Products
Hard-to-reach cleaning solution
The Telescopic Spray Lance from Karcher can make hard-to-reach cleaning easy
HNN Sources
It extends from 1.2 metres up to 4 metres
The Telescopic Spray Lance is suitable for multi-storey dwellings (Click on image to watch video)
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The Telescopic Spray Lance from Karcher can make hard-to-reach cleaning a problem of the past.

It extends from 1.2 metres up to 4 metres so there's very few places for dirt and grime to hide. Compatible with Karcher's entire electrical range of pressure cleaners, the Telescopic Spray Lance is suitable for multi-storey dwellings and anywhere the regular pressure cleaner cannot reach. For example, it can be used for facades, window shutters, pergola roofs and porches.

It enables the user to clean at high pressure to heights of five metres without the need for ladders or other aids.

At its maxim length it is still easy to use and control thanks to the comfortable shoulder strap that supports the full weight of the extended lance.

Weighing in at just 2kg, the Telescopic Spray Lance is deceptively powerful for such a compact unit. Also fitted with an ergonomic trigger gun that's fully adjustable, operators will have few problems maintaining optimum control as they blast dirt away from a far.

The convenient bayonet connection allows the connection of most Karcher accessories, including wash brushes and sponges.
Products
Beacon Lighting public debut
Shares in lighting retailer Beacon Lighting Group were up 50% on its debut
Sydney Morning Herald
Beacon has a long term strategy to grow its wholesale export business
The company plans to open six more fully owned stores each year for the next five years
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Shares in lighting retailer Beacon Lighting Group were up 50% to 99 after listing at 11am Wednesday, 16 April.

Beacon Lighting Group owns 71 stores and the brand has another 14 stores operating as franchises. The company plans to open six more fully owned stores each year for the next five years.

Beacon says one of its advantages is that it sources 90% of its product directly rather than going through wholesalers. More than 80% of stock is manufactured offshore, mostly in China, under the Beacon brand. The business has an average gross sales margin of 64%.

Almost two per cent of revenue is earned from online sales and the board has set a target of achieving five per cent to six per cent of sales through the website within three years.

Three years ago the company started selling its designs to international lighting retailers, mostly Europe, with a long term strategy to grow the wholesale export business.

Pro forma sales revenue is expected to reach $150.26 million for the current financial year, while net profit is estimated at $11.46 million.

The light fixtures retailer did not raise any new capital through the float, which was a vehicle for Martin Hanman, an electrician who has been a silent partner since 1997, to cash out his 45% stake.

The first Beacon Lighting store was opened on Melbourne's Chapel Street in 1967 by John Strahan who went on to found Sheraton Lighting. Ian Robinson started as an employee in 1969 and by 1975 had bought the business; his family remains in control of Beacon through its 55% holding.

Escrow conditions will prevent the Robinsons from selling their shares for two years, although Robinson has said he and his family believe the company has long-term growth potential and at this stage have no plans to sell out when the escrow period expires.

Robinson now holds the role of executive chairman since his son, Glen Robinson, took over as chief executive mid last year.
Bigbox
Lowe's leads way in mobile apps
Sean Bartlett of Lowe's speaking at the VentureBeat mobile conference
VentureBeat
Lowe's customer app helps them locate items in their "home" store
The MyLowe's loyalty app helps customers track past and  plan future purchases
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Just a couple years ago it would have seemed odd that an IT executive from a home improvement chain would be speaking at a mobile technology conference. Yet that's exactly what Sean Bartlett, Lowe s director of digital experience, product, and omni-channel integration, did in the city of Sausalito, California on 15 April 2014 when he spoke at US tech investment website VentureBeat s annual Mobile Summit.

Mr Bartlett has been responsible for providing 42,000 iPhones to sales associates at the US-based big-box home improvement chain, complete with custom software. The intent was to free the associates up from sitting behind cash registers, so they could roam the retail space and be readily available for customer questions.

Mr Bartlett's push into mobile didn't end there. He also worked hard on providing customers with great apps for their mobile devices as well. Today the Lowe's apps provide help in guiding customers to product locations. Customers simply search for an item, then press a button to bring up its exact location in an aisle at their home store.

According to Mr Bartlett:
As you look at new capabilities that you roll out, it always comes back to enhancing the customer experience. We are experience driven, and to the extent that we can tie our customer and our store experiences and our store associates together, that is how we drive a lot of those [mobile strategy] decisions

The apps for customers are very carefully tailored. They are small in size, around 10 megabytes (rather than a more usual 50 to 60 megabytes), and are programmed "native", using Apple's own Objective-C/Cocoa codebase, rather than as HTML5, web-based apps. This gives them a greater responsiveness, and opens up better interface possibilities. This kind of experience is central to Lowe's entire market strategy: As Mr Bartlett says:
We ve always been of the mindset that commerce is a byproduct of a great experience,

One of the main benefits of using the apps, outside of making customers more comfortable and happier with the Lowe's experience, is the amount of data they help Lowe's gather.
We have a very big footprint from the store perspective - a lot of products with a lot of customers. The ability to see the customer s trip to the store, whether it is planning or starting to use the location features in the store [is important].

Lowe's further leverages customer engagement with its apps through the retailer's digital loyalty program, MyLowe's. As MyLowe's customers register every purchase in the program, sales associates can look-up the sales history of those customers while they are serving them. The app also provides a gateway through which Lowe's can alert customers of certain seasonal purchase needs, getting the Lowe's advertising message in ahead of competitors.

The same purchase information also helps out customers, making it easy for them to remind themselves of the exact colour of paint they bought two years ago, for example. They can also use the app to make shopping lists, so that when they do drop by a Lowe's for some necessity, they can get other less pressing supplies as well.

Lowe's isn't stopping there, according to Mr Bartlett. The company is currently looking into technologies such as Google Glass to see if these can be integrated into the store experience, further enhancing the link between sales associates and customers. It will be interesting to see if Masters, the result of a partnership between Lowe's and Woolworths, will eventually adopt a similar approach.
Retailers
Indie store update
Combined Rural Traders promotes regional football
HNN Sources
Yass Home Timber & Hardware makes donation to local high school
Autobarn store re-opens in Mackay (QLD) after a fire
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Combined Rural Traders promotes regional football. In other news, Yass Home Timber & Hardware helps out a school with supplies and an Autobarn store re-opens in Mackay (QLD) after a fire.
CRT supports Country Crows

A Country Crows training clinic was held at Crystal Brook football club in South Australia recently, sponsored by rural retail group Combined Rural Traders (CRT). It was attended by about 140 young footballers from 15 local schools. Crows players Riley Knight, Charlie Cameron, Cameron Ellis-Yolmen, Jack Osborn and Port Pirie's Lewis Johnston led the hour-long session. The club was presented with a $500 sports kit including tackle bags, sports bag, footballs, horn, markers and caps.

CRT spokesman, Peter Cook said his company was thrilled to support the Country Crows program for 2014. He told the Flinders News: "Our partnership with the Crows is about taking AFL footy back to regional communities, the grassroots level. It is so important for both CRT and the Crows to support local communities. The Crows enjoy huge support across SA country and have a large number of players who came out of the local footy scene, clubs like Crystal Brook. The clinics also provide a fantastic opportunity for kids to participate and be active. It's a great partnership, and we look forward to taking the clinics across SA over the next three years."
Yass Home store donation

Jason and Kylie Carniel of Yass Home Timber & Hardware have donated approximately $1000 of hardware supplies to Yass High School, after its industrial arts areas were destroyed in last year's school fire. The donation included a Renovator power tool, a dual saw, a mixed box of hand tools and cement mix. Jason told the Yass Tribune they felt it was important to them to support the students and the school with whatever they could help with. Yass Rotary has also constructed a shed for the industrial arts students.
Autobarn store re-opens

Racing car drivers Craig Lowndes and Jamie Whincup attended the official re-opening of an Autobarn store in Mackay recently. The store was gutted by fire in November 2012. The re-opening was a symbol of a new beginning for owner Brett Brownsey. He told CQ News he was overwhelmed by the support of Mackay residents, who showed up in the hundreds during event. While walking around his newly refurbished shop, Brownsey was stopped by customers saying, "the shop looks great, mate". He said: "We have had lots of compliments - it's just been fantastic." Autobarn is majority-owned by Metcash.
Products
Swiss-style pocketknives re-invented
The tool rethinks traditional pocketknife tools
Kickstarter
Includes USB data storage
Easy to add keys to the swisskey
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What would make a really useful pocket tool for the Australian urban dweller? Probably something which could conjure up a latte or cappuccino would be really useful, but we're probably at least a decade away from the Apple iCoffee. In the meantime, some clever people have been at work figuring out a pocket tool that provides consumers with tools they really do need on a day-to-day basis.

The result is the "swisskey", a now fully-funded project on the crowd-funding website Kickstarter. The swisskey looks a little like a traditional Swiss Army knife, but that basic design has been brought radically up-to-date, with some interesting and handy features added.

To begin with, the swisskey is really a small tool system that enables you to choose which tools the unit provides. Its second great feature is that you can add not only tools, but standard keys as well. The keys fold back into the tool the way a blade folds into a pocketknife. It is a really convenient way to carry the two or three tools you need, without having them constantly jangle around in a pocket.

The range of available tools has been updated to match today's needs. There is a USB memory stick, for saving computer data, a specialised bike tool set, "life saver" tools which include blades and screwdrivers, and, uniquely, a "Tracker" tool.

The Tracker tool synchs with smartphones (both Apple and Android). Linked with the provided phone app, you can use your phone to help locate the position of the swisskey, or set it to sound an alarm if the swisskey moves out of range of the phone. This is a great aid not only in helping you not lose the swisskey, but is a convenient security device as well. A swisskey (with the cutting tools removed) in your carry-on luggage ensures you don't accidentally leave it somewhere.

The swisskey Kickstarter project is fully funded, but the company will soon be selling the swisskey from its own website at http://swisskey-invents.com.
Products
Lightweight construction system
Sunland Group contracted Empower to supply its lightweight system for its "Parc" project
Infolink
The system will be used for 300 designer town homes in Sydney's Kellyville
Lightweight construction can substantially reduce the time and costs
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Sunland Group contracted Empower to supply its lightweight systems for its "Parc" project, a three-stage residential development consisting of around 300 designer town homes in Sydney's Kellyville.

With many of the homes pre-sold before building began, it was important that construction was completed efficiently and on budget. Sunland also needed to ensure it maintained its strong reputation for attention to detail in the quality of building finishes.

Lightweight construction can substantially reduce the time and costs of construction projects. This is useful when builders are constantly under pressure to deliver faster, optimise cost, maintain quality and meet green objectives. It helps streamline the construction process and has a smooth looking finish that rivals traditional methods of building.

Empower's system employs a strong, structurally robust product such as Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (AAC) from Hebel, which is made from concrete reinforced with steel. The lightweight system is cleaner to work with, resulting in less mess to be cleared up at the end of a day's work. Labour and site costs can be significantly reduced because the same team provides construction through to finish, requiring fewer trades people.

According to Ashley Mullen, NSW site foreman for Sunland Group, Empower's lightweight construction products and finish offer many advantages. Appreciative of both Hebel products as well as the new polystyrene products, he praised the company's speed of installation and quality of work.
Editorial
Mitre 10: Great team that needs a voice
Does the ratings success of The Block translate into long-term strategic success?
HNN Sources
David Jones has been taken over by South African controlled Woolworths
Media executive Marina Go contributes to the commentary of sexism on The Block
Advertisement for Everything Sold in a Hardware Store
Retailers are still struggling to come to terms with the massive changes that have come in the wake of the GFC.

The most recent indication of this is the takeover offer made for Australian department store David Jones by South African controlled Woolworths (unrelated to Australia's Woolworths). As Fairfax Media's Michael Pascoe wrote in the lead paragraphs of his article commenting on the takeover:
You've been told it was the internet, that it was the economy, it was high wages, the government, the consumer, that it was the strong Australian dollar or maybe the weak Australian dollar. It was anything but second-rate management and dull boards that were responsible for Australian retail's poor performance - yet it turns out it was poor management all along. As South Africa's Woolworths joins the push of international shopkeepers into the Australian market with its David Jones takeover bid, it's another indication of outsiders seeing value and opportunity that the locals had missed.

( http://goo.gl/WWBeWU )

DJs is in the news today, but it's likely we'll see a few others burning up the column inches during this year: Harvey Norman, Myer and, possibly Target.

Another nominee for this category is Metcash, which is dominated by its IGA grocery/supermarket business, and also owns Mitre 10. As HNN wrote recently, the outcome of a recent strategic review focused on IGA seems to be an effort by Metcash to duplicate the operations of its two big competitors, Coles and Woolworths. It is difficult to interpret this strategy as anything but an effort to make Metcash more attractive for a takeover by Woolworths.

What makes this so frustrating is that, where Australia 12 years ago suffered from a dearth of good retail management talent, today it really has some of the best retail managers in the world. Today the source of retail problems in most cases isn't the execution, it's the strategies the managers are given.

Mitre 10 is a good example of this. "Tough and hard-working" is the phrase that comes immediately to mind when you think of its managers. What they are given to execute, they execute really well. It is just that much of the time the strategies they are made to follow seem ever so slightly, and yet significantly, off-target.

Not that the strategies are all that bad as strategies. In the environment of eight or nine years ago, they would have worked quite well, one imagines. But Mitre 10 is facing a really big challenge over the next two to three years. Bunnings managing director John Gillam has pushed the accelerator pedal to the floor (maybe even through the floor), and his team is close to flawless in its execution. Masters is expanding rapidly.

However Mitre 10's strategy seems most suited to a company that already has a commanding market share, and is simply working to retain that.
The Block and strategy

An example of this almost good enough strategy is Mitre 10's sponsorship deal with the "reality" TV series, The Block.

Talk about great execution. There are aspects of how Mitre 10 have used The Block to promote its brand that are beyond textbook - anyone interested in how to market home improvement retail should make a close study of this.

The most outstanding thing Mitre 10 has done is to make Scott Cam ("Scotty") into its brand ambassador. It is a superb move. Every time Scotty appears in a shot, or makes a voiceover comment, it immediately is perceived as Mitre 10 talking. Without flashing a logo, or having something annoying and intrusive, the viewers make an immediate association to Mitre 10.

Yet, in the most recent incarnation of the series, Season 8, some distinctive marketing oddities have emerged. First, from a demographic standpoint, this would have to be one of the least diverse group of contestants on any series. They are all white, and all quite young.

Secondly, while there has been a certain amount of treatment of women that verged on misogyny in the past, this series managed to cross some line that drew a number of comments. Marina Go, CEO of Private Media which publishes Crikey among other titles, had this to say:
A female chippie joined The Block last night. Of the hundreds of tradesmen swarming the building site, the producers did everything short of shining a stage light on her to highlight her presence. And then it began. A segment devoted to the fact that there was a female carpenter in the group and ... she was a LEADER. Surely not... A couple of male contestants then proceeded to discuss how great it was to have a female chippie on The Block leading the troupes [sic]. But did the producers have to include the comment that the very idea of it was "a bit hot"? The only male contestant who actually is a tradesman exclaimed that he hadn't really met a female chippie before. And host Scott Cam, another chippie by trade, wanted to know if she was good at being the leader. He actually asked her.

(http://goo.gl/4GgJ7z)

If Ms Go seems a bit highfaluting, there was also this comment from "Reality Raver" who writes a blog all about reality TV:
The Block's blokey humour irritates me but it reached new levels of sexism when they "showcased" a female chippie. There was the slow motion footage and the camera panning up and down. As well as Keith being quite surprised that she was doing a good job. Kyal piped up and said a few of the guys have got their eye on her.

(http://goo.gl/IusH6e)

The third element, after ethnicity and gender, that needs to be mentioned is socio-economic groups. There are no architects, professional designers, or engineers. No banking executives, advertising agency creatives, computer programmers, or even car salespeople.

This point isn't about being "politically correct", it's about good marketing sense. What The Block has done, through these and other choices, is to target a very particular demographic in an excellent way. However, it's not a stretch target. It is basically the same people who are already inclined to visit Mitre 10.

It's a strategy that might have contributed to the ratings success of the show, but that kind of success may not be building the broad customer base Mitre 10 will need to grow. No matter how strong the appeal is, appealing to a single, narrow demographic will not provide long-term stability.

Given the competitive nature of the industry, with both Masters and Bunnings poised to really apply pressure in 2015, it's hard to believe that this is the best possible choice to make, right now. And not making the best possible choice in a market that is getting more competitive every quarter is going to have consequences in the future.

It's true that Mitre 10 faces certain exceptional challenges. The structure of the company means that independent hardware store owners get to have some say in what direction the overall business takes, and sometimes consensus can result in conservative decisions. Also, Metcash's core business is not doing well, so it is unlikely that Mitre 10 can expect any kind of cash injection.

Given the really high quality of the Mitre 10 executives, it seems likely that somewhere in that cadre is some strategic thinking Metcash really needs to pay attention to.

Until next time,

Betty

For any feedback or comments, you can contact me directly via email betty@hnn.bz or Twitter @HNN_Australia
Reports
Baby boomers renovate too
Baby boomers can present opportunities for tradies and hardware retailers
Boston Globe
A ground-floor bathroom can be expanded
Easier to grip handles and door levers can replace other types previously used
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There does not seem to be much excitement in Australia about baby boomers being a relevant demographic for hardware/home improvement retailers. However they seem to taken more seriously in the US market.

For years, Boston-based contractor Paul Morse modified homes of clients to make them easier for their longtime owners to enjoy as they age.

His company, Morse Construction Inc., would widen doorways, make showers wheelchair accessible, improve lighting, and lower cabinets and countertops. The renovated homes were more convenient, and, more important, safer for their owners to navigate as their mobility declined over time.

Then, as he recently turned 60, Morse realised it was his turn. A lot of other boomers are getting ready, too, and increasingly they're turning to certified "ageing in place" renovators and contractors, such as Morse, who are trained to make homes more accessible and liveable for seniors.

Amy Levner, manager of the liveable communities program at AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, said:
It's much broader than just making it easy to get around. It's about people's health. It's about people's mental health. Studies and surveys show that many people as they grow older don't want to leave their homes and are happier and healthier living there. We're striving to give people that option.

Indeed, a recent survey by Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate found that boomers between the ages of 49 and 67 overwhelmingly not only want to stay in their longtime communities after they retire, but also plan to updates or renovate their homes when they stop working.

Over the past decade, AARP has worked with the US-based National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) to come up with new "Certified Ageing in Place" or CAP, programs and guidelines for home renovators and builders. It is a three-course certification program.

The course work covers a lot of ground, from how wide doors should be for wheelchairs (about 36 inches) to the best type of door knobs (lever handles). A water closet can be easily expanded to allow for a shower on the first floor should the occupants have difficulty climbing stairs.

As boomers retire in increasing numbers and the demand for special home modifications rises, the home builders organisation is expecting a corresponding increase in renovators and contractors want to know how to make necessary "ageing in place" modifications to homes. Jeff Jenkins, director of the NAHB's education unit said:
A lot of boomers have overseen modifications to their parents' homes, but now they're either starting to modify their own homes or at least starting to eye it. It may not be their reality now, but it will be in a few years when they get older.

The modifications generally follow the design guidelines the building industry uses for housing for the elderly. However, different types of homes require different levels of modification.

A one-floor house, for instance, probably doesn't need as much work as a two-story one; perhaps something as simple as better-positioned, brighter lighting and more convenient electric outlets; bigger rocker-style light switches; and easy-to-grasp "C" and "D"-shaped handles on drawers and cabinet doors.

The goal is to make it easier for people with, say, arthritis to grab and use simple household items, and to prevent falls. A floor mat is recessed to reduce the chance of an elderly person tripping on it. Grab bars, step-in showers, and entrance ramps are other recommendations.

As the house gets older and more elaborate, so too does the job of making it safer and more user-friendly. An old, two-story home with lots of nooks and crannies can be expensive and tricky to modify.

A simple enough idea such as moving the bedroom from the second to the first floor may also require a wholesale renovation of the ground-floor bathroom - often just a water closet that should have a walk-in shower, grab bars, smaller vanities for wheelchair accessibility, and other features. That alone can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Other items may include taking down non-load-bearing walls - or even adding walls - to make rooms large enough for master bedrooms or to create new master bedrooms out of living rooms.
Regions
HIA: Roseworthy should expand
The proposal to develop Roseworthy (SA) includes more schools
Herald Sun
The Roseworthy development could have 26,000 new homes
Light Regional Council has approved the development
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A major township expansion of 26,000 homes north of Adelaide must go ahead immediately if South Australia is to avert a worsening jobs crisis, according to the Housing Industry Association.

The proposed development at Roseworthy, would be completed over several stages and could eventually support up to 50,000 people over 30 years, creating more than 100,000 jobs. But the State Government says it will only consider a 2000-home township expansion but not the larger 26,000-home development first proposed.

HIA SA regional director Robert Harding said the project could unlock a projected $12 billion of economic activity over the life of the project and create an anticipated 7500 construction jobs in the first 12 months. He told the Herald Sun:
The proposal includes schools, community facilities, shopping centres and also land set aside for industrial and employment projects. It's been approved by council and has the support of the community.

Harding said residential development must be embraced to create economic stability for the state:
In the short-term while we make some structural changes in our economy, it really is the residential construction industry and the agricultural industry that has the best chance of improving the state's economic situation and the unemployment situation in the short-term and with a quick turnaround. This development will generate economic activity.

Harding believes the development would help reduce the state's unemployment rate and create jobs in a region with a history of generational unemployment and that faces the impending closure of Holden's Elizabeth factory in 2017. He said:
They've got 40% youth unemployment in the northern suburbs, and some people have experienced three or four generations of unemployment. Residential construction has an important part to play in changing that and we should not be ignoring the effect it can have. With this project, there has been a real effort to ensure that employment is located in the area.

Light Regional Council chief executive officer Brian Carr said modelling showed construction of the full development would create an expected 119,000 jobs over the 30 years. Carr wants the Government to approve an expansion of 2000 homes as the first stage of a larger housing development. He said:
This project up there ticks all the boxes and has tremendous vision...If you stage it, you can have stage one, but designed in such a way that you leave the door open to accommodate future expansions if demand is there. They are departing from that 30-Year Plan and we think that the concept that we've developed, put through a protective process, is the right solution for the region.

Harding said the Government needed to embrace greenfill and infill developments:
We support and encourage inner-city development but you've got to have a mix, not everyone wants to live in an apartment.
Regions
Construction boom in Toowoomba
Developer confidence in Toowoomba (QLD) is at all-time high
The Chronicle
Bunnings is planning to build a second store in the region
Sactuary Rise housing estate in Toowoomba (Photo credit: The Chronicle)
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Developer confidence in Toowoomba (QLD) is at all-time high, according to Aspect Architects Director Graham Secombe. He said the city's established infrastructure and facilities had made it an attractive market for investors. Secombe told The Chronicle:
Toowoomba has been identified as an investment capital and with the number of major projects under way it has spurred a...wave of confidence.

Not surprisingly, Bunnings is planning to build a new store in the region. (See related stories)

Some of the construction projects currently underway in Toowoomba include:
Sanctuary Rise

Progress will soon begin on the first homes at Wilsonton housing estate, Sanctuary Rise. The 278-hectare estate will include space for 311 housing lots. The first stage of 68 lots sold out late last year with stage two now on sale.
Wellcamp Airport

The airport at Wellcamp is progressing well with construction of the runway and terminal on track for completion ahead of its September deadline.
Neil Street bus interchange

Work on the major upgrade of the Neil Street bus interchange is on track to meet its scheduled May completion date. The upgrade will make the interchange the central hub for bus and coach travel in Toowoomba. As well as improving coach bays and upgrading facilities, the interchange will also include a Greyhound Australia shopfront. Once complete it will be renamed the Toowoomba Bus Station.
Dan Murphy's, Wilsonton

Building the new Dan Murphy's at Wilsonton is expected to be completed in six weeks when it will be handed over for fit-out. The superstore should be open for business in early June.
Margaret Street post office

Construction of the Australia Post superstore is under way across from its original home. It is scheduled to open in May and will include 24-hour self-service parcel lockers as well as financial and travel services.
Reports
"Moderate growth, immense potential"
Home improvement brands have been influenced by the "IKEA" factor
Interbrand
Interbrand says Bunnings has built its reputation on community and authenticity
Interbrand has put together the latest report of best home improvement brands
Advertisement for Big Box Swindle book
Brands in the home improvement sector are putting more effort into developing emotional connections with consumers to take advantage of the "IKEA effect", according to a recent report by Interbrand. Top brands are maintaining their relevance by creating meaningful experiences for their customers and communities.

Shoppers are encouraged, inspired, and supported with service and instruction. Internationally, companies continue to experiment with the best way to expand.

While promotions and low-price offers are still the norm, brands in this sector are emphasising the high value consumers place on products they partially create and projects they do themselves. High service levels are a must as well as mobile technology, which gives customers and store staff access to more products and information.

Interbrand has identified some innovations and opportunities for the home improvement industry
Engage the imagination with 3D visualisation

Latin America's Sodimac created a mobile app that lets shoppers view its catalogue in 3D. Thailand's HomePro helps aspiring home improvers through its in-house design consultation service, which features a 3D system for improved visualisation.
Collect shopper insights continuously

French retailer Leroy Merlin launched a Housing Observatory to identify new trends and spur innovations. Insights gained into its customers' lives will help the brand inspire its customers and adapt to local markets.
Differentiate via display techniques

Recognising that big box home improvement stores can be hard to shop, US-based Lowe's has changed is merchandising strategy to focus on highly innovative products, significant values, and its exclusive private and national brands. To drive high-margin sales, the retailer also revamped its seasonal promotional spaces.
Dynamic price tags lure shoppers

French DIY chain Castorama is using dynamic price tags to change the price of a product based on demand and time of day. Not only is the task of manually adjusting price stickers eliminated, the electronic tags can be changed in real time. Items can be made cheaper during off-peak hours to encourage shoppers to visit at those times.

Overall, Interbrand expects the global home improvement retail market will continue to grow, while its leading players get even better at meeting consumer demand.

In Australia, the company says Bunnings continues to capitalise on Australia's fascination with home improvement. Interbrand says it has built its reputation on community and authenticity.

It believes that Bunnings has taken a big, much-needed step in developing its e-commerce channel, bringing it more in line with the brand's in-store experience. An omnichannel presence will help Bunnings compete against Masters.

Mexico is emerging as a fertile and important market, thanks to its growing middle class. The Home Depot is strengthening its existing operations south of the border in the expectation that Mexico is projected to add 14 million homes over the next 25 years.

Despite favourable circumstances based on population growth and an increase in dual income families, The Home Depot has only been successful in North America. It found its big box format to be a logistics challenge as well as a cultural mismatch in both China and South America.

In China, for example, consumers aren't particularly interested in DIY, how-to videos, or in-store remodelling forums. After closing its big box stores in the country, the chain is now shifting its focus to e-commerce in the hopes of winning over younger Chinese customers.

In Latin America, France-based Leroy Martin is one of the largest home improvement brands based on sales, even though it has fewer stores than competitors C&C, Telhanorte, and Sodimac.

Leroy Merlin credits its success to a rich merchandise mix, its online channel, and a clean, unique presentation style. Besides the usual home improvement tools and supplies, the store also carries home furnishings, ensuring that any household project - from renovation to redecorating - has a high probability of ending in a shopping trip to Leroy Merlin.

The biggest home improvement brand in Asia is Thailand's HomePro. It stands out in an increasingly competitive market with an extensive footprint, along with a commitment to genuine customer service that helps do-it-yourselfers make more informed choices and get better results.

It builds affiliations through its quirky advertising as well as clever promotions like The Other Side Project, which was created to help local poor people who use sidewalk billboards to build or repair their street shelters.

In this dual-purpose campaign, HomePro created billboards with its advertising message on one side, and wallpaper and a fixture - such as a shelf, reading light, or closet rod - on the other. As soon as the campaign ended, locals were free to use these signs to improve their homes.
Retailers
Australian malls adopt smartphone-based marketing
Click to view video of iBeacon at work in Macy's.
c/net Australia
DC4G is an Australian company offering iBeacon technology
Qualcomm "white paper" on its systems
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Three years ago the idea of retailers interacting with customer smartphones seemed just another "buzz" concept - plenty of potential but little implementation. Today doing this kind of "proximity-based marketing" (PBM) is a matter of picking up the phone and calling a services supplier.

In fact, a number of major Australian retail companies have recently done exactly that. AMP, Westfield and Colonial First State, all operators of large shopping malls, have employed Australian company DC4G to set up iBeacon-based systems in a total of 45 of their malls. It's a major investment by some of the canniest companies in the industry.

Overseas, the technology is already being applied for a range of unique uses. The US department store Macy's is a testing the system and Apple itself is using the technology in some of its Apple stores. Major League Baseball has installed iBeacons at stadiums, and iBeacons were used earlier this year at the NFL's Superbowl event. American Airlines is integrating iBeacons into its airport terminals. The system will guide passengers step-by-step to the correct departure lounges and gates.

Over the next two years, PBM will become a must-have feature for many retail sectors in Australia. Home improvement/hardware is likely to be one of them. One reason for this is that PBM actually tends to benefit smaller retailers as much if not more than large retailers.
What exactly is PBM and iBeacon?

On a practical level, this is how PBM works.

The customer is in your store. They've picked up the item they have come for - let's say it is a LED lightbulb you are selling as an advertised loss-leader. Now they are looking around for a moment before they leave, checking to see if there is anything else they need.

This is the "golden moment". Something like 50% of the viability of a retail operation is based on what customers do in the next five minutes. Do they start browsing and find something else to buy, or do they walk directly to the cash registers and then exit the store?

Normally it is at this point that larger retailers have many advantages. With a wide variety and deep ranges of goods, there is a good chance that they have something which, if it is not an impulse purchase is a convenience purchase. A pack of batteries the customer knows they will eventually need, a doorstop, a mop, some window cleaner.

Now imagine what would happen if at this exact moment the customer's smartphone chirps, and displays a discount coupon for a few products, related to the one they've just picked up. For example, a set of coloured LED lights, a remote-control powerpoint, and an energy monitoring meter.

Suddenly the customer's general dazed browsing is given a direction. If the coupon is valid for only the next 30 minutes, there is also a sense of urgency. The effect of this intervention is largely independent of the size of the retailer, because it is a specific direction to a narrowly defined set of products. Without the associated product line, in fact, the retailer would never have used the LED light as an advertised loss-leader.

There is no guarantee of a sale, of course. However it is pretty evident that this slight intervention will have shifted the odds significantly in favour of an additional set of purchases.

The Australian implementations of iBeacon technology have been provided by the Australian company DC4G. The advantages of the system are described by DC4G technical director and CEO George Kaloudis like this:
iBeacons can help retailers capitalise on the increasing significance of in-store mobile shopping, by communicating directly with consumers on their mobile devices as they shop. They can alleviate some of the stresses of shopping by serving as a handheld customer service representative that provides relevant information at the very moment it is needed.
How does it work?

The basics of the system are actually quite simple. It begins with something that has become known as a Bluetooth "beacon" located in strategic places in the store itself. These beacons come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from something smaller than a 50-cent coin, up to a box around four centimetres square and two centimetres thick. The smaller they are, the shorter their battery life. Average battery life seems to be around two years.
iBeacon devices from Qualcomm's subsidiary Gimbal

The beacons do little more than to pulse out a signal (the industry standard being around 10 times per second). Each signal can be unique. These signals are picked up by a listening device such as an iPhone when it comes into range of the relatively weak signal. Depending on how the device is configured, it can then respond with something like the display of a discount coupon, or other information. In the example above the beacon would be located where the discount LED bulbs are located, and the software on the iPhone would be programmed to display specific discount offers when the iPhone picked up that beacon's unique signal.

These beacons use a special version of Bluetooth networking. Previously this was known as "Bluetooth Low Energy" (BLE), but is today known as "Bluetooth Smart" (BSmart). BSmart has two important features. It is primarily designed to provide one-way interactions, so that, unlike Bluetooth connections for speakers and cordless headphones, there is no need to "pair" devices. Secondly, partly as a consequence of this, the energy consumption of the device itself is very, very low, as is the energy consumption of devices that are "listening" for the beacons. In other words, setting your smartphone to be Bluetooth aware isn't going to run down its battery by much.

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Reports
Blog review #2: NYC/Aussie style and Sydney masculine
Kate Abdou of Designer Man Cave creates mood boards
Penny McNamee of Darling Street
Kate Abdou of Designer Man Cave
Advertisement for Big Box Swindle book
For anyone in home improvement retail, blogs can be a major source of market research information. In this series, HNN gathers together several influential blogs every week and reviews their potential.

In this edition, HNN is looking at the DIY/home decorating blog Darling Street, and the Sydney-based, man-focused site Designer Man Cave.
Darling Street

This blog began as a blog named "Chic to Shore", which then upgraded to a new look in early 2013 and changed its name to "Darling Street".

The blog is named after Darling Street in Sydney.
Founders

The original site was run by two sisters, Melanie and Penny, but today's Darling Street is run mainly by Penny McNamee.

Penny describes herself as an "Aussie gal born and bred", though she is currently living in New York City with her husband. Penny has a career as an actress in film, television and theatre.
Editorial approach

Posts on the blog are not regular, but average around one to two a week. The posts feature "finds" from New York, as well as design projects undertaken by Penny.

The "finds" posts concentrate on how people designing their home can find great objects. Penny's taste runs to distressed and discarded industrial objects.

Currently quite a few of the posts are about a project Penny is working on, the design of charity Kick4Life's No.7 Restaurant. Kick4Life is a registered non-profit that uses the unique power of sport to tackle poverty and disease, and promote development, in Lesotho, southern Africa.

Other posts contain very practical advice about how to build specific objects, such as memo boards (which seem to be part of an emerging organisational trend in the US).

There are also a few posts that fall into the category of "life advice", about subjects such as how to maintain a long-distance relationship. There are the expected posts that link to items published on other news sources and blogs.

The posts are indexed as DIY, Decore & More, Home Stories, and My Musings.

Overall the quality of the posts is quite good. They are expressively written, and cover topics that are of interest. Penny illustrates the posts with above-average photographs of objects and places.
Design

Quite feminine design, it provides very readable content with clear, bright colours.

The site is based on Word Press, and makes use of a responsive design template, so it is readable on smaller displays such as mobile phones and tablets.
Example items
  • DIY memo board

  • Features a simple "memo board" made for a baby shower, so that friends could write "best wishes" notes, and the board could be mounted in the baby's room.

    Penny provides detailed step-by-step instructions on how to construct the board, with each step illustrated by a photograph.
    DIY memo board from blog Darling Street
  • Girls Roadtrip

  • Penny takes off for the day into the wilds of Greenwich, Connecticut with two girlfriends and explores the New England culture.
    Industrial carts repurposed as coffee tables.
  • The Kick4Life Restaurant Display Wall is Complete!

  • Details of how Penny put together a "display wall" at the No.7 Restaurant for Kick4Life.
    Entrance to Restaurant No.7
    Marketing opportunities

    The advertising on the site would appear to be syndicated. It presents as a left-side column of ads.
    Designer Man Cave

    This is a design/home blog that is aimed either at men or at women who are designing spaces for men. Its content is quite eclectic, ranging from design advice for specific spaces to dating advice. Its focus is a little less on DIY and more on aesthetics.

    The site describes itself as:
    Designer Man Cave is a luxury lifestyle hub full of practical ideas, spaces, design, products and services for gents. I am here to help, inform and inspire busy men who appreciate all things style and the finer things in life.
    Founder

    Kate Abdou is responsible for this blog. Kate is the founder of Designer Man Cave and a freelance Sydney-based interior designer and decorator. She specialises in "man spaces" .

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    Products
    Paint more with less fatigue
    The FLEXiO 890 is the latest addition to the range of paint sprayers from Wagner SprayTech
    PR Newswire
    It helps DIYers paint for longer periods of time with less tiredness (Click on image to view video)
    The sprayer is lighter and ideal for bigger projects. (Click on image to view video)
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    The FLEXiO 890 is the latest addition to the FLEXiO family of indoor/outdoor paint sprayers from Wagner SprayTech.

    It helps DIYers paint for longer periods of time with less tiredness. With the X-Boost(r) turbine housed in the base, which stays on the floor, the sprayer is lighter and ideal for bigger projects. For example, a group of interior doors, a set of lawn furniture or a long hallway.

    The patented iSpray(r) nozzle sprays any coating and is suitable for painting broad surfaces. The nozzle is designed to turn thick paints into a controllable pattern with even coverage. It can paint wide areas quickly. A Detail-Finish nozzle is included for small projects and fine finishing.

    The FLEXiO 890's X-Boost turbine provides three times the power of traditional units, providing the power needed to atomise paint for a smooth and even finish with any type of paint, even unthinned interior latex paint.

    Three controls - for airflow, spray pattern and material flow - all on the handle for making quick adjustments for desired results. Jon Beaton, US-based Wagner product manager says:
    We designed the FLEXiO 890 to make spraying less tiring over long periods of time. Our goal is to help consumers get their indoor or outdoor projects done quickly and with great results.

    Two nozzles and two paint cups come with the FLEXiO 890's Lock-n-Go system. A simple click and twist means the gun and cup assembly can be easily removed, allowing quick colour or material changes.

    In addition to helping reduce fatigue when spraying broad surfaces, the FLEXiO 890 is 50% quieter than traditional, airless sprayers and comparable to a hairdryer.

    The FLEXiO 890's nozzle and cup are quick to detach and easy to wash. For storage, the X-Boost Turbine is housed inside the sturdy "X-Boost Power Box", which also accommodates the hose and nozzle assemblies when not in use. Beaton says:
    With controls for the speed of air flow, width of the spray and fan pattern, the FLEXiO 890 can be used to paint broad interior surfaces without concern for overspray - and without the tedious effort associated with brushes or rollers. Prep work only requires basic masking.
    Products
    Design award for resqme tool
    The resqme tool one of Red Dot's best product designs for 2014
    JEMS
    It has been recognised for its ingenuity and safety elements
    A Red Dot Design Award is an internationally recognised quality seal
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    The Red Dot's international jury awarded the resqme tool one of its best product designs for 2014. Some of the criteria included functionality, level of innovation and ecological credibility.

    The resqme tool is a window-breaker and seat-belt-cutter - an emergency tool for any driver. In the event of an emergency and possible vehicle entrapment, the resqme tool holds a protected sharp blade to cut a jammed seatbelt and a spring-loaded spike to shatter the car window.

    Easy to use, small, light and inexpensive, it can be a keychain that can be attached to a car key. It has been recognised for its ingenuity and safety elements after launching in 2003. Laurent Colasse, founder and president of resqme Inc. says:
    This past decade, we've been providing a reliable and effective solution to improve safety on the road. It is extremely important that each motorist remain pro-active in safety and has the knowledge how to get out of a vehicle quickly and safely in case of an emergency.

    The Red Dot Design Award acknowledges the highest quality industrial design across 23 categories including households, gardens and outdoor.

    A panel over 40 design experts from around the world looked at 4,815 entries from 53 countries. Only 72 products were granted "Red Dot: Best of the Best" awards and they will be announced in July 2014 at a gala event.

    Since 1954, the Red Dot Design Award has been awarded in Essen, Germany. It is an internationally recognised quality seal.
    Companies
    QEP now owns French tiling brands
    QEP has purchased two French tole brands. Its products can be found at Bunnings and other retailers.
    DIY Week
    Tomecanic-Benetiere offer a range of tile cutters, hand tools and more
    QEP acquired Plasplugs in June 2013
    Advertisement for book named Small Giants
    QEP recently made a deal through its wholly-owned French subsidiary, PRCI SA to acquire French trade names Tomecanic and Benetiere.

    It is the latest in a number of acquisitions for the company within the last 12 months, after buying Homelux back in March 2013, Plasplugs in June 2013, and Faus Group Inc (Faus USA) in March 2014.

    The two French brands offer a range of tile cutters, hand tools and diamond blades among other products. CEO of European operations for QEP, Paul Boyce, said the acquisition further highlights the company's strategy of growth and expansion of distribution channels in Europe. He said:
    As part of QEP's continuing expansion, the integration of Tomecanic-Benetiere will leverage our business growth to our existing customer base in France and Europe along with wider reaching opportunities worldwide.
    This acquisition is a strategic fit with our current European and worldwide brand portfolio, with synergy between the current QEP businesses on so many levels. Any range gaps within our tools categories which were previously identified in each business prior to the Tomecanic-Benetiere purchase have now been joined up, enabling QEP to offer a more attractive product proposition to our customers.

    QEP's European brand portfolio also includes Vitrex, Roberts and PRCI within the flooring and tile accessory categories.

    PRCI manufactures and distributes plumbing and tiling equipment. The company's products include electric and manual tile cutters, diamond blades, and machines for tile layers. Its brands include Le Cordex, Coupelec, Ariane, and La Carrelette. It was founded in 1984 and is based in Montpellier, France.
    Big box update
    A Bunnings store in Bacchus Marsh (VIC) is one step closer
    HNN Sources
    Moorabool Shire Council& has approved an application to rezone four hectares of land that will place a Bunnings Warehouse in the middle of what will be a former residential zone in Bacchus Marsh, approximately 50kms outside of Melbourne. Despite the protesters, Peninsula Planning Consultants town planner Richard Umbers said the proposed 9543sqm store would deliver 85 new jobs - of which 95% would be locally sourced - and pump $3.5 million into the local economy each year. In other news, residents and local shopping centres lodge appeals against Masters Bundaberg in Queensland. Kepnock Residents Action Group (KRAG), AMP Capital Shopping Centres which manages Sugarland Shoppingtown and Mirvac which manages Hinkler Central, have all submitted notices of appeal. This places a decision in the hands of the Queensland Planning & Environment Court. Products also take a starring role in the most recent TV advertising campaign from Bunnings,

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