Products gain Northern Exposure

Toronto A strong Canadian economy and a strong Canadian dollar served as backdrops to the National Hardware Show Canada Oct. 16 to 17. But new products took the forefront, according to attendees and producers of the show.

Exhibitors with hockey-skate sharpeners and hockey sticks gave the event a Canadian flavor above and beyond its Toronto location, as more than 230 exhibitors showcased their products and services for the Canadian home improvement market. According to Scott Temple, managing director of Reed Exhibitions Canada, producers of the National Hardware Show Canada, some 75 of those companies were new exhibitors.

Wendy Hung, a housewares buyer for Mississauga, Ontario-based The Bargain Shop, a 180-store Canadian chain, walked out of the Toronto Congress Centre here with a new Acer laptop computer, a prize given away by the people at the ScotiaStar Network booth. The laptop wasn’t the only hardware that interested Hung.

“The LED flameless candles were pretty cool,” said Hung, who tended to focus on the housewares products on the show floor.

Other retailers roamed the floor with a wider product focus. “It’s a good show for finding what’s new,” said Bernie Duryek, of Coda Co. in Mount Forest, Ontario.

The show floor included a New Product World area showcasing a diverse group of products. Numerous products reflected interest in environmental friendliness or energy reduction, including a wooden rainwater tank from USD and non-toxic SoyGuard wood treatment from Erie, Pa.-based BioPreserve.

Temple, who was named as show director last year, said he was encouraged by the new products on display, the new exhibitors and the willingness of attendees to come from far-off provinces. He described attendance as up 5 percent overall, from the inaugural 2006 event. “We need to continue to build relationships with industry associations and exhibitors to market the show and make it a must-attend annual event,” he said.

Some of the trends Temple pointed to included the increasingly trendy green product and a noticeable move toward higher end and female-friendly products. The idea that Canada’s population is about that of California, but it’s spread over half a continent, gives the Canada show an opportunity to be a must-attend event and improve networking across the country.

On the morning the NHSC opened its doors, a Canadian economist speaking at the Hardlines Conference Series, an educational event co-located with the show, gave Canada’s economy a healthy prognosis. In fact, September produced the strongest Canadian dollar since 1974, the lowest unemployment rate since 1974 and the highest housing starts since 1978.

“We’re not too concerned with effects from the U.S.,” said Peter Norman, senior director of Altus Clayton Economic Consulting. “I don’t see why there would be a lot of spillover effects, except psychological.”

The strong Canadian dollar is encouraging to some of the U.S.-based vendors. It’s more expensive to attend a foreign trade show, but that’s more than compensated by the increase in business from the increased buying power of Canadian customers, said David Silverman, executive vp-global sales for General Pipe Cleaners in McKees Rocks, Pa. “It sounds like a bad thing, but a weak U.S. dollar can be good for business.”

At T-Brace, a Dallas-based manufacturer of a bracing system for walk boards and scaffold planks, the healthy Canadian remodeling market was even more attractive than the healthy Canadian dollar.

“This is our first time here, and we were excited by the strong demand for remodeling in Canada,” said Todd Ryan, national sales manager.