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Terry Davis, CEO of Home Hardware, tours the retailer’s model store in St. Jacobs on Jan. 4, 2016.

Glenn Lowson/Globe and Mail

After 48 years with Home Hardware Stores Ltd. and the last four of them as CEO, Terry Davis is retiring and passing on the reins to someone better fit to handle the company’s digital expansions.

Mr. Davis is stepping down after taking part in the company’s latest five-year plan, which outlined how Home Hardware will move into the e-commerce market to stay competitive in what is a notoriously cut-throat home-improvement sector. Mr. Davis will remain as CEO until the company finds his replacement.

“You know, I’m 67 years old and it’s time to get some fresh perspective on competing and meeting the challenges,” Mr. Davis said. ”There’s a whole new generation of homeowners coming in the next decade that may not know hardware as much as their parents did, and we just want to make sure that we’re well positioned to help them.”

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But Mr. Davis says the core values that make Home Hardware the quirky, personable brand that it is known as will still be paramount as they adapt to the market.

He has previously said that Home Hardware’s unique ownership structure, where shares are equally held by each individual store owner, means that store owners are the bosses of the CEO, not the other way around. As a result, the company has always promoted individualism, humour and a unique environment across almost 1,100 stores.

“One of our strengths is that every one of our dealer owners brings their strength and personality and makes it their own,” Mr. Davis said. “I think in today’s environment, more than ever, people want to stand out as their own person ... and I think the fact that our dealers are like that at a time when people are like that is a good match.”

Those core values have worked out for them in recent years. In 2017, the store’s yearly gross sales reached $6-billion a year, which equalled a 13-per-cent share of the home-improvement industry. That put Home Hardware in third place behind Home Depot Inc. (17 per cent) and Rona Inc./Lowe’s Cos. (15 per cent), and just ahead of Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd. (12 per cent). Home Hardware would not provide statistics on 2018, but Mr. Davis said that growth was still at a percentage near double digits in the first half of this year.

Despite its sizable market share, Home Hardware has remained more of a local brand than a corporate one. In Fort McMurray, Alta., Mr. Davis said that Home Hardware was the first business allowed back into the town to help with rebuilding after a fire in 2016 destroyed entire neighbourhoods and prompted an evacuation. Similar help was also provided by Home Hardware contractors during flooding in the Maritimes.

Mr. Davis said the hiring process will be aimed at determining how well applicants would fit in with the company culture.

“The nature of our business as a dealer-owned private company, with 1000 plus shareholders that are each unique, means that they’ll have to be really good with building relationships with those dealers and understanding that their livelihoods depend on decisions being made here,” Mr. Davis said. “Our competitors, they are big and invest a lot of money in technology in their marketing and in their stores, so we need a visionary leader who can compete with those giants.”

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As for Mr. Davis’s own future, he says he’s looking forward to not having to make those big decisions any more. In fact, he still remembers when he received a document outlining his work benefits when he first passed his probationary period at 19 years old. The document listed his official retirement date as February 1, 2016.

“I looked at that and my mind could not think ahead that far into the future. I could not comprehend there would be a year 2016 even,” Mr. Davis said with a laugh. “I outlasted that by a little bit.”

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