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    Rona Inc. contemplates adding c-stores and fuel at its big box outlets; considers jumping into the U.S. market.

    Boucherville, Quebec -- As the home improvement sector in Canada is showing signs of slowing, Rona Inc., the Home Depot of Canada, is considering adding convenience stores and gas stations at its big box locations in an effort to draw in more customers, reported The Globe and Mail.

    This decision is one of many different business strategies that CEO Robert Dutton is considering, including a U.S. expansion and specialty stores for women and the environmentally conscious, reported the newspaper.

    The c-store concept could be implemented next year, Dutton told The Globe and Mail. "It's a good service for the customer. If they take some gas and they want to come to shop at our stores, it's going to be a good thing," he added.

    The stations would be built on existing parking lots and be operated by specialists, including Petro-Canada, a refiner, marketer and convenience store operator in Canada. Dutton would consider opening stations at one third of its 70 retail locations, but will have a better idea at the end of the third quarter.

    An analyst for Canaccord Capital Inc., Benoit Caron told the newspaper that stations would not take up a lot of space in the stores' parking lots and could boost location's overall traffic. "It's a good way to increase return on capital," he added.

    The Canadian home improvement store market is being challenged next year, when Lowe's Cos. Inc. will open stores. Rona plans to acquire smaller home improvement retailers in Canada while it researches opportunities in the U.S. If it does decide to come stateside, Rona will buy small independent stores, rather than setting up it's big box outlets.

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