Big interview Louis Turcotte, CEO of Patrick Morin | From banker to hardware

A banker by training, Louis Turcotte bought his first Rona hardware store 32 years ago and was the owner of seven Home Hardware renovation centers when he acquired, last February, the Patrick Morin group and its 21 hardware stores. He now intends to continue developing this strong brand with the upcoming opening of a store on the South Shore and another in the North Shore.

Posted on 1is June 2021 at 6:00 am

Jean-Philippe Decarie

What prompted you to acquire Patrick Morin, a group that was coveted by several large chains who never succeeded in convincing the Morin family to sell?

I had already contacted them 15 years ago and they were not interested in selling. At the time, Patrick Morin, it was seven hardware stores. They continued their development by building a distribution center and opening several new stores.

I contacted François Morin, CEO of Patrick Morin again, just before the pandemic, and the family – his four brothers and two sisters – were now ready to sell. They no longer wished to continue. I arrived at the right time, they knew me and they knew I was serious and that I was going to keep the corporate culture in place.

Yet they had refused to sell to Rona, before she was sold to Lowe’s, and the family could have sold to another Quebec group like Canac?

They actually refused to sell to Rona at the time, just as they refused to sell to Home Depot. Canac was a competitor who came to establish its stores in their territory, they were in competition. Me, they knew that I liked their concept of regional hardware and that I wanted to continue their business model.

Was your plan to transform the Patrick Morin brand into Home Hardware?

It was never discussed, and it was very clear from the start. Patrick Morin is a strong brand, well established in its market. Everyone in the industry thought it was a well-managed, profitable group with strong values, and I had been interested in their stores for years.

We will therefore continue to develop this brand. François Morin left me with the expansion plans and the sites they were thinking of developing, and we decided to open two new hardware stores by 2022, one on the South Shore and another in the North Shore.

Is this going to be the first installation of a Patrick Morin on the South Shore?

Yes quite. Patrick Morin developed mainly around Joliette. This is where the group was born and where the head office and distribution center are today. Over time, the Patrick Morin group has grown in Lanaudière, Mauricie and as far as Sorel.

So you will continue to operate your seven Home Hardware stores under this banner and develop the Patrick Morin group at the same time?

Yes. You have to understand that over the years I have developed a way of operating by setting up partnerships in each of my hardware stores, where I have a partner-operator who owns 10 to 25% of the shares.

We joined the Home Hardware brand three years ago because I wanted to get closer to the cooperative model as Rona was when it started. We studied the Lowe’s model and decided to join forces with Home Hardware, which leaves much more latitude to its associated dealers.

We will therefore stay in this structure because it serves us well. On the other hand, I partnered with Home Hardware to acquire Patrick Morin. These are financial partners who have taken a minority stake in Patrick Morin.

Do you mind Home Hardware that you compete with their brand?

No, the Home Hardware group will benefit from the volume and purchasing power of Patrick Morin hardware stores. This is the first time in its history that Home Hardware has made such an investment. The group has more than 1,100 independent hardware stores, but does not have any stores.

I keep the company intact and Patrick Morin has always been recognized for his regional affiliation. We promote local purchases. In total, the group employs 1,800 people in its shops and at its head office in Joliette.

What made you interested in the hardware industry?

I studied commerce at HEC. I come from a banking family, my uncle was Guy Bisaillon, who was my mentor and who made me start at the Royal Bank. When I was 28, I had a business opportunity that I took by buying out of bankruptcy a Rona in Pointe-aux-Trembles.

Then, when Pascal (a chain of hardware and furniture stores) went bankrupt, I took over their store on Avenue du Parc to turn it into Rona. I bought another Rona in Boucherville and I was part of the group of merchants who built the first Rona L’entrepôt at Carrefour Laval, then one in Boucherville and another in Ottawa.

Before Rona was sold to Lowe’s, I was bought out of the three Rona L’entrepôt, then I sold my other Rona from Boucherville to Lowe’s to keep my seven stores.

You started trading before the pandemic, but you finalized the transaction last February when the hardware stores were doing gold business. This must have had some impact on the price paid?

I can’t answer this question… But the Morin family got a good price and I paid the price I was prepared to pay. We must keep a cool head with the movement we are currently experiencing, everyone knows that the context is exceptional.

Have you been affected by material shortages or out of stock?

No, not really, and that’s the strength of Patrick Morin. We have a lot of local suppliers and sawmills, there are some in Lanaudière, so we are able to meet demand and advise our customers on cheaper products when possible.

You inherited a head office in Joliette. New to you?

I never had an office. I had spaces in some of my stores, but here, for the first time, I have an office of my own and I am very disappointed because there is no one around to talk to. I can’t wait to meet all of our people.

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