sustainable strategic characteristics that create exceptional shareholder value, "a model that has proven highly successful for us over the course of the last decade."

    He also acknowledged that the year 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the Powerlock tape measure.

    In answer to shareholder questions, Lundgren said no products are manufactured in Russia, though Stanley Black & Decker does a US$40 million dollar business there. Approximately 20% of all Stanley products are manufactured in China.
    Products
    Canary home security monitor nears release
    Canary smartphone app offers interesting functions
    TechCrunch
    A complete package of sensors.
    Comprehensive information about what is going on at home
    Advertisement for Reshaping Retail
    It is becoming clear that home automation is seeing the arrival of a new range of products keyed into smartphones with easy setup that offer very attractive features. One of these HNN has been watching since its inception is the Canary, which is set for release sometime in the next four months.

    In case you wonder if such a device has real consumer appeal: Canary sought funding for the project by starting a campaign on US crowd-funding website Indiegogo, seeking US$100,000 to get started in mid-2013. The funding total at the end of the campaign came to US$1,961,862. The startup funding price for a unit was US$199, and Canary sold 4837 of those base packages. All this before a single unit has been produced.

    The Canary hardware consists of a camera with night vision, a microphone, motion detector, thermometer, and air quality/humidity monitors. The system hooks into WiFi and from there to a smartphone app to keep its owner alerted to what is going on. It "learns" behaviours as well, so it can tell the difference between your pet cat prowling at midnight, and a burglar trying to break in. Up to four Canarys can be linked together.

    The Canary could also be used to monitor ad-hoc situations, such as when a tradesperson is painting or repairing things around the house, to check on a young child at play, or make sure the babysitter is still awake.

    One of the Canary's major advantages is that it is a fully self-contained unit, about the size of a roll of paper-towels. That means it is ideal for people who are renting an apartment, and could not install more complex security monitors. Renters are particularly curious about things such as when and if the landlord/manager is entering the apartment.
    Smart smartphone app

    What Canary has released to the press ahead of the actual launch of the Canary are more details about how its smartphone app works.

    One of the Canary's first tricks is that it has made getting the system setup truly simple. The user connects a smartphone to the Canary unit with standard audio cable. This enables the smartphone to automatically pair with the Canary, and to get the Canary setup to access the WiFi unit. All the user needs to do is to set up a username and password, and it starts working.

    The Canary app works with up to four units, and these units can be located anywhere. You could have one at home, one at the office and one in your beach cottage. Each location is setup with its own primary users, which can access all features, and secondary users, which will receive alerts. If the Canary detects what it thinks is a fire, it would try to contact you first, and if that fails, contact the neighbours instead.

    An additional feature of the Canary is that it can record "events". The recording is triggered when something unusual is sensed. You might catch the kids sneaking into the living-room on Christmas Eve to see what Santa has left under the tree, or discover that your dog actually has worked out how to open the fridge door.

    There is no word yet as to if or when the device will come to Australia. However, unlike devices such as the Nest thermostat which require integration with existing systems, the Canary is entirely stand-alone, so adapting it to Australia will likely just require a currency conversion.
    For home improvement retailers

    For home improvement retailers seeking a start in the home security market, something like the Canary would be a good entry product. It is likely to require only very minimal after-sales service, and offers purchasers a relatively inexpensive, satisfying experience.
    Bigbox
    Big box update
    Masters store planned for Bundaberg (QLD) could be "called in"
    HNN Sources
    Masters has been given preliminary approval to set up shop in Hervey Bay (QLD)
    Work begins on two large hardware stores, near the Adelaide and Parafield airports
    Advertisement for Big Box Swindle book
    The State Government in Queensland may "call in" the Masters store planned for Bundaberg. In other news, council has granted initial approval for a Masters store in Hervey Bay (QLD) and work is set to begin on Adelaide's first Masters stores. Building has also resumed on the Masters South Lismore site.
    Masters Bundaberg plans "called in"

    The Queensland Government will consider "calling in" the development application for the Masters store in Bundaberg, following a request from council. Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Jeff Seeney said the proposed $30 million development represented a significant investment opportunity for the Bundaberg region. He told the Gladstone Observer: "The development proposal for...Kepnock has the potential to create 186 jobs during construction and 130-150 ongoing operational jobs. I am considering using my Ministerial call-in powers under the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 and have issued a proposed 'call-in' notice for this development". The closing date for affected parties to make a submission is May 12 2014 and the Deputy Premier is required by legislation to make a decision on whether or not to call in the development by June 6, 2014.
    Masters in Hervey Bay?

    Masters has been given preliminary approval to set up shop in Hervey Bay. Fraser Coast councillor Daniel Sanderson described the development as potentially being a massive win for the region. If given final approval, the Masters store will be located on Main Street in Pialba. Hervey Bay Chamber of Commerce president Tim Powers told the Fraser Coast Chronicle it was exciting that Masters was interested in moving into the area. While no formal agreement has yet been reached, the council's vote gave the green light to the development in-principle.
    Adelaide's first Masters store

    Up to 300 retail jobs and around 800 construction positions are expected to be created as work begins on two large hardware stores, near the Adelaide and Parafield airports.

    The Masters stores will be Adelaide's first, and the only ones in South Australia outside of Mt Gambier which opened in 2012. The company has previously said it was considering 15 possible sites in Adelaide but isn't yet commenting if any more stores are planned at this stage. A spokeswoman for Masters told the Herald Sun that construction on both stores would begin later this month, with a sod turning ceremony planned at the Adelaide Airport site on April 23. Both stores are approximately 13,700sqm and are expected to open late next year.
    Activity resumes on Masters store

    Work has restarted on the Masters building site in South Lismore (NSW) after relics had been found there. Members of the local Aboriginal community have been invited to participate in a cultural heritage assessment report in relation to items uncovered there.

    Lismore Council's strategic property projects manager, Lindsay Walker told the Northern Star the two tools and sharpening stone would be protected on the site while work continued. A report will determine whether the objects should be moved, or remain in their current location. He said the Aboriginal community would be very involved and "their views will be dominant in any consideration, as they should be".
    Statistics
    Construction sector contracts
    The construction sector contracted in March but at a milder pace
    ABC
    The mild weakness in construction is partly due to apartment building
    House building and commercial construction grew slightly in March
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    The construction sector contracted in March, but at a milder pace, according to the Australian Industry Group - Housing Industry Association's Performance of Construction Index (PCI). It was up two points to 46.2 but that is still below the 50-point level that separates expansion from contraction.

    It is the third straight month that the index has been below 50, after the industry briefly lifted into expansion late last year.

    The lack of strength in house and apartment building is disappointing given the positive leading indicators of rising building approvals and an increase in loans to finance new dwellings.

    The mild weakness in construction is due to the engineering and apartment building sectors, which are both under 50 points. House building and commercial construction remain just over 50.

    There were no large movements in March, with a 5.8 point rise to 45.5 the biggest shift in the engineering sector. Commercial construction activity declined 3.4 points, but remained positive at 56.5.

    The HIA's chief economist Harley Dale is hopeful those positive signs will translate into improved activity this year. He says:
    The detached house activity component remains expansionary, if only just, and 2014 should be a healthy year for new home building activity. What the sector and broader economy needs, however, is a sustained recovery in new home building commensurate with average construction levels being considerably higher over coming decades than those achieved over the past 20 years.

    The Ai Group's director of public policy, Peter Burn is also hopeful of an increase in infrastructure development to offset a looming fall in mining engineering. He says:
    As is the case with the broader economy, the rebalancing of the construction sector as mining-related activity slows still has a considerable way to go. The welcome development in the past couple of months comes from improvements in activity and new orders in commercial construction. If this can continue and recent momentum is maintained in the residential construction sectors, attention can turn to the remaining missing link - greater investment in non-mining related engineering construction.
    Products
    Micro pinner for "in-between" jobs
    Senco's FinishPro 21LXP is between the common 18-gauge and 23-gauge fasteners
    Woodworking Network
    Senco has a comprehensive line of air- and battery-powered nailers, staplers and screwdrivers
    Senco has been a leading name in professional-grade fasteners for almost 60 years
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    Senco has introduced a solution for contractors or tradies looking for something in between the common 18-gauge and 23-gauge fasteners.

    The FinishPro 21LXP is a slight/medium head 21-gauge pinner that delivers the holding power of a brad nail while leaving a much smaller indent that requires little to no filling. US-based Senco product manager Eric Bellman explains:
    The 21LXP provides the perfect balance of fastening strength while reducing finishing at a competitive price. Often, an 18-gauge brad nailer is too much for MDF and requires filling and sanding on trim. With the ability to use headless or slight/medium head fasteners, the 21LXP offers users holding power without sacrificing finish quality.

    Weighing in at just 1.2kg, and less than 9-inches in height and 8-inches in length, this ultra-lightweight and compact tool can easily fit into tight spaces. The ergonomic and angled pistol grip ensures a comfortable user experience, even over prolonged periods of time.

    With its ultra-narrow nose and non-marring pad, the 21LXP also delivers clean and exacting fastener placement.

    The 21LXP is suitable for a variety of applications, including: light wood assembly, finish and trim work, moulding and decorative trim, dowel and joint pinning, mirror and picture frame assembly, lightweight paneling, external softwood trim, rattan furniture, glazing strips, craft work, window beading, display and sign work.

    The metal magazine increases the tool's durability while it also automatically adjusts for different fastener lengths to provide quick and easy loading.

    Dry firing can ruin a delicate material, which is why Senco incorporates a last nail lockout. Users can also easily see when fasteners are running low.

    The exhaust is located at the rear to direct air from the user and, with the embedded muffler, it offers whisper quiet operation. The swivelling quarter-inch plug helps keep the hose at bay.
    Retailers
    Amazon UK opens smart home store
    The Amazon UK store features more than 1,000 connected and "smart" products
    PCR Online
    Amazon UK offer fast delivery direct to home or work
    The home automation store is about helping Amozon customers even more
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    The Amazon UK store features more than 1,000 connected and "smart" products including lighting, home monitoring, security, temperature control, health and fitness, energy management and entertainment systems. The products are divided into six categories:
  • Energy Management covers light bulbs, thermometers, outlets and accessories, current switches and lighting control modules.
  • Monitoring and Security includes security cameras, webcams, door hardware, unlocking security systems, household scanners and alarms.
  • Home Automation Controllers and Network Accessories are for more advanced home automation infrastructures using gateways, tablets, routers, modems, power line network adapters and network attached storage (NAS).
  • Ease of Use features devices such as robot vacuum cleaners, mobile/garage door locking, mobile lawn and garden care, and mobile controlled lighting.
  • Entertainment and Home Audio includes connected TVs, Blu-Ray players, streaming media players and home audio systems.

  • James Bate, home improvement store manager at Amazon.co.uk, explains:
    The home automation store has been designed to help customers make their lives as simple and comfortable as possible - whether it's a robotic lawnmower to smarten up the garden while they are on holiday or an intelligent light bulb that gradually brightens to wake them up in the morning.
    Smart home products can even help save money through clever energy management. The focus isn't just on products, however, but also assisting customers in navigating home technology with expert buying guides and reviews from fellow customers.

    Xavier Garambois, vice-president of EU retail at Amazon adds:
    From security cameras to robotic vacuums and wireless sound systems, it's now possible to control your entire home at the touch of a button. Customers can even ensure their house is the perfect temperature and their favourite song is playing as they walk through the front door. With fast delivery direct to home or work, it's never been easier to bring the future into your home.
    Bigbox
    Home Depot turns to internet for growth
    Home Depot is embracing the internet's logistical and service challenges
    Wall Street Journal
    The home-improvement chain will open two distribution centres this year
    Home Depot chief executive Frank Blake
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    Home Depot's latest location is 10 times bigger than its average store, stocks three times more items and has no customers. It's an online distribution centre.

    For decades, Home Depot excelled at the traditional retail model of growing by adding new locations. But the seller of home improvement goods is making a hard turn toward the internet in the face of changing shopper habits and fast diminishing returns from new store openings.

    This year, the home improvement chain will open two distribution centres and just one store. The move is a stark signal for an overbuilt industry in the US that may be witnessing a permanent drop in shopper traffic, even in the middle of a housing recovery that is boosting sales. Home Depot chief executive Frank Blake said in an interview:
    The retail model forever was to increase sales through opening additional units, but as you added stores to a finite group of households, each store becomes less profitable. So the decision was made to stop opening additional boxes.

    Like many big-box retailers, Home Depot spent the last three decades blanketing the US with giant stores, ample parking and shelves 12-feet high of plumbing supplies, paint and timber. The chain put up as many as 200 stores a year until the housing market collapsed in 2008, when it had 2,233 stores.

    The proliferation of DIY stores meant that retailers were fighting it out, on average, for just 30,000 households per store by the time the financial crisis wrapped up, down from 77,000 a decade before.

    In 2008, Home Depot decided to close 15 stores and pull the plug on 50 new openings it planned for the next four years.

    The transition online is no small feat for Home Depot. In addition to selling vanities, humidifiers and garden hoses, it has to figure out how to get huge spa tubs and iron patio sets from warehouses to customers' doors within days. That presents unique logistical challenges.

    E-commerce rival Amazon has floated the idea of using small, pilotless helicopters to deliver its goods. Blake told the Wall Street Journal:
    We don't just ship little books. You'd have to have some big goddamn drones to carry our stuff.

    Online sales accounted for only 3.5% of the company's $78.8 billion of sales last year. But they are growing faster than the rest, so the chain is investing US$1.5 billion this year for supply chain and technology improvements to link its stores and internet business, including the new online fulfillment centres. Earlier this year, it bought Blinds.com, adding to several acquisitions of websites.

    Home Depot hopes its online operation will broaden its appeal. It offers more than 600,000 items on its website, compared with 35,000 in a typical store. So far the retailer expects volume to be most concentrated in fast-moving smaller products like light fixtures and extension cords, as well as big and bulky items like vanities and appliances that people don't want to manoeuvre out of the store.

    The company, which relies on contractors and builders for 35% of its sales, is also hoping professionals will get in the habit of ordering online and picking up the goods in stores.

    Gearing up for that means reallocating space at existing stores. When Home Depot started letting customers pick up orders bought online in its stores, the retailer often didn't have enough shelf space to cover the volume of goods.
    Products
    Carpet tiles go beyond corporate
    Shaggy Lavish from Stanton Carpet makes custom carpets easy - video
    Floor Daily
    A different take on Shaggy Lavish - video
    Carpet tiles used in a kitchen area
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    A report on the US website Floor Daily indicates carpet tiles may increase in popularity. The DIY market is particularly interesting, where carpet tile does not compete with broadloom, but is used to create the eqiuvalent of customised area rugs.

    The projected growth in carpet tile markets is due to a greater acceptance of this form of floor covering by consumers, and in part it is a result of carpet tile manufacturers seeking new markets.

    The manufacturers are seeking new markets as they now virtually dominate the corporate sector as contrasted to traditional carpets. However, the overall market for carpet is shrinking in the corporate sector as luxury vinyl floor coverings gain in popularity. Carpet tile still does dominate, at least in the US, with sales of US$1.5 billion in 2013.

    By contrast, direct sales to the residential consumer are much less. Interface sales carpet tiles in the US under the Flor brand (also available in Australia), and recorded sales US$41 million in 2013, up over 30% on 2012 sales.

    One reason carpet tile is gaining in popularity is the evolution of taste, with younger generations preferring more of a "finished", uncomplicated look. This means the pattern production advantages of broadloom carpet and no longer an overriding incentive to use it.

    Carpet tile is commonly used either because of its performance characteristics, in particular, resistance to damp, or because it is deemed to be aesthetically suitable. Curiously, the latter category is more common in high-end dwellings.
    Carpet tile DIY market

    In the DIY market, carpet tile is not used in "finished" installations, wall-to-wall, but as a means of defining an area within a larger room. In this regard, carpet tile offers a lot of interesting options for new shapes, sizes and patterns. With new installation systems that do not require industrial adhesives, homeowners are also free to alter the size and shape of the carpeted area as their needs or design tastes change.

    In this regard, carpet tiles are also quite competitive. While the product cannot compete with broadloom prices, it does compete very well with the price of most area rugs. It also offers superior wear and durability, as well as the capability of replacing damaged areas inexpensively.

    One recent innovation in this area comes from Stanton Carpet of Long Island, New York. They have produced a line titled "Rug Revolution". Rug Revolution consists of 16-inch squares of solution-dyed micropolyester shag that attach to each other with a Velcro system to create area rugs of any size and shape. Part of its introduction is a collection called "Shaggy Lavish". This collection is available in a display for retailers, complete with a video screen system that plays a captivating ad for the product.

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