Michael Brossard's game plan for Rona includes developing still-secret specialized stores to cater to specific market segments such as women and environmentalists.
With 600 stores and about $5 billion in sales, Rona has the biggest share-15%-of a fragmented market that's still 61% controlled by independent businesses. Another part of Mr. Brossard's growth strategy is to buy up as many of those independents as possible, staying ahead of his rivals from the U.S.
"They only have big-box stores, while we have a combination," says Mr. Brossard, 52. "We can offer great prices through mega-buying, a product mix that's mainly Canadian and most of all, services. We're the 'how-to people.' "
Unlike many big-box stores in North America, Rona sources 90% of its products from Canadian. To keep Rona ahead of the competition in the eyes of Canadians, Mr. Brossard started an eight-year sponsorship of the Olympics in 2006, with special efforts behind the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
The "Rona Growing With Our Athletes" program is providing financial support for training to 100 athletes for five years. Each athlete is associated with six or seven nearby Rona stores that display "their" athlete's name, sport, background and updates on their progress. The athletes participate in community and in-store events.
Mr. Brossard is spreading awareness of the Rona brand via his staff of 75 and a $115 million marketing budget, including $89 million for advertising with creative handled by BCP and media by Carat Strategem, both Montreal. Part of that goes to sponsor popular Canadian reality TV show "Ma Maison Rona" in which two families compete to renovate two houses.
Started by a group of Quebec hardware merchants in 1939, Rona went public in 2002, two years after Mr. Brossard joined following a career with other marketers, sports teams, ad agencies and a TV network.
"Brossard is a passionate guy," says Robert Dutton, Rona's president. "He motivates everyone around him and is a real team player with creative ideas."
* Staying ahead of Home Depot and Lowe's
* Linked with Olympics to target the 2010 Games in Vancouver