Canadian Tire goes back to the future with innovative new print catalogue

TORONTO – A print catalogue with the bells and whistles of a website is the type of innovation Canadian Tire Corp. hopes will help propel it into the future, the head of the national retailer says.

“It is the best example of bridging the old world and the new world,” chief executive Michael Medline said Thursday following release of the company’s latest financial results.

The mammoth 200-page paper catalogue — Canadian Tire’s first in nearly a decade — was mailed to 12 million homes last month.

Although some may question the retailer’s decision to go back to print after all these years, Medline said the interactive capabilities contained in the catalogue are nothing short of state-of-the-art.

To access the additional content, customers need to download Canadian Tire’s mobile app, and then use their cellphone camera to hover over the catalogue pages for additional content like videos or to check if an item is in stock.

Following the mailout, the company saw its weekly e-commerce transactions double, Medline said in describing the catalogue as “the single biggest impact lever we have ever pulled to generate more online sales.”

These types of technological risks are what will set Canadian Tire (TSX:CTC.A) apart from its competitors, added Medline, who says he doesn’t feel threatened by the impending merger of home renovation rivals Rona and Lowe’s.

Quebec-based Rona (TSX:RON) is slated to become a subsidiary of Lowe’s (NYSE:LOW) following a $3.2-billion takeover deal announced last February. The transaction is expected to close at the end of the month following regulatory approvals.

Canadian Tire, which also owns athletic retailer Sport Chek and clothier Mark’s, has invested “hundreds of millions” of dollars in innovation over the past few years, but Medline says the company still believes in bricks-and-mortar stores that are exciting for the customer.

That includes everything from renovating existing stores to be more interactive to incorporating virtual reality for customers to test out how tires feel in different driving conditions.

“We cannot rest on our laurels or be complacent,” he warned at the company’s annual general meeting.

“We have seen what happens to many retailers in Canada who have taken for granted their market position and then fallen by the wayside. In an age of unprecedented disruption, innovation must be central to everything we do. Digital disruption is happening on a scale larger than any of us could’ve imagined. No industry, including retail, will be immune to those changes.”

On Thursday, Canadian Tire reported net income attributed to shareholders of $66.5 million, down 2.9 per cent from $68.5 million in the same year-earlier period.

Revenue rose 1.8 per cent to $2.56 billion from $2.51 billion.

Same-store sales, an important metric in retail, grew one per cent at Canadian Tire; 7.6 per cent at FGL Sports, which runs Sport Chek; and 0.8 per cent at Mark’s.

Follow @LindaNguyenTO on Twitter.

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous incorrectly used sales instead of revenue figures.