Hewer Home Hardware is the Point Grey location started by the Hewer Family in 1913. It’s now a second generation business owned by Bernard Lau. He grew up working in the store with his father and uncle who bought it from the previous owner in 1978 after arriving from South Africa. The store stocks all the hardware essentials you’d expect, but also has a garden centre with soil, seeds, bulbs, plants and garden accessories.
Home Hardware is Canada’s largest independent home improvement retailer. It’s a dealer co-operative based in St. Jacobs, Ontario, with 1100 hardware stores, buildings centres and furniture stores across Canada. The company’s warehouse staff work to collaborate with local dealers and get better pricing when they buy on their behalf, but the local dealers still have flexibility to buy from local suppliers. In addition, they can buy one item instead of a whole case, so they can be flexible and respond to the local market, offering a wider selection of items than big corporations. Home Hardware staff in Ontario also coordinate the dealer advertising programs. The company’s guiding ethic is “community and the common good is simply good business”.
Question: How are you supporting other local businesses?
Answer: We have 22,000 sku’s (single stocking unit), and work with about 200 suppliers. Many products in our inventory aren’t available in Canada, but when we can buy local, we do, and our customers have an interest in products grown here or made here. Unlike most big companies, Home Hardware allows us to work with whichever suppliers we want to. We stock B.C. made screw drivers, laundry detergent and soil, fans and heaters made in Canada, and 90% of our shovels are made in Ontario – the hardwood handles are from local trees, and the plastic parts are moulded in barns converted to factories in Mennonite country in Ontario. Home Hardware’s own brand of paint, caulking and drywall mud is made in Burford, Ontario. We buy nearly 100% of our nursery stock for the gardening centre from local mom and pop growers in the Fraser Valley.
About 35% of our total inventory is from B.C.-based businesses, since a large volume of our sales are from the gardening centre. Another 25% comes from Canadian suppliers. The remainder comes from some U.S. suppliers and the rest from global companies.
We also buy from many B.C.-based and Canadian service providers – our accounting, bookkeeping, employee benefits, legal and other services are made with B.C. businesses. Our IT and marketing is done through Home Hardware (a percentage of our sales goes towards marketing expenses), so that spending stays within Canada.
Question: What social and environmental practices are you proud of?
Answer: We’re a good employer, and about 80% of our staff live close by in Vancouver, and the rest live in the region. We provide good jobs with benefits to our 9 full-time and 6 part-time staff. We’re also proud of all the support we give to the community. The more revenue we make, the more we donate, so our success contributes to the success of the community. We’re also trying to reduce our waste as much as we can. We get so much plastic pallet wrap from our suppliers that we can’t bear to throw it out. We save it and send our staff in our sprinter van to recycle it. When our building’s roof need to be replaced several years ago, we insulated at the same time with 4″ foam to reduce our energy use, heating/cooling costs, and to make the space more comfortable for customers and staff. When Bernard worked in the store as a kid it was so hot in the summer and cold in the winter, so it made more than good sense to insulate. To save energy on lighting, all the incandescent light bulbs in the store were replace with compact fluorescents a number of years ago, and now are being replaced with LEDs.