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Change is coming, even here at HGO PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael J. Knell   

ImageBy the time most of you read this, Cyndi and I will be enjoying a quiet lunch - complete with a pint of stout - on the patio of an idyllic pub in a small village not far from Galway. This will be our first trip to Ireland, ancestral home to my wife of 34 years and a ninth generation Canadian, as well as our first true vacation away from home in several years. Frankly, I need the break, so I'm hoping you'll understand why Home Goods Online isn't being updated regularly for the next couple of weeks.

This has been an interesting year for the furniture, mattress and appliance industries. We've all be talking about it and it finally starting to manifest itself.

There have been two critically important developments at retail in recent weeks - both of which involve Sears Canada in one way or another.

Firstly, its decision to sell Cantrex to Nationwide Marketing Group could very well change the face of independent home goods retailing in Canada. Based in Winston Salem, North Carolina, Nationwide is the largest buying group in the United States, which means it's probably the largest buying group in the world. What's critical to understand is for the first time in 15 years, Cantrex has an owner committed to its future and actually understands what buying groups are all about.

We all know that on the furniture, mattress and appliance side, Cantrex has been struggling in recent years. But it's enjoyed a fair amount of prosperity in the other sectors in which it does business - flooring, consumer electronics, photography and health care. With a committed owner, it's not hard to imagine that Cantrex will get, at least some of its mojo back.

Let's face it, Sears Canada was not a committed owner and the fact it sold off a retail network with collective annual retail sales of about $1 billion for a paltry $3.5 million says a lot about its attitude towards Cantrex.

The other big development worth following is Sears Holdings decision to reduce its stake in Sears Canada by half. Don't be surprised if it sells the rest of it as well. Frankly, poor ownership has been one of the major problems suffered by Sears Canada as well. Perhaps now it will have the freedom to invest in itself although there are many in the financial community who believe this could be a case of "too little, too late."

Later in June, I'm hoping to sit down with Calvin McDonald, president and CEO of Sears Canada to talk about the company's future. Canadian furniture and mattress makers have a huge stake in the future of Sears. After all, it remains one of the largest furniture and mattress merchants in the country and, if that goes away, it won't be easily replaced.

There will also be changes here at HGO in the coming weeks. First of all, the newsletter is going to go to a bi-weekly schedule when I get back. I'm going to post more often and make greater use of LinkedIn and Twitter to alert the industry of breaking developments and newly posted news stories. To complement this, I'm planning to have HGO long awaited Facebook page up before the fall.

So, please don't hesitate to connect with me on LinkedIn via my e-mail account at .

Moving the newsletter to a bi-weekly schedule will also allow me more time to devote to the development of the HGO Merchandiser, which has been gaining traction in the past few months. It will also allow me to bring to fruition the launch of the HGO Insider, a new quarterly newsletter focusing on the business side of the industry - more about that in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, Cyndi and I are off to actually see if we can kiss the Blarney Stone. Somehow, I doubt it. With my arthritis, I don't think I can bend that far. But I'll rise a glass in your honour.

Michael J. Knell is the publisher and editor of Home Goods Online. He can be reached at .

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