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Corey McMullen, TikTok star

29 November 2021
Retail

SMITH FALLS, Ontario – An independent appliance and mattress retailer based here has become a social media sensation, attracting new customers from across the country while gaining a national media spotlight for the single-unit family owned-and-operated business.

Corey McMullen, who along with father Brian and brother Kyle operates McMullen Appliance & Mattress here, launched his store’s TikTok channel in March of this year and since then has amassed some 104,000 followers at last count. At least one of his short videos has earned one million likes.

The former director of appliance merchandising for Cantrex Nationwide, who rejoined the family business in 2018, told Home Goods Online he created the channel – which can be found at @mcmullanappliance – “more out of curiosity than anything else.”

Corey McMullen is seen here in one of his TikTok videos.During his 17-year career with the Montreal-based buying and market group, McMullen was deeply involved in its digital marketing efforts and created a program that enabled short-term digital; events to be automatically implemented across different web sites operated by its independent retail members.

One of his first tasks on returning to McMullen Appliances was to oversee some renovations and upgrades to its computer systems. “Then I focused on Google, YouTube and Facebook markets to drive sales to new levels while also stopping all print marketing,” he said.

His journey to becoming a TikTok star started on Facebook which McMullen said, “is really where we started developing our personality and humour and dialing it into what followers like to see.”

The videos posted on TikTok are polished versions of the sales pitch McMullen uses when customers come into the store. They are short, crammed with product knowledge and sprinkled with a hefty amount of humour. “Many users have told me they feel ‘honest’ and ‘authentic’,” he said.

“TikTok had an immediate impact on our business that is difficult to translate to sales but customers who watch us on TikTok are coming in far more pre-qualified,” McMullen told HGO. “Customers are also driving further than ever before to get to the store. One even drove 459 kilometres each way to buy a washer from us. The other day, we had a customer in Nova Scotia ask to purchase a washer from us and said he would have someone pick it up and bring it back to him on the east coast.”

Corey McMullen and his brother, Kyle, are seen here outside their family’s appliance and mattress store in Smith Falls, Ontario.What’s more, he’s been getting e-mails on practically a daily basis from across the globe with people wanting to do business with McMullen Appliance & Mattress from as far away as New Zealand, Australia, Texas and Alabama – not to mention locales a little closer to home such as North Bay and Toronto.

McMullen is a little befuddled by the attention he’s attracting. “We’ll tell people, ‘There’s probably 20 stores between us and where you are where you can find these,’” he told the Ottawa Business Journal in an interview. “But they’re sold. They like the videos, and believe it or not, they really want to support you. It doesn’t make sense to really (drive) that far, but hey, if he pulls a truck up to my dock and wants to buy a washer, I’ve got no problem with it.”

He also believes his genuine enthusiasm for the industry that resonates most with his followers. “I’ve always loved video, video editing, photography and I’ve always been in this industry,” he added. “I think about it on a real passionate level and how appliances affect people, and I just think all that came together.”

McMullen’s efforts have gained the family business considerable attention in recent months. In addition to the Ottawa Business Journal, his TikTok adventures have been featured on both CBC and CTV as well as in the pages of the Toronto Star. 

 

 

 

 

The Brick at 50

29 November 2021
Retail

EDMONTON – Starting a business is hard, running a business is harder and running a business that stands the test of time over a single decade – let alone five of them – is harder still.

Canada has watched too many veteran brick-and-mortar retailers shutter underperforming locations (and in some cases, shut down entirely) in the face of recessions, shifts in consumer behaviour and the rise of e-commerce. Among them have been some names familiar to insiders from this country’s furniture, mattress and major appliance industry such as Sears, Pascal’s Furniture, and Today’s Colonial, among others.

The Brick is one of the few retailers in this country – regardless of its product category – to celebrate its 50th anniversary. And is one of the few to achieve the milestone with only a single change in ownership.

Dave Freeman (inset), president of The Brick, attributes the brand’s growth to its success of pairing a well-rounded selection of goods with compelling financing options and generous warranties, making it popular amongst shoppers looking to furnish everything from spacious family homes to cozy condos. In the background is The Brick's newest store, in St. John's, Newfoundland.n what has become a familiar story to most industry insiders, The Brick was founded by William H. Comrie in 1971 who gave up what was a promising career as a professional hockey player to take over the family furniture store after his father’s sudden death. He sold that business, gifting the proceeds to his mother, and shortly thereafter opened a single furniture store in downtown Edmonton after securing a loan for what was then the princely sum of $8,000.

Comrie held both leadership and ownership positions in The Brick for the next 40-plus years, until it was acquired by its principal Canadian rival – the Toronto-based Leon’s Furniture – for $700 million in May 2013.

Today, The Brick is a subsidiary of the publicly held Leon’s Furniture Limited and operates a total of 209 stores from coast-to-coast, including some 65 franchise locations (as this issue went to press it opened its first store in St. John’s, Newfoundland, making it a truly coast-to-coast full-line furniture banner with a brick-and-mortar stores in all ten provinces).

In its most recent Retail 100 report, the Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity (CSCA) at Ryerson University ranked The Brick, which remains headquartered in the city where it was founded, as the country’s 47th largest retailer with sales in 2019 of just over $1.34 billion. It is one of only five furniture merchants on the list – the others being its sister banner Leon’s Furniture, IKEA Canada, Sleep Country and Ashley HomeStores.

And as far as Dave Freeman is concerned, the brand’s growth can be attributed to its success of pairing a well-rounded selection of goods with compelling financing options and generous warranties, making it popular amongst shoppers looking to furnish everything from spacious family homes to cozy condos. Freeman is a good position to know, he’s served as president of The Brick since November 2016 but more than that, he’s one of the retailer’s longer serving team members have joined the company in 1980.

“Being a ‘high impact promoter’ is still a very important part of how we go to market,” Freeman told Home Goods Online, adding the brand – which continues to offer ‘no money down’ and deferred payment plans to customers – is proud of its reputation. “For 50 years and counting, our valued customers have come to expect great value, with creative promotions and the flexibility to pay based on their needs and preferences. The concept has evolved in that we offer more options in terms of product and financing solutions.” 

Click here to read Ashley’s complete report in the HGO Merchandiser

Related Story: One-on-One: A conversation with Dave Freeman

Sleep Country earnings jump 19% for 2021 third quarter

29 November 2021
By the Numbers, Retail

TORONTO – Sleep Country Canada Holdings (SCC), parent to this country’s largest brick-and-mortar and e-commerce mattress retailers, last week reported increased sales and earnings for both the third quarter and first nine months of 2021, paving the way for what should be record annual results.

Revenues for the three months ending September 30, 2021, were $273.8 million, up 13.0% from the $242.4 million recorded for the same period last year. The uptick was attributed to a same store sales increase of 10.6%.

SCC didn’t open any new brick-and-mortar stores during the third quarter although six locations were added to the network during the first half of the year.

While the publicly held retailer doesn’t report sales by banner – it operates three including Sleep Country, Dormez-vous and Endy.com – it noted mattress sales for the period totalled $215.6 million, up 12.5% from last year’s $191.7 million.

Accessory sales were $58.2 million, up 14.8% from the comparable period’s $50.7 million.

Sleep Country Canada Holdings, parent to this country’s largest brick-and-mortar and e-commerce mattress retailers, last week reported increased sales and earnings for both the third quarter and first nine months of 2021, paving the way for what should be record annual results.E-commerce accounted for 17.9% of revenue during the third quarter – approximately $49.0 million. That’s an uptick of 11.3% from third quarter 2020’s e-commerce estimate of $44 million. SCC’s e-commerce activities are led by Endy.com, this country’s largest online mattress retailer. It also operates virtual stores for both its Sleep Country and Dormez-Vous banners. It also sells through Walmart Canada’s online platform.

Operating EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) remained unchanged at 26.9%, the company noted.

Adjusted net income for the three months was $39.7 million or $1.07 per diluted adjusted share, compared to $33.2 million or 90 cents per diluted share – an increase of 18.9% on a per share basis.

Outgoing chief executive officer Dave Friesema noted Sleep Country Canada announced several strategic moves during the third quarter that will stand the company in good stead moving forward.

Among them are the expansion of the company’s partnership with Walmart Canada to open ten new pilot ‘Sleep Country/Dormez-vous Express’ stores in Walmart Supercentres in Ontario and Quebec before the end of the year. It also signed an exclusive retail and digital partnership with Casper Sleep – the American bed-in-a-box giant – to sell its core collection of mattresses in this country.

Friesema also noted Endy exceeded 500,000 customer transactions since its inception during the quarter and was recognized as a Great Place to Work for its third consecutive year as well as joined the ranks of 2021 Best Workplaces for Startup’s and 2021 Best Workplaces in Retail and Hospitality.

Just after the quarter ended, SCC acquired 52% of the issued and outstanding common shares of Hush Blankets, a direct-to-consumer sleep retailer for $25 million in cash, the second largest acquisition in the company’s history.

“We started Sleep Country 27 years ago to transform the way Canadians shopped for mattresses,” Friesema said in a statement. “Along the way, we’ve pushed the boundaries and differentiated ourselves in Canada’s sleep space. I’m incredibly proud to have been part of this journey and of our best-in-class team whose solid execution of our strategic roadmap across all our brands and channels delivered the strongest quarter in our company’s history.”

For the nine months also ending September 30, 2021, revenue totalled $649.0 million, up 27.6% from the $508.8 million for the same period last year.

SCC attributed the gain mainly to a 25.6% increase in same store sales as well as the opening of six new stores during the first six months of the year. The company noted that its brick-and-mortar network was temporarily closed for 21.8% of its normal operating days during the first nine months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was roughly equal to the 22.0% of normal operating days lost last year.

For the year-to-date, e-commerce sales were 26.4% of revenues – roughly $171.3 million. This is up 53% from the estimated $112.0 million attributed to digital retail during the January to September period of 2020.

Mattress sales were up 26.5% at $510.9 million while accessory sales were tallied at $138.1 million, up 31.5% on a year-over-year basis.

Adjusted net income was $67.4 million or $1.83 per share, compared to $44.2 million or $1.21 per share – a 51.2% advance on a per share basis.

“With record performance in revenue, gross profit margin and net income, we continued to drive profitable growth this quarter and made significant progress on our plans by strengthening our omnichannel business through transformative partnerships with Walmart Canada and Casper,” SCC president Stewart Schaefer said.

“Looking forward, we are poised to realize the full potential of our acquisition of Hush, and our other thoughtful investments in our sleep ecosystem, infrastructure and supply chain. As sleep wellness continues to be a fundamental part of our customers’ well-being, we remain committed to our purpose of transforming lives through sleep and providing our customers with world-class experiences across our entire sleep ecosystem,” he added.

Related Story: SCC takes stake in Sleepout

Related Story: Sleep Country Express opens in 10 Walmart locations

Related Story: Sleep Country buys Hush

LFL to spend $200M in substantial issuer bid

29 November 2021
By the Numbers, Retail

TORONTO – Leon’s Furniture Limited (LFL) will spend as much as $200 million to acquire as much 10.7% of its outstanding common shares as part of a substantial issuer bid that began last week and will close on December 30, 2021.

In a statement, the publicly held retailer said as of November 16, 2021, the were slightly less than 76.8 million common shares issued and outstanding.

The offer will be conducted in a ‘modified Dutch auction’ when those holders of common shares wishing to cash them in have to specify how many shares they are tendering and at a price of not less than $24.30 and no more than $25.05 (the maximum price per share being offered).

The final price per share will be the lowest that enables LFL to purchase the maximum number of common shares for the $200 million set aside for the bid. If the final bid price was $24.30, the company would reacquire about 8.2 million common shares.

It should be noted LFL shares were valued at $24.15 at the close of trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) when the bid was announced last Thursday (November 25, 2021).

LFL also announced that its ‘normal course issue bid’ announced on September 15, 2021, has been suspended and won’t be reactivated until after the substantial issuer bid has expired.

The offer documents are being mailed to shareholders and filed with all applicable Canadian securities administrators. They can also be found on SEDAR at www.sedar.com.

The bid has the approval of LFL’s board of directors, which also engaged CIBC World Markets as its dealer manager and exclusive financial advisor and agent in connection with the offer. Itg has also engaged TSX Trust Company to act as depositary for the offer. 

Related Story: LFL sets 3Q sales record 

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Home Goods Online.ca and its accompanying newsletter - HGO This Week - covers the furniture, bedding, appliances, consumer electronics, accessories, lamps and lighting and floor coverings product sectors of the big ticket home goods market in Canada. HGO is also a forum for the dissemination of market research and hard-hitting articles on best practices for Canadian retailers.

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