Tradie app simplifies business processes
The Tradie App can help improve the efficiency in a tradies' business
MENA Financial Network
Ingogo was originally developed for taxi bookings and payments
Xero is collaborating with ingogo to offer a digital payments service for tradies
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The new Tradie App from Formitize can deliver a paperless solution for the way tradies work.

It offers the use of mobile forms so that tradies on-the-go can file reports while they are on site or on the road. These digital forms eliminate the need for paperwork and can improve efficiencies.

Many tradies need a system that allows them to remotely monitor and receive timely updates from their staff or other tradespeople on the job. The app has a management portal where the information submitted by workers on-site are displayed for business owners, managers and office staff to view or use.

These days, many businesses have become reliant on the internet but this dependence also means their operations are severely crippled when there is no working connection.

The tradie App is designed to work even when there is no internet coverage. It simply syncs any information when online access becomes available. Formitize CEO Matt Burge explains:
Tradie gives users access to information using their smart phones. This paperless tool makes it possible for them to download the necessary information using their mobile devices.

The Tradie App also has an e-resource library with a range of downloadable resources such as e-books, documents and other relevant information.
Ingogo payments system

Tradies can also start using the ingogo service which was originally developed for taxi bookings and payments. It has a deal with accounting software company Xero to create this new service.

Starting in early 2015, tradies will be able to accept payments on the spot through Bluetooth card readers connected to their smartphones or tablets. However a beta version was launched at the end of October.

Ingogo says there will be no monthly rental fee for the card reader, but did not confirm whether there will be any upfront costs or transaction charges, according to the Business IT website.

When a payment is accepted through ingogo, it will be possible to apply it to a previously issued Xero invoice. Or users will be able to automatically generate and send a Xero invoice based on the payment.

Settlement will be on a next-day basis. That literally means "next day", not "next business day". And accounting entries for the payments will be automatically handled by Xero.

Xero already offers a mobile app to handle on-the-spot invoicing, expense recording and bank reconciliation but not card-based payments.
Lowe's to introduce customer service robot
Fellow Robots developed the OSHbot
Lowe's Holoroom enables virtual home design
Lowe's Innovation Labs
Click to visit the ITW website for move information
Lowe's will soon add a new member to its floor-staff. It is a robot, and it will be launched at the the small boutique hardware chain the US big-box home improvement retailer acquired in California, Orchard Supply Store.

Named "OSHbot", two examples of the robot will debut in a hardware store in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose. The robot will use a suite of technical innovations to aid it in assisting customers on simple tasks, such as locating products in the store's aisles. The robot stands roughly 1.5m tall, weighs under 39kg, and has a 19.5 inch touchscreen to aid in customer communications. It currently understands English and Spanish, and will acquire additional language functionality in the near future.

No exact date has been set for the introduction of the robot, but it is expected to be in operation during the coming Christmas season.
Automated customer assistance

In one scenario suggested by Lowe's, the customer will hold up a common object they need to find, such as a nail or a screw, in front of the robot's 3D scanner. Once the object has been scanned, the robot will look for a match in its database. If the item is found, the robot will consult its store database, find the location, then lead the customer through the aisles to where the item is located. The scanning technology has built on the basis of technology Lowe's has used in its Holoroom home improvement simulator.

In another scenario, the robot will actually be able to respond to verbal requests by customers, making use of its voice recognition technology. Building on that voice recognition technology, OSHbot will also be able to connect customers to remote customer assistants with expertise in the particular field of the query - paint, for example, or power tools. Customers will initiate a query with the robot, and then talk with the assistants via the robot's video screen, similar to the way in which telepresence robots work.

The same service will also be available to human assistants working in the store. They will be able to use the robot to query assistants in other stores, for example, to find out if a particular item is in stock, or to seek out individual expertise in a specific area. Lowe's said one of the main aims of the robot was to take care of routine tasks with customers, freeing up more time for the existing human store clerks to interact with customers.

In addition to these functional tasks, the robot will also perform a range of marketing and promotional tasks. It has a second, larger screen positioned on its "back", which can flash up messages relating to specific products and provide promotional codes as well.
Lowe's Innovation Labs on OSHbot

There is no word yet as to whether it will eventually integrate with the Lowe's customer mobile apps, but one would expect this would be planned. In that case, the OSHbot could conceivable greet customers by name as they enter the store, or interact with it in the aisles.

The robot has been developed by Fellow Robots in conjunction with Lowe's own Innovation Labs. Fellow Robots is a specialist in retail robots. It has a multidisciplinary team of technologists with backgrounds in fields such as artificial intelligence and data analysis. The company developed from projects run at the National Aeronautics and Space Agency Research Park near San Jose.

The founder of Fellow Robots, Marco Mascorro, has worked on a range of diverse robotics projects in the past, including helping the Japanese government design and develop "rescue robots" for work in situations such as the aftermath of earthquakes. According to Mr Mascorro:
The last decade was one of rapid technological advancement and prototyping, especially in robotics. With OSHbot, we've worked closely with Lowe's Innovation Labs to take autonomous retail service robot technology out of the sandbox and into the consumer market - enhancing the in-store consumer experience and creating smarter shoppers.

In August 2014 Aloft Hotels announced the release of a similarly-tasked robot, ALO Botir. With backing from Jerry Yang's AME cloud Ventures and Google ventures, the robot was developed by robotics company Savioke. That robot will assist concierge staff at hotels, with capabilities such as delivering items to specific hotel rooms.
ALO Botir
Stanley Black & Decker impresses with Q3 results
Profit increased 43% in Stanley Black & Decker's latest quarterly results
Its construction and DIY segment posted a 9.1% increase in revenue to US$1.45 billion
Industrial sales rose 4.9% to US$866.2 million
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Stanley Black & Decker said its profit rose 43% in the most recent quarter as the company boosted its sales and margins. Its results topped analysts' expectations.

For the September quarter, Stanley Black & Decker reported a profit of US$236.7 million, or US$1.47 a share, up from US$166 million, or US$1.04 a share, a year earlier.

It has benefited recently from a slow recovery in the US housing market and cut costs to bolster the bottom line, trends that continued in the latest quarter.

Stanley Black & Decker also said it might be compelled to pursue further restructuring next year to help offset persistent macroeconomic pressures.

The company tightened its earnings outlook for the year, saying it continues to expect strong operational performance to help offset economic and currency challenges.

In the third quarter, earnings from continuing operations came in at US$1.55 per share, up 11.5% from US$1.39 earned in the same quarter, a year ago. Analysts had expected per-share earnings of US$1.44.

Stanley Black & Decker now expects earnings of US$5.52 to US$5.58 a share, compared with its previous call of $5.50 to $5.60 a share.

Stanley Black & Decker generated net revenues of US$2,902.2 million, up 5.2% from the same period, last year. It is above the Zacks analysts' estimate of US$2,868 million. The improvement can be attributed to volume gains of 5% and positive price impact of 1%, partially offset by 1% negative impact from foreign currency movements.

The construction and do-it-yourself segment generated revenues of US$1,453.5 million, increasing 9.1% from last year and representing 50.1% of total revenues in the quarter.

The industrial segment's revenues, roughly 29.8% of total revenues, came in at US$866.2 million, up 4.9% from the same time, last year. Revenues from the security segment fell 3% year over the year to US$582.5 million.

Stanley Black & Decker's normalised cost of sales, as a percentage of revenue, was at 63.8% versus 64% recorded in the same quarter, 12 months ago.

Gross margin increased 20 basis points (bps) to 36.2%. Selling, general and administrative expenses edged up 0.7% year over year. As a percentage of revenue, it decreased 100 bps to 22.1%. Operating margin was up 120 bps to 14.1%.

For 2015, Stanley Black & Decker anticipates weaker growth from emerging markets and a strengthening US dollar to lower the operating profits by US$50-$75 million.

To combat these headwinds, the company might undertake cost-controlling measures, requiring an additional restructuring expense of US$10- $25 million. This is beyond the US$25 million expected for 2014.
SKILSAW changes brand identity
SKILSAW Power Tools has a new look to its circular saw range
PR Newswire
It is rolling out a new brand identity to the line of circular saws
SKILSAW has also launched two new pro SIDEWINDER circular saws
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Along with its revamped brand identity, SKILSAW is bringing to market two pro SIDEWINDER circular saws - the SPT67WM-22 with magnesium guards, foot and motor housing and the SPT67WL-22 resin housing saw. Nancy Struijk, product manager, circular saws said:
This generation of SKILSAWs will inspire and empower our pro users throughout their career. From the rugged magnesium motor housing inspired by our worm drive to our unique Dual-Field[tm] motor made specifically for saws, these new circular saws will help users optimise their productivity on the job site.

The SKILSAW SIDEWINDER SPT67WM-22 is the only all magnesium circular saw available. This means the saw can maintain strength, dissipate motor heat and increase job site durability, ultimately extending the tool life.

The SIDEWINDER's 15 Amp Dual-Field[tm] motor uses a unique copper winding pattern with increased surface area that helps the motor to stay cooler. It has worm drive inspired technology from the motor to the ergonomic handle design, and the motor housing. This product also includes a Freud(r) Diablo(r) 24T carbide blade.

In addition to the all magnesium saw, the brand is also releasing a saw that features resin motor housing to make a pro circular saw with the lightest weight. The SKILSAW SIDEWINDER SPT67WL-01 weighs just around 3kg.

The lighter weight of the saw means less user fatigue at the end of a long day on-site. It features the same 15 Amp Dual-Field motor and worm drive inspired technology and a new SKILSAW blade. Roger Amrol, president, SKILSAW Power Tools said:
We spent a considerable amount of time in the field talking with professionals to learn more about what drives them and how to improve our products to better meet their needs.
The over-arching message was that tradesmen are passionate about the work they do, and they rely on their SKILSAWs to help them meet challenges on the job. Ultimately, there's a need among trades for a line of saws that are as hard-working and reliable as our legendary worm drives.

SKILSAW Power Tools is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Robert Bosch Tool Corporation. It serves the professional construction market under the SKILSAW brand and consumer DIY market under the SKIL brand.
Sustainability rating tool
The new Green Star - Design & As Built rating tool has been launched
Romilly Madew, chief executive, Green Building Council of Australia
The tool was developed in collaboration with industry experts
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The Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) has released the new Green Star - Design & As Built rating tool. Chief executive of the GBCA, Romilly Madew said:
Green Star - Design & As Built represents the most significant advancement in sustainable design and construction since we launched Green Star in 2003. Green Star has transformed design and construction practices in Australia and initiatives once considered leading edge are now business-as-usual. The Green Star - Design & As Built rating tool will challenge industry to evolve, innovate and improve.

Green Star - Design & As Built assesses and certifies completed buildings of all types and sizes. It has an optional Design Review that provides an early opportunity for project teams to promote their Green Star commitment. New credits include:
  • Adaptation and resilience: rewards buildings that are designed to be resilient in the face of a changing climate and extreme weather events.
  • Life cycle impacts: encourages the holistic reduction of environmental impacts of building materials.
  • Responsible building materials: recognises the use of building materials that have been sourced responsibly or have Chain of Custody certification.
  • Sustainable products: rewards projects that specify building products that can demonstrate their sustainability credentials through environmental product declarations and third-party certification.
  • Heat island effect: rewards projects that take steps to reduce their influence on the heat island effect in our cities.
  • Sustainable transport: includes new pathways to demonstrate sustainable transport initiatives, including a Google Maps-powered calculator and encourages walking and cycling.

  • Madew said unprecedented collaboration with industry involved hundreds of experts providing their input into the rating tool's credit criteria, benchmarks and documentation requirements.
    We have been determined to deliver a rating tool that is simple and cost-effective, and Green Star - Design & As Built includes easy-to-use templates, streamlined documentation and flexible ways to demonstrate compliance. It will ensure Australia remains at the forefront of global green building practices, and will help us take another great stride forward as we move towards sustainable places for everyone.
    Indie store update
    Expressions of interest called for Mitre 10 store, Kiama Supply Co in NSW
    HNN Sources
    Home Hardware Karabar wins top customer service award at Queanbeyan Business Awards
    Mitre 10 in New Zealand has opened a MEGA store in Auckland's new Westgate development
    Click to visit the Globel Industries website for more information
    Family-owned Kiama Supply Co in New South Wales has been put up for sale. In other news, Home Hardware Karabar in Queanbeyan (NSW) is voted as having the best customer service in town and a new Mitre 10 MEGA store opens in Auckland, New Zealand.
    Kiama Supply Co on the market

    Expressions of interest are being called for Mitre 10 store, Kiama Supply Co. It marks the end of an era for one of Kiama's oldest businesses. The property comprises two parcels of land, covering almost 2000sqm with a "double frontage" on the main street. It is being advertised as a development site. Store owner Dave Simmons told the Illawarra Mercury: "We feel...the path is to create the interest in the property...this is the major asset of our organisation."

    The property is for sale by tender, but it may be some time before the doors close on Kiama Supply Co altogether, with a "lease back" option included in a potential sale. The sale comes as construction continues on a new Masters Hardware store at Albion Park Rail, which will be just down the road from the Shellharbour Bunnings. Simmons said the Kiama business had continued regardless of the arrival of the hardware giants. He said: "We haven't downsized at all and business continues, but we don't have the growth we would like...we are doing well to hold ground."
    Home Hardware voted town's best

    The team at Home Hardware Karabar has won the Customer Service Business of the Year award at this year's Queanbeyan Business Awards, as voted by local shoppers. The hardware store won the lion's share of the 1200 recorded entries in this category.

    Co-owners, brothers Adrian and Justin Devenish have helped run the business for the last 24 years, taking it over from their father Allen. Justin Devenish said it was great recognition for the small team of around 10 employees. He told the Queanbeyan Age: "It's a great pat on the back for us from the people that really count."

    And his brother Adrian said the store was seeing Queanbeyan customers staying loyal to the local store despite an increased presence in region from big box stores. He said: "It's a growth segment. That's why the large corporates have been so active in it. We're the last locally-owned, independent [hardware] store in the Queanbeyan area. A lot of our customers have been coming here since we opened, and we're now seeing their kids become regular customers." Both brothers praised their staff for the work that led to the award.
    Mitre 10 MEGA store opening

    Mitre 10 in New Zealand has opened a MEGA store in Auckland's new Westgate development. The store is co-owned by experienced retailers Dave and Elaine Hargreaves in conjunction with brothers Stephen and Graeme Ricketts. The Ricketts family also own the Mitre 10 MEGA Hastings and Napier stores and have been part of the Mitre 10 group since 1975. Hargreaves joined the retail group two years ago as an operations manager at the national support centre. The Hargreaves will oversee the day-to-day management of the store.

    Mitre 10 MEGA Westgate is the 38th Mitre 10 MEGA store to open, and will service trade professionals and DIY customers. The store will have the biggest garden centre in the area as well as a Columbus Coffee; drive thru for trade customers; 240 car parks and a children's playground.

    This year, Mitre 10 NZ opened Mitre 10 MEGA stores in Taupo, New Lynn and Porirua. It is aiming to add another three stores to its network in the coming year.
    Details of Bunnings 2013 staff mobile launch
    Airwatch provides mobile device management solutions
    Computerworld Australia
    Mobile systems manager for Bunnings, Chris Rizzo
    Lowe's was one of the early adopters of the new wave of mobile apps for in-store staff
    Click to visit the ITW website for move information
    Computerworld Australia has written a short article on an appearance by Bunnings mobility team leader, Chris Rizzo, at the Airwatch Connect conference which was held in late October 2014 in Sydney, Australia.

    Mr Rizzo was speaking mainly about Bunnings' deployment of 1500 iPod Touch devices to its retail staff shortly before Christmas 2013.

    In typical Bunnings' style, the decision originated at the top of the organisation, and the task had to be completed in around six weeks. Mr Rizzo said the deployment was completed on schedule, and that feedback had been mostly positive.

    Since that launch with a mixture of some of Bunnings' own apps and the apps provided by vendors, app development has branched out to include human resources, safety, inventory and delivery logistics.

    Airwatch is a mobility device management solution marketed by VMWare. VMWare is a US company that specialises in virtualisation software, which is software that emulates complete computing systems in software, making it possible to, for instance, run Windows software in parallel to OSX on Apple's Macintosh computers. Airwatch's customers include companies such as US big-box home improvement retailer Lowe's, Wallgreens, and the US Army Corps of Engineers. Airwatch opened its Australian offices in Melbourne in 2011.

    Commenting on the panel that featured Mr Rizzo, AirWatch ANZ managing director Rob Roe said:
    Go back a year, and it was "How do I lock these things down?" Now the business has really stepped in and said, "How do I leverage these things into the business?"

    Lowe's helped to boost its staff productivity by rolling out 42,000 iPhones in late 2011. These devices included mobile PoS systems, making it easier for Lowe's staff to checkout customers without the need to return to the registers at the front of the store. US big-box home improvement retailer has also rolled out mobile devices in both 2010 and 2012.

    Bunnings has experimented with mobile checkout systems, but there would not appear to be a wide-scale rollout in the plans just yet.
    Home improvement omnichannel sales rise sharply in US
    Gfk FutureBuy 2014 description of leading edge consumers
    Showrooming has caused problems for retailers in the past
    Webrooming actually helps brick-based retailers do better
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    Use of online purchasing aids has increased steeply for home improvement products in the US, according to a study released in October 2014. The "FutureBuy " study was produced by US-based market research firm Gfk.

    FutureBuy is an annual report into consumer buying habits online, offline, and in the combined environment ("omnichannel"). The 2014 study is based on a 20-minute survey undertaken by 1000 respondents for each of 17 countries, which include Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Russia, Spain and the USA. The survey seeks to discover the ways in which consumers go about purchasing products.

    The headline result for the home improvement retail industry is that omnichannel shopping in the US increased from 38% in 2013 to 57% in 2014. This was the greatest increase in any category, followed by automotive at 14% and over-the-counter drugs by 12%. Purchases of electronic goods via omnichannel fell by 5%.

    The Australian results have not been made public, but results from other countries indicate a more muted rise in omnichannel shopping. In Canada, for example, only 33% of respondents indicated they had shopped for home improvement items via omnichannel.

    Most encouraging for "bricks and mortar" retailers was that showrooming (consumers viewing goods in stores then purchasing them online) fell steeply, while its converse, "webrooming" (viewing goods online then purchasing in-store) climbed.

    While these statistics describe a broad sweep of behaviours, the report also cautions that there remain strong generational differences in the take-up and use of new technologies.

    Also there are some new technologies, such as the "mobile wallet", that have limited adoption at the moment.
    Leading edge consumers

    Gfk has identified what it terms "leading edge consumers" as being vital to the commercial success of new forms of retail, and new products. These consumers, which the company estimates make up 15% of its sample, appear at the intersection point of passionate shoppers, influentials and early adopters.

    Some of the identifying attributes of the LECs is that they have diminished brand loyalty and have come to rely increasingly on online purchases.
    Housing sector sees all-round lift
    Housing starts in the June quarter shows the highest 12 month total since March 1995
    Business Spectator
     In the June quarter, the median price of a block of residential land across the country rose 1.1%
    A rise in detached housing construction is good for the economy, according to RP Data
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    New home building has reached a nineteen-year high, according to the latest building activity figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

    Housing starts decreased by 6.9% over the June quarter, with 45,527 new dwellings commenced. This followed a rise of 8.9% in the March quarter. However, Shane Garrett, senior economist at the Housing Industry Australia (HIA) says that despite the decline this quarter, the figures mean that total starts during 2013/14 was 180,833 - the highest 12 month total since March 1995.

    Over the year to June, there was a total increase in new housing construction of 9.2%. This was made up of a 15% increase in detached houses and a 0.9% increase in multi-unit dwellings. But Garett says there is no avoiding the decrease in new residential building this quarter. He said:
    The multi-unit dwelling segment saw a sharp fall during the second quarter of this year [-15.1%], with detached house building also nudging down a little [-1.6%]. On the renovations side, the volume of work done also fell, with a 3% reduction in activity during the June 2014 quarter.
    A number of factors continue to plague the capacity of the new home building sector. These include high taxation, stamp duties, planning restrictions, and delays in making residential land available.
    Strong land demand

    The most recent Housing Industry Association-RP Data Residential Land Report showed that a bounce in sales in the June quarter lifted the total number of land sales for the 2013/14 financial year to 10% above the 2012/13 level.

    HIA chief economist Harley Dale said growth in the regional areas was faster in the June quarter than in the capitals. He said:
    Consistent with signals from other housing indicators, the geographical recovery in residential land sales is broadening. That is an encouraging sign for detached and semi-detached dwelling construction in 2014/15.

    In the June quarter, the median price of a block of residential land across the country rose 1.1% to $205,330.

    In the capitals, land prices were up 7.4% from a year earlier, while outside the capitals the rise was 4.1%. RP Data's research director Tim Lawless said the June quarter lift was "welcome news". He adds:
    A rise in land sales implies a rise in detached housing construction about six months down the track which in turn provides a substantial multiplier for the Australian economy: more jobs, more building materials, home furnishings, appliances and white good sales.

    But, he said, it's yet to be seen whether the quarterly improvement can develop into a trend. He explains:
    Despite the June quarter lift, the previous three quarters were showing a slowdown in the number of sales while vacant land prices continued to rise, a trend which may point to ongoing supply shortages of well-located, vacant land.
    HNN Home Improvement Stock Index 24/10/2014
    HNN index for October 24 2014
    Downer EDI stock price chart
    Leighton Holdings chart
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    The HNN Home Improvement Stock Index rose 29.65 points to 969.84 on 24 October 2014. The most significant improving stocks underlying the index included:
  • UGL Ltd up 10.3%
  • Downer EDI Ltd up 16%
  • GWA Group Ltd up 8.2%
  • Metcash up 5.3%
  • Leighton Holdings Ltd up 12.7%
  • Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd up 6.4%
  • Bluescope Steel
    China demand for steel cooling
    Fairfax Media

    According to BlueScope Steel chief executive Paul O'Malley building and construction in China may be in decline, thus reducing the country's need for steel.
    Charter Hall
    WorkZone Buildings in GreenZone first
    The Fifth Estate

    Charter Hall's WorkZone buildings in Perth have become Western Australia's first to be certified 5 Star Green Star Office. The $220 million WorkZone comprises two A Grade seven-storey buildings totalling 28,000 square metres located on the edge of Perth's CBD at 202 Pier Street.
    Downer EDI
    Strong stock rises fuelled by Tenix acquisition
    The Australian

    Analysts at Citi and UBS upgraded Downer EDI to a buy while Credit Suisse raised its recommendation to neutral. Citi analysts said the Tenix deal expanded Downer's capabilities and added growth opportunities at a time when the company was continuing to manage its way around a cyclical downturn in resources.
    Fletcher Building
    Fletcher wants to triple NZ home building
    3 News

    Fletcher Building announed at its annual shareholders meeting that it plans to build 1000 houses a year, up from its previous 300 houses. Under attack for declining company performance, chairman Ralph Waters blamed tough market conditions, but admitted that two acquisitions had not generated the returns that had been expected.
    Leighton Holdings
    City Developments Limited sets sights on Leighton Property
    The Australian

    City Developments Limited of Singapore is believed to be moving closer to secure a deal to purchase the Leighton Properties, a subsidiary of Leighton Holdings. Details of the possible deal have not been released, but the asking price is expected to be around $500 million.
    Australia's Leighton says nine-month profit up 21 pct

    Leighton Holdings Ltd said underlying profit for the first nine months of the year rose by a fifth. It repeated earlier guidance that it expects underlying net profit for the full year in the range of A$540 million to A$620 million. The company is controlled by Spain's ACS Actividades de Construccion y Servicios SA through its German subsidiary Hochtief.
    Lend Lease
    Lend Lease prepares to sell next stage of Barangaroo
    Fairfax Media

    Domestic and international buyers are reportedly interested in the purchse of the Barangaroo office towers in Sydney.
    Myer Holdings
    Myer launches new marketing campaign with 'find wonderful' slogan
    Fairfax Media

    In a shift in direction for Australia's largest department store, Myer is ditching its "Myer is my store" tagline in favour of a new brand message, "find wonderful". The new brand campaign was created by Clemenger BBDO Melbourne, which was appointed by Myer in August.
    Super Retail Group
    Solid sales lift Super Retail Group shares
    Herald Sun

    At its annual shareholders meeting for 2014 Super Retail Group announced improved sales in its automotive and sports divisions. Sales at its leisure divisions continue to lag. The announcement helped to boost the company's share price higher.

    Woolworths rejects Big W sale rumour
    Yahoo! Finance

    Woolworths has denied rumours it plans to sell its Big W business.
    MagReview: Monocle
    Monocle magazine, November 2014
    Lounge room of Claire Cousins house, Prahran, Melbourne
    Naber kitchen furniture
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    Launched in 2007 by Tyler Brule, who was previously editor of Wallpaper, Monocle is a global magazine published in English with a circulation of around 150,000. The magazine produces two design-specific issues a year, of which the November 2014 edition is one.

    It's always a delight to find Australians and New Zealanders featured in international design magazines. In Monocle there is one of each.
    Nat Cheshire

    The first is New Zealander Nat Cheshire of Cheshire Architects, who featured as speaker at a mini-tradeshow put on by Mecca in late August this year.
    Nat Cheshire

    In this edition of Monocle, Mr Cheshire's work on two small cabins in the New Zealand countryside is featured, along with some interesting biographical details about the architect, including the fact that he began his professional life as a painter.
    Nat Cheshire
    Claire Cousins

    Next up is a feature on the work of a architect from Melbourne, Claire Cousins of Claire Cousins Architecture. Featured is some of Ms Cousins work on her own home. This is a listed Edwardian house, which she and her builder husband have radically transformed inside. The glass-walled lounge room with its built-in sofa is particularly wonderful.
    Lounge room of Claire Cousins house, Prahran, Melbourne

    Part of her work on the house includes an elegant back yard, with an almost Japanese simplicity and elegance.
    Claire Cousins backyard, Prahran, Melbourne

    It is worth taking a look at the website for Claire Cousins Architecture. In particular her work on an apartment in a listed building on Flinders Lane is very interesting (this does not feature in the Monocle article).
    Flinders Lane apartment
    Barbican Estate, London

    In many of Australia's capital cities there has recently been quite a bit of anxiety about the consequences of an increase in high-density dwellings. Monocle profiles the Barbican Estate, a 1950s construction build by the architectural firm Chamberlin, Powell and Bon on land laid waste during World War II.

    Though the exterior is somewhat daunting, the interior of this estate is filled with precious private spaces, including elaborate water features and green lawns. It is a clear indication that high-density housing can make for a beautiful place to live, if it is constructed for purposes other than warehousing students.
    The Barbican Estates
    Naber kitchen furniture

    One of the emerging trends for kitchen fittings is for stand-alone work-surfaces and cabinets. This is somewhat easier to install than built-in kitchens, especially in older houses which are somewhat out-of-true. Naber has taken this one step further, with a range of kitchen items that are designed to look good throughout the house, opening up the possibility of doing kitchen work in other rooms.
    Naber kitchen furniture
    Online Review: tumblr gems
    Interior of Airstream trailer
    Interior my love
    Scandinavian collection
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    tumblr is a web service that makes it very easy to create simple blogs, and to regularly post to them. It also needs to be said there is quite a lot of really unpleasant content on tumblr, so you need to be cautious how you search. Despite that, it is one of the area online that can still surprise and delight.

    It is particularly a good place to research and catch up on the global design vibe. It's not just new things that turn up here, but older things that have been repurposed. As opposed to services such as Pinterest, which are really just endless lists of pictures, tumblr provides a personal perspective on the images that are curated there.

    What follows are some examples of tumblr blogs and images about interior design and trends.
    The Bowerbird
    The Bowerbird: the one thing I know...
    Design meets style
    Interior of an old Airstream trailer (caravan)
    The lady in tweed
    Beautiful libraries
    Interior my love
    Interior my love
    Interior my love
    Interior my love
    Scandinavian collectors
    Scandinavian collectors
    Stunning interior design
    Stunning interior design
    The mature Masters' strategy: will it work?
    "Ted" felt more comfortable in a Masters store
    The atmosphere inside a Bunnings store can be likened to a market
    "Ted" ended up buying something for his kitchen at Master
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    Over the past six months the matchup between Bunnings and Masters has evolved and become much more interesting. Instead of being about brute force store build-outs or financial resource endurance, it has evolved into a contest likely to be determined by skill and strategy.

    In terms of strategy, Bunnings has bet on the home improvement market developing, but not really changing all that much. Its expansion model is to take what it does so well in some sectors, and to move that into new sectors.

    Masters sees the market changing to become more like the home improvement markets in the US and the UK. Its strategy is to sacrifice some immediate profit, so as to be well-positioned for the future.

    Thus, for example, Bunnings does not focus on selling anything online, while Masters has a completely built-out e-commerce system.

    The atmosphere inside a Bunnings store is active and buzzing, almost market-like, with goods for sale tumbled everywhere. Masters' stores tend to be cooler, calmer places, with wider aisles, and a more orderly display of goods.
    Some experiences

    Like many people dealing with home improvement retail, I am constantly on the look-out for stories about people doing home improvement projects. So I was very interested when an acquaintance began telling me the story of his latest home improvement project adventure. We can call him "Ted".

    Ted needed to install some simple storm-water drains into an existing drain pipe. Searches on the Bunnings website revealed a product for $35. Searches on the Masters website helped him locate something for $19. Using that product as a reference, he found its equivalent for $15 on the Bunnings website.

    He found the product in his local Bunnings store, after about 10 minutes of looking. It was bundled into a pack of three, on the upper deck of product storage, with the torn remnants of a discount price sticker, now illegible, stuck to it.

    The Masters store had two metres of aisle space devoted to the product, clearly labelled and priced. Despite the higher price, he was happy to buy the five units he needed there.

    This a fairly basic story (which I've condensed as much as possible), but it reveals a number of interesting elements.

    The first is the way in which Ted worked these two stores off against each other. He effectively used the better search functions of the Masters website to help him locate something on the Bunnings website.

    At the actual location, as the two stores were across the road from each other, he was able to do a very quick comparison shop.

    Perhaps the most significant factor, however, is that he was far more motivated by convenience and selection than he was price.

    I did ask him why he didn't find someone at the Bunnings store to help him sort out the product. He said that he really felt like he didn't belong there, that the store really wasn't for him, while he felt very comfortable in the Masters store.

    He thought the service at Masters was more subtle, and less intrusive. And delivered by a diverse range of people. The displays were clearer and the store lighting was brighter.

    A final note on this story: Ted mentioned that in both the Bunnings store and the Masters store he stopped by the kitchen section, as he's about to remodel that part of his townhouse.

    In Bunnings he couldn't find any examples of the magnetic induction cooktop he wanted. In Masters he found a discounted Samsung model. The next week he returned to the Masters store to buy it, for $1000.

    I don't think that this story (and I've heard similar stories, which is why I've selected it) indicates any kind of a "failure" by Bunnings at all. In fact, Bunnings did precisely what it promised: it made available a cheaper product of what I am sure was equal quality.

    The reality is likely that Bunnings simply isn't that interested in customers such as Ted. He's not a DIY enthusiast, he expects a certain level of amenity in his shopping experience, and he will only go to a home improvement retailer - reluctantly - four or five times a year. Given the Bunnings range of products, he is probably worth about $2000 to $2500 a year.

    However, for Masters, given its range of products and approach, Ted is probably worth between $4500 and $5000 a year. That makes every one of those visits he makes there quite worthwhile.

    The question is, of course, whether there are enough "Teds" in the Australian market to support this strategy. In the past, when Bunnings was establishing its current business model, that would seem unlikely.

    It does seem, however, that the coming generations, the "Gen Ys" and the "Millenials", will likely have more people in this demographic category.

    Only time will tell, of course. The good news for the rest of the home improvement industry is that Masters' efforts will likely at least broaden the general appeal of home improvement retail to the "Ted" demographic.

    Until next time,


    For any feedback, comments or story tips, you can contact me directly via email or Twitter @HNN_Australia.

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    PS. A note that next week's edition of the HNN e-newsletter will be distributed on Wednesday, 4 November to accommodate the Melbourne Cup holiday.
    Big box update
    Masters Lismore in NSW is expected to open in early February next year
    HNN Sources
    The $48 million Bunnnings store in Maroochydore (QLD) will be one of its biggest
    The Jamie Oliver outdoor-living collection will be available only at Masters
    Click to visit the ITW website for move information
    Building on the $11.5 million Masters Lismore store in New South Wales is progressing as planned. In other news, work has begun on the Bunnings Maroochydore store in Queensland and the Jamie Oliver outdoor line is exclusively distributed through Masters stores. IKEA has also purchased land in Fremantle (WA) and could be setting up shop.
    Masters Lismore provides employment

    Masters has confirmed it will employ about 100 staff at its new Lismore store as the region struggles to lower its 13% general unemployment rate and 19.8% youth unemployment rate. It is expected to open in early February next year.

    Masters Lismore general manager, Greg McMahon said Masters is proud it is able to contribute to lowering regional unemployment. He told the Northern Star: "We've had lots of interest, but we're very happy with the team we're building. There's about 20 jobs already onboard. We're very happy to be part of and able to help the community with that large unemployment problem."

    Masters is working with Diversity Dimensions consultants to ensure it hires a diverse range of workers, including indigenous employees.
    Bunnings Maroochydore is a superstore

    The 1.5ha, $48 million Bunnnings store in Maroochydore will be one of its biggest outlets in Australia. Chief operating officer Peter Davis said it would boast a range of features. He told the Sunshine Coast Daily: "Bunnings will invest more than $48 million in the development, fit-out and stock for the new store which will have a total area of more than 15,000sqm...and parking for about 530 cars." It intends to open late next year, and will replace the existing Bunnings in the area.

    Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson welcomed the development in view of the looming Maroochydore CBD development. He said: "The Regional Economic Development Strategy contains plans to diversify the economy through developing seven high-value industries. Two traditional pillars of the Sunshine Coast's economy - construction and retail - will continue to play a significant role..."
    Jamie Oliver collection in Masters

    Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has launched an outdoor-living collection, which will only be available in Masters stores from November. Designed to cater to Australia's love of outdoor entertaining, the limited-edition range includes barbecues, an outdoor furniture setting with a built-in fire pit and ice bucket, and a selection of melamine tableware. Oliver said in a press release: "...I'm excited Masters is bringing my beautiful barbecues, outdoor furniture and tableware to Oz - they make cooking up a storm as quick, easy and delicious as possible, whether it's a speedy cook-up with friends or a big garden party for the whole family."
    IKEA buys land in Fremantle

    IKEA could be looking to establish an outlet after buying real estate in the City of Fremantle. According to Fairfax Media, the retail giant has purchased land in the suburb of O'Connor. The land is currently zoned industrial so IKEA would have to ask the City of Fremantle to change the zoning to build a retail store. As it stands, IKEA could use the land to erect a gigantic warehouse.

    Fairfax Media also understands IKEA could also be eyeing off property in Baldivis. If a Fremantle or Baldivis store goes ahead, it would bring the total number of IKEA stores in Australia to 10.

    Fremantle Chamber of Commerce CEO Tim Milsom told WA Today an IKEA store on the doorstep of the port city would attract more shoppers to Fremantle. The Fremantle economy has taken a hit over the last couple of years, with a number of major retail businesses including Betts, Jay Jays, Jeanswest, Rockmans and Millers, packing up and leaving.
    Recent appointments
    The Home Depot has named Marc Powers executive vice president - US stores
    HNN Sources
    Apex Tool Group's current chairman Thomas Wroe Jr. will assume the additional role of CEO
    The Home Depot will pay new CEO Craig Menear a US$1.3m salary
    Visit the Mecca Website
    A long-standing executive for The Home Depot has been installed as head of its US stores. In other news, Apex Tool Group chairman accepts dual roles of chairman and CEO, and details are released of the salary package for Home Depot's incoming CEO.
    EVP for Home Depot US stores

    The Home Depot has named Marc Powers executive vice president (EVP) - US stores.

    Powers, who began his career with The Home Depot as a store associate in 1986, currently serves as senior vice president of operations for the company's nearly 2,000 US stores. In that role, he has been responsible for the daily execution of initiatives to simplify store operations and drive productivity, and critical customer service programs.

    As EVP - US stores, Powers will assume responsibilities for the company's three US operating divisions, as well as Pro, Tool Rental and the company's installation business. Over his nearly 30 years with The Home Depot, Powers has held numerous leadership positions including store manager, district manager and regional vice president.
    Apex Tool Group has new CEO

    Apex Tool Group announced that current chairman Thomas Wroe Jr. will assume the additional role of CEO. He succeeds Steve Breitzka, who is stepping down to begin the next phase in his career.

    Wroe previously served as CEO of Sensata Technologies, a US$2 billion-plus global sensing and protection solutions industrial manufacturer, where he remains chairman of the board. He led the management team that grew the business both organically and through acquisitions, achieved strong customer partnerships, and led Sensata to realise a successful public offering in 2010. Prior to Sensata, Wroe had a successful career with Texas Instruments, holding a variety of management assignments in operations, engineering, marketing, and business development in the sensors and controls division, where he was named president.
    Salary details for Home Depot CEO

    The Home Depot will pay new CEO Craig Menear a salary that is 22% higher than what predecessor Frank Blake makes. This translates to a US$1.3 million annual base salary. In his previous role as president of Home Depot's US retail stores, Menear's salary was US$767,000. Menear also has the opportunity to earn a bonus of 200% of his salary for hitting certain financial targets. And he gets US$3.5 million in stock options. Blake will continue as chairman and get an annual salary of US$750,000.
    Interesting links
    ACCC has concerns regarding Rheem's proposed acquisition of Dux
    HNN Sources
    IBISWorld has updated its report on the houseware retailing industry in Australia
    Home Depot's desktop-computer users shown better deals than mobile device users
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    An additional selection of stories about the home improvement industry in Australia and overseas markets. This week, Rheem is disappointed with the ACCC; an overview of the homewares retailing industry from IBISWorld; Fletcher Building wins government contract in New Zealand; study shows customers accessing Home Depot though mobile devices are being shown more expensive deals; slower growth at Trevor Perkins and sustainability focus at Kohler and TOTO.

    For further information, simply click on the images provided.
    Local News
    Rheem frustrated by ACCC

    Rheem Australia expressed its disappointment at the Statement of Issues released by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) regarding its proposed acquisition of the Dux hot water business. Rheem believes it is crucial that Australia retains a competitive local manufacturing industry, and this means that consolidation of the local industry is inevitable.

    Matt Sexton, Rheem's CEO said: "Today around 45% of the total Australian water heater market is supplied by imports. This highlights the need for a strong local water heater industry. Smaller, standalone local businesses are unlikely to survive in an open and competitive market such as the Australian water heater market."
    Rheem not happy with the ACCC
    Housewares retailing report

    IBISWorld has updated its report on the housewares retailing industry in Australia. Financial market instability and widespread economic uncertainty have led to subdued spending on houseware goods. Over the next five years, the industry is expected to face intensifying pressure from online operators, department stores and other retailers that sell housewares.
    Housewares retailing in Australia is influenced by trends in new dwelling commencements and alterations to existing dwellings
    FITT distributes Liberty Pumps exclusively

    FITT Resources is now the sole Australian distributor for Liberty Pumps. US-based Liberty Pumps is known for producing high quality sump, sewage and effluent pumps for the domestic and semi-industrial waste water industries. For almost 50 years, it has been manufacturing pumping products for ground water and waste water removal in residential and commercial applications.
    Liberty Pumps is now only available from FITT Resources
    International News
    Fletcher wins NZ Government contract

    Fletcher Building has won a contract to build 237 homes on an 11.5-hectare Crown-owned site in Christchurch, New Zealand. The site includes 89 homes which will be priced below NZ$400,000, with construction expected to begin by the end of the year and a completion date of 2017, according to New Zealand Housing Minister Nick Smith.
    Fletcher plans to triple the pace of home building in New Zealand to 1,000 homes a year
    Home Depot influences smartphone users

    A study by computer scientists at Northeastern University in the US found that Home Depot was showing mobile-device users products that are roughly US$100 more expensive than those offered to desktop-computer users. The home improvement retailer did not charge users different prices for identical products, but rather showed more expensive products to smartphone users.
    Home Depot is directing mobile device users to more expensive products online
    Pricing intelligence at True Value

    Canada's True Value is using software from 360pi to gain competitive pricing intelligence for over 50,000 products across hundreds of regional zones. This improved visibility will help the retail group maintain and increase its competitive edge in local markets. Ken Goodgame, senior vice president and chief merchandising officer at True Value explains: "360pi helps our category managers make timely and well-informed pricing decisions."
    True Value using new pricing intelligence software
    HomeZada organises home info

    Startup HomeZada offers a cloud-based home information platform where a house can remind its owners about the next maintenance date for a fireplace, nag them into taking insurance photos of their most valuable possessions, and help budget and plan a kitchen remodelling. It has just attracted US$2.1 million in venture capital.
    HomeZada helps to organise household information
    Kohler using EDPs for green building

    Kohler Co. is now offering Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) which can help customers make informed, environmentally conscious choices when selecting plumbing products. EDPs can also help improve the company's manufacturing processes to become more environmentally friendly.
    Kohler wants to be seen an industry leader in environmental sustainability
    New inventory forecasting software

    Suppliers that sell to big box retailers like Home Depot often struggle to manage inventory profitably for these large customers. New functionality in inventory forecasting software from Thrive Technologies leverages the processing power in the cloud to quickly process data across millions of SKUs. Its system automatically adjusts the forecasts accordingly as well as the inventory buying plan so that stock is aligned accurately with demand at that time.
    Thrive Technologies' software helps manage inventory forecasting for big box retail customers
    Growth slows for Travis Perkins

    UK-based builders' merchant Travis Perkins saw sales growth slow in the third quarter.

    Like-for-like (LFL) sales were up 5.7% on a year earlier, down from 10.2% at the halfway point of the year.

    The owner of the Wickes DIY chain said its consumer division's LFL sales in the first nine months of the year were up 6.7% year-on-year, while the plumbing and heating arm was up 3.0% and its contracts business, which supplies larger trade buyers, was up 10.6%.
    Growth has slowed down for UK's Travis Perkins
    UK's entu to list on AIM

    Home improvement company entu (UK) will list on AIM (Alternative Investment Market) which is part of the London Stock Exchange. The company sells energy efficient windows, doors, boilers and conservatories, cavity wall products and solar power panels.

    There is increasing demand for energy efficient home improvements in the UK, partly driven by government schemes offering financial support for home owners willing to make such upgrades. Companies including entu have been taking advantage of the demand increase and government schemes.
    UK company entu will list on AIM (Alternative Investment Market) in London
    TOTO introduces sustainability reports

    The largest plumbing manufacturer in the world, TOTO is introducing ten new Sustainable Minds (SM) Transparency Reports for a select number of commercial products. The reports provide comprehensive information about a product, not only the required life cycle assessment and environmental data. They present functional and environmental performance information together in a comprehensive yet concise three-page, cloud-based report.

    The company's SM Transparency reports showcase 15 products across four categories - toilets, sensor faucets, sensor flush valves, and ultra high-efficiency urinals.
    TOTO is introducing sustainability reports for a number of its commercial products
    Built like a tank
    The Cub Cadet Tank SZ-60 is ideal for mowing properties up to 3.5 acres
    Cub Cadet
    The Tank boasts superior manoeuvrability and offers high levels of comfort
    The 27HP V-Twin commercial grade Kawasaki engine delivers higher horsepower
    SpotOn is your source for laser levels and other tools
    The Tank SZ-60 from Cub Cadet is an ideal piece of machinery for managing large areas, especially for mowing properties up to 3.5 acres. With a large, 60-inch cutting deck, the Tank boasts superior manoeuvreability and offers high levels of comfort, stability, and precision control.

    A responsive steering wheel allows the Tank to deliver a quality cut at gradients that other ride-on mowers may not achieve.

    The 27HP V-Twin commercial grade Kawasaki engine delivers higher horsepower and maximum torque for enhanced performance.

    Equipped with an innovative, heavy duty Smart Jet[tm] Deck Wash System that uses high pressure technology to clean out grass and debris build-up under the deck, the Tank won't suffer the corrosive effects caused by a dirty cutting deck.

    Cub Cadet's Tank SZ-60 is a useful addition when it comes to premium lawn maintenance equipment. Committed to exceeding the needs of rural and suburban homeowners along with landscape professionals, the company works consistently to be at the forefront of innovation.
    CIHS 2015 in new location, different date
    CIHS 2015 will be held at the Hongqiao National Conference & Exhibition Center
    The next CIHS will be held from October 21-23, 2015
    This year's event increased its international visitor numbers
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    Asia's largest trade fair for the hardware industry managed to maintain its scale in terms of exhibitor and visitor numbers. This year's China International Hardware Show (CIHS) also increased its overseas attendees.

    During the three-day trade fair, an extensive range of activities and displays featured tools, mesh products, locks, smart locks, bolts and hardware from domestic Chinese suppliers. The event provided a comprehensive overview of the type of products China has to offer.

    New Leaf Tools Manufacturing introduced a range of patented products. Archie Hardware Co. showed a lock that connects to a range of household goods such as appliances, lamps and curtains through mobile phones. The booth attracted a lot of the attention at the fair.
    A global event

    Exhibitors in the international zone were eyeing the potential growth of China's consumer market. Hailing from Mexico, Alberto Marchino Daued, CEO of Productos de Alambre said:
    This year we had more visitors than last year. It shows the Chinese market is still very important in the construction field. CIHS is the only place in the world where you can reach these buyers.

    Hosted by CIHS and the US-based Presidents Council, the Buying Day was aimed at providing face time meetings between exhibitors and buyers from Europe and the US. It won approvals from all participants who paid a fee to be part of it.

    Exhibitors were able to meet with decision makers and introduce their products in detail.
    CIHS 2015

    The next CIHS will be held from October 21-23, 2015 at a purpose-built venue in Shanghai, one of the biggest of its kind. It will occupy five halls of the Hongqiao National Conference & Exhibition Centre, spanning up to 150,000sqm.

    Featuring a dedicated hall for international exhibitors, tools and hardware as well as kitchen and bathroom products, the enhanced layout is expected to provide more convenience for buyers and visitors.

    Michael Dreyer, Asia Pacific vice-president at organiser Koelnmesse GmbH believes the new location will attract additional international exhibitors and visitors. The Shanghai venue has accessible transportation and is a fast commute to surrounding regions.

    CIHS is organised by Koelnmesse which has a strong reputation based on its highly successful International Hardware Fair and spoga+gafa events in Cologne, Germany. It has 90 years experience in putting together large-scale commercial events, connecting buyers and sellers.

    With almost 3,000 members, the China National Hardware Association has a mission is to foster collaboration between the government and enterprises. Its agenda is to create initiatives that boost the hardware industry.
    WA building up, tradies follow
    ABS data shows the value construction in WA's housing sector reached a record high in June
    The West Ausralian
    Tradespeople are in high demand in Perth
    The WA chapter of UDIA anticipates a cooling in the housing market over the next year
    Give to Amnesty International
    Residential builders in WA are experiencing one of their busiest-ever periods, with record housing approvals, finance applications and developer sales, according to the Urban Development Institute of Australia (UDIA).

    The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows the value of construction in WA's housing sector reached a record high in June. The value of new homes hit $1.566 billion, while the total for all types of new dwelling construction almost reached the two billion dollar mark, coming in at $1.99 billion.

    UDIA chief executive Debra Goostrey credited a major influx of workers to Perth a few years ago for the level of building activity over the past year. She told The West Australian:
    We saw a spike in migration about three years ago, and these people are looking to buy now. They have gone through the rental market and they are at the point where they are looking to build or to buy an established home of their own.

    There were 15,510 housing approvals in WA between January and August this year, well above the 13,717 approvals during the same period last year.

    UDIA chief executive Debra Goostrey said WA's 40 biggest developers have also been on a major selling spree during the past two years. In the first six months of this year, they sold 5087 major development blocks.

    This was only slightly down from the record 5605 lots purchased in the first six months of last year.

    Both years were well above the traditional average, surpassing the boom years between 2006 and 2010 when lot sales for the first half of the year ranged between 3952 and 4891.

    New data shows builders and developers have been busiest in Wanneroo, Swan and Rockingham, which have emerged as the housing hotspots of WA. The suburbs attracted the greatest share of new dwellings in the year to June, with 3414, 2583 and 2468 properties built in the areas in the twelve months to June respectively.

    Most of these new lots are located in the outer suburbs. Stirling, 12km from the city, also made the list with more than 2400 new homes. It fits in with plans by the local council to develop the Herdsman and Glendalough areas within council borders and turn Stirling into a satellite city.

    But WA is unlikely to continue developing at the current pace with building and finance approvals already falling in October, and Goostrey anticipates a continued cooling over the next year.

    Nonetheless, it will still be well above the recent track record, with recent ABS housing finance data showing great demand. It shows that in the 12 months to August, there were 91,943 housing finance applications in WA, the highest since the same period in 2007. Goostrey said:
    The development sector is currently running at about 130% of long-term averages, and we think it will drop back to 115% of long-term averages. So the sector will continue running above average, even after it drops back a bit.
    Perth tradies wanted

    The current housing boom means tradespeople are in high demand in Perth. Bricklayers and other skilled labourers are struggling to keep up with the rate of residential construction.

    The busy period of house and apartment constructions is underpinned by high vacant land sales. In WA during 2012-13, there were just over 20,000 sales. That represented the fifth biggest annual turnover in the past two decades, according to data compiled by

    The pace of vacant land purchases has since subsided, with just under 17,000 recorded in the last financial year. However, industry experts believe the need for tradespeople will remain strong as the formerly vacant land sites are now being developed en masse.

    One of the country's biggest residential builders, Dale Alcock, managing director of ABN Group, said there were some delays in Perth in getting bricklayers on to sites, which put other trades back. He told WA Today:
    We are already at capacity. Those land sales have to wash through. We will be very busy on site for the next 12 to 18 months before it returns to more normal levels.

    ABN Group is also a major trainer of apprentices. Almost one-third of its 300 current apprentices are bricklayers.

    The increased demand for trades in the residential market coincides with a downturn in demand for construction workers on resource projects in WA's mineral-rich Pilbara. This decrease was the result of a sustained decline in the iron ore price which led to fewer projects.

    There is a risk that residential construction work could dry up once the current cycle declines. Turnover in the broader market, including land sales and house and apartment sales, dropped in 2013-14 and agents are reporting subdued interest in the first few months of 2014-15.

    BankWest chief economist Alan Langford said the state economy would hit a "soft spot" within two years if there were no new major resources projects and the housing market cooled.
    Kingfisher's sustainability approach
    Making sustainability mainstream is a key ambition for Kingfisher and its businesses
    Retail Times
    Environmental values are integrated across Kingfisher-owned B&Q stores
    2degrees has built the world's largest online community of sustainability professionals
    Click to visit the Globel Industries website for more information
    Kingfisher Group has appointed 2degrees, a global online community platform to help drive the progress of its "restorative, Net Positive" approach across its entire business.

    Being "restorative, Net Positive" refers to companies making a more positive environmental or societal impact through sustainability strategies.

    Making sustainability mainstream and part of the new norm is a key ambition for Kingfisher. It is looking for smarter, more integrated ways to accelerate the implementation of Net Positive across its geographically diverse businesses.

    They include B&Q, Screwfix, Castorama, Brico Depot and Koctas which are located in 10 different countries. Richard Gillies, group sustainability director at Kingfisher, said:
    There's no silver bullet for the type of transformational change that is necessary to our becoming a restorative business. We're asking our colleagues to worry about things they've never had to worry about before and so we have an ever-increasing group of people looking for answers to the sustainability questions they are being set.
    Collaborative technologies have the potential to accelerate change by enabling ease of access to information and the sharing of best practice. It's not the only tool you need and it can't just be an information dumping ground, which is what we love about 2Degrees - they ensure content is interesting, relevant and easy to find. But more importantly, they work actively with those throughout our business to entice them onto the platform and then into the conversation. Engagement is a fundamental first step in our...journey to becoming Net Positive.

    Using the 2degrees online collaboration platform and expert community management skills, it will work with Kingfisher to leverage the diversity of knowledge and experience which exists across the businesses. It will help develop the retail group's ability to connect and work together.

    Kingfisher hopes the platform will quicken progress particularly around timber, energy and innovation. The retail group has aspirations to become restorative by 2050.

    The web-based program will be run on the Kingfisher Exchange, a private online hub developed by 2degrees for Kingfisher staff. It builds on the success of an existing 2degrees program, launched in 2012, to embed sustainability best practice across Kingfisher's businesses.

    The exchange is actively managed by 2degrees who work closely with Kingfisher staff to ensure the program supports effective team work across different operations. It is designed to save time and resources, and provide practical solutions to sustainability challenges. Martin Chilcott, CEO of 2degrees said:
    We are delighted to be working with the world's third largest home retailer...As well as the environmental benefits that can be made through efficient and effective collaboration, the costs savings and revenue opportunities available for those pursuing sustainable business are substantial, and we are looking forward to helping Kingfisher realise these.
    PPG to acquire US paint store chain
    PPG's acquisition of Westmoreland Supply is expected to be completed in Q4
    Trib Live
    The acquisition is part of PPG's strategy to improve its position in the home and business markets
    The outlets will be rebranded under the company's new PPG Paints store name
    Subscribe to HNN weekly e-newsletter
    PPG Industries recently announced that its North American architectural coatings business has reached an agreement to acquire Westmoreland Supply, an independent architectural paint distributor headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

    Following completion of the acquisition, the 12 Westmoreland Supply outlets will operate as part of PPG's network of more than 900 company-owned stores in North America. They will be rebranded under the company's new PPG Paints store name.

    It is PPG's second purchase of a local chain this year, as part of a strategy to improve its position in the home and business markets. PPG is targeting professional painters and expanding products at independent dealers, and home improvement centres.

    In June, PPG announced the purchase of the 13-store Masterwork Paint Co., another Pennsylvania-based retail group. Pete Ciccaglione, president of Westmoreland Supply said:
    PPG approached us because they are starting to get back into company-owned stores. I thought that was a good plan. We were building something good here, and you just can't sell to anybody. Once they bought Masterwork, we knew they would like to buy us. It was a win-win for them and for us.

    Westmoreland Supply has operated its headquarters store since 1890. It is owned by Ciccaglione with this brother Jim, and partner Mike Gubanic, an accountant.

    The stores employ more than 40 workers, and PPG said most will continue working once the deal is completed. Scott Sinetar, PPG's vice president, architectural coatings said:
    Customers who know Westmore-land Supply will continue to benefit from a great product selection and excellent customer service.

    PPG's expansive distribution network includes 5,000 independent dealers and all major home improvement centres. Its Glidden, Olympic, PPG Paints and PPG Pittsburgh Paints brands are on all these store shelves. Paint accounts for nearly 93% of PPG's sales.

    Analysts believe PPG is trying to better compete with Sherwin-Williams Co., which has 4,100 company-owned stores and uses independent dealers.
    Outdoor living trends
    Open-plan areas connected to the garden remain the classic format for outdoor areas
    Yahoo News Australia
    Oversized outdoor furniture pieces are popular this year
    Customers are now thinking of outdoor kitchen while planning homes or renovations
    Subscribe to HNN weekly e-newsletter
    The alfresco area is becoming the most popular room of the house for families to spend their time, according to Ciaran Brennan, from WA-based Pyro Designs. He said:
    Most if not all new home builds now come with power and gas points ready for an outdoor kitchen to be installed, which tells us that people are now thinking of their outdoor kitchen while in the planning stage of their new home or renovation.
    The popularity of outdoor living has simply grown due to its affordability and modern design options.

    Brennan advises his customers to look into the new and innovative, durable and UV-stable materials over the more historically used, and high- maintenance commercial-looking stainless steel. The modular systems are still popular, due to improved manufacture and guarantees now being offered with some systems. He said:
    The custom outdoor kitchen is now the most popular choice. We have found that people enjoy designing an outdoor kitchen around their preferred barbecue and appliance choices, while also having the luxury of choosing colours to suit their home.
    Design and finishes

    Nick Jolley of Patio Living said open-plan areas connected to the garden with the ability to enclose and protect in the cooler months via blinds, shutters or bi-folds are still the classic format for outdoor areas.

    However Jolley said decorative screening was making ground, with screening materials such as laser-cut metal replacing simple lattice and timber more like garden art. It doubled as a feature and a privacy screen. He said:
    Cedar lining is also popular, along with white lining options in both timber and gyprock, especially where the alfresco extension is over a deck and clients want a contrasting ceiling.

    Travertine and granite paving tiles were almost completely replacing poured limestone and limestone pavers. Jolley said:
    They offer a more durable, smarter finish, and laid on cracker dust or cement they eliminate the old drama of weeds and ants completely.
    Furnishing and fabrics

    Katie Rowley of Eco Outdoor said oversized outdoor furniture pieces are popular this year. She said:
    Think luxurious outdoor sofas, which are beautifully simple pieces made with quality materials. Features such as chunky rope weave, solid teak frames and beautifully soft outdoor linens are key to this look.

    Raw materials such as teak, and outdoor linens are also ideal for this season. She said:
    Natural materials age and weather beautifully with time and are always the perfect complement to outdoor spaces, year-round...

    Sam Stabler of Drovers Inside and Out said an industrial palette of recycled teak, metal, and rustic boat wood and slab tables were on trend. She said:
    Lounges and day beds seem to be getting stronger every year as people want to relax and be comfortable.
    Keruing hardwood timber lounges and dining suites are still very popular as they are traditional yet still stylish.

    Poly resin wicker in more natural-looking weaves and colours were popular for modular lounges, day beds and dining. Stabler said:
    We're seeing shades such as neutrals, greys, turquoise, coral and citrus colours like lime, yellow and tangerine dominating.
    Styling and accessories

    Greg Baker of Angove Street Collective, who has just finished his own outdoor cafe, Miss Watson's Garden, said some of the trends that inspired the space included painted timber planters and monochrome furniture. He said:
    We have styled with custom-made painted timber planters in ivory, charcoal and amethyst. Planters are perfect for mature fruits trees such as limes, apricots and lemons for a pop of colour in a garden.

    Powder-coated metal outdoor occasional chairs in black or white, with timber features in mango wood or oak were ideal for outdoor furniture. He said:
    The monotone palette of ivory though to black with lots of light oak is a really fresh, stylish look. It can be accented with aqua, turquoise or yellow.

    The trend this summer is for bringing the indoors out, with outdoor rugs and picnic baskets creating a garden dining experience at home.

    Michael Donatelli of Oggi Stone Craft, said that while contemporary home design was increasingly popular, the trend for classic and traditional garden adornments remain strong. He said:
    Pots lined in a row to disguise a fence line along with stone urns and statues are popular because they add a bit of warmth to what can often be a clinical setting of a modern home. Natural and neutral colours never go out of fashion, and the natural hard stones and cement pieces are highly durable with little maintenance requirement.

    Water features - from water walls to industrial construction to classic-style fountains - had never gone out of fashion and added a sense of calm and feng shui to an outdoor space. Donatelli said:
    The other popular items are gargoyles, which are said to ward off bad spirits. We've been installing these anywhere from cottage gardens to multimillion-dollar new builds.
    Modular building advantages
    Australia's modular building industry can expand into high-rise, multi-residential buildings
    Modular bathrooms are popular outside Australia
    Paul Bonaccorsi is a director at Intelligent Offsite, a modular building company based in Yorkshire (UK)
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    Significant opportunities continue to exist in the modular building and off-site construction sector in Australia, according to the director of an international project management firm.

    Director Paul Bonaccorsi from Yorkshire-based company, Intelligent Offsite

    said Australia's modular building industry has a chance to expand into high-rise, multi-residential buildings.

    The modular bathroom industry, in particular is set to benefit from the international experience of companies such as Lend Lease, Laing O'Rourke, Westfield and Multiplex. They have used bathroom pods outside Australia and are becoming increasingly comfortable with their implementation in domestic projects.

    Bonaccorsi adds that while clients will always be the driving force behind any push toward use of off-site construction, European experience suggests that manufacturers of prefabricated products need to be flexible in seeking out new markets.

    He believes many contractors were more comfortable with traditional construction methods and often had to be coerced into discovering new methods. Bonaccorsi told Sourceable:
    The manufacturers have their part to play in constantly innovating. In Europe, the market was stagnant for a few years. Then we [the modular industry] started doing McDonald's restaurants and petrol station shops. That took us into other retail industries such as supermarkets, and permanent modular began to be bigger than relocatable. We then moved into prisons, hotels, hospitals and railway stations - all sorts of markets.

    Bonaccorsi's comments come amid increasing debate in Australia about the best ways to address the slow take-up rates of prefabrication and offsite building around the country.

    Proponents of prefabrication say it offers faster construction times, reduced labour requirements, fewer defects, less construction waste, higher levels of safety and productivity, and better sustainability.

    BIS Shrapnel research analyst James Middleton maintains prefabrication methods are being held back by the relatively small and fragmented nature of the Australian market, the cost of transferring modules over long distances and the perceptions about modular homes being inferior products.

    However he said the inclusion of better features and designs are helping to change this mindset, and the prefabrication industry has enormous potential as a contributor to affordable housing.

    At the same time, growth in the sector is expected to be gradual and focused more on individual building components as opposed to "apartment buildings that go up in 10 days or fully built houses being dropped off at construction sites by semi-trailers." Middleton wrote on the BIS Shrapnel blog recently:
    In short, whilst the reports of a six storey apartment building in Perth being built in ten days are impressive and exciting, they are unlikely to be game changing.
    But modular construction will play an increasingly significant role in the Australian building industry moving being at the cutting edge of new technologies and techniques, so watch this space.

    Bonaccorsi encourages manufacturers to look at innovative products such as alternative wiring systems which speed up construction processes and deliver cost advantages. They should also look at what companies like McDonalds, IHG, Hilton and BP have used overseas and offer them something similar here.

    He believes manufacturers should also consider ways to offer more such as extended guarantees. He said:
    The most important lesson we learned in Europe was to deliver more than traditional construction. Better quality is paramount, and we also provide extended warranties for the end user. If you have faith in the products you are using to make the building or pod, why not pass it on?
    Making house keys obsolete
    The August Smart Lock uses a smartphone app and Bluetooth connection
    Tech News World
    It is powered by four AA batteries
    August recently added integration with Logitech's Harmony line of home automation products
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    The August Smart Lock replaces the interior portion of existing deadbolt locks but does not require users to change their exterior door hardware. Physical, metal keys will work with the deadbolt as well.

    The device is powered by four AA batteries and can be installed in about 10 minutes, according to company co-founders behind the August, Jason Johnson and Yves Behar.

    Once in place, the smart lock allows users to control access to their home via a smartphone. It can provide temporary or ongoing access to selected others at will, creating invited guest lists from a user's contacts for a party or event, for example. Johnson explains:
    Traditionally, we've had these locks, which are really designed to keep people out, and what we really wanted to do was flip that around and say, 'Can we create a system that brings people in, and how can we reduce the friction to access to the home by making it easy to give a key to someone you want to give access to your home, whether it be a family member or a friend or a service provider and make it really simple?'

    Log records show who has entered and exited. A guestbook feature, meanwhile, lets users write thank you notes, leave instructions and invite comments.

    Last month, August added integration with Logitech's Harmony line of home automation products as well.
    Six million devices

    Smart home products are gaining considerable momentum as prices drop and usability improves, according to Jonathan Collins, a principal analyst at ABI Research. He told TechNewsWorld:
    Any of these devices give you that much more awareness of your home environment, wherever you are. We're seeing a broad groundswell of interest now of what smart home automation can be.

    The market for smart locks, specifically, will reach more than six million devices shipped worldwide in 2019, up from a little more than 400,000 last year, based on data from ABI Research.
    Niche market

    In its current implementation, the device "does not appear to be any better than a standard deadbolt, which can be easily accessed with a bump key," Jim McGregor told TechNewsWorld. He said:
    Since the outside still has the standard key, the security is only as good as the physical key. The wireless interface, if anything, is just another possible intrusion point.

    The only benefit, then, is the convenience of being able to open the deadbolt with your cellphone rather than a key. He said:
    At [US]$200-plus, this is likely a niche market for those that value that convenience. If a consumer values their security, they are better off investing in a high-grade double-cylinder lock like those from Schlage.
    Range of competitors

    The August Smart Lock's availability in Apple Stores is "a real benefit for the business, as they get exposure and reach in a unique retail setting," said Brian Blau, a research director for consumer technology and markets with Gartner.

    However there are plenty of competitors already in retail stores including Unikey and Doorbot, Blau told TechNewsWorld. Blau said:
    While those smart locks have their own unique features, the August lock will definitely get some traction as consumers start to understand the benefits of including digital technologies into what is traditionally a non-digital function.