January 20/27, 2014; Volume 27/Number 19
By Ken Ryan
The rapid ascent of IVC U.S. in the flooring industry—from essentially a distributor to the fastest-growing resilient flooring company—may surprise some people, but not senior marketing director Bart Rich.
“We are changing the landscape of a stagnant industry and redefining it, and it starts with Xavier (Steyaert) and Paul (Murfin),” Rich said, referring to the company’s co-CEOs.
IVC has long been the darling of CCA Global, which began working with the manufacturer several years ago to distribute the company’s first sheet product in the U.S. In fact, CCA was the first retailer to carry IVC U.S. products. “In CCA’s mind what distinguishes IVC is its willingness to listen to the customer,” said Charlie Dilks, chief product officer for CCA. “They are very good at that and they are not predisposed to doing business a particular way. They are open to new ideas, new ways of doing business. It’s not often we hear ‘no’ from them.”
Through acquisitions and facility expansions, IVC has turned bold investment into solid growth in the last four years. “We look at where we are today—we offer cut luxury vinyl, fiberglass sheet vinyl and laminate, as well,” Rich said. “We’re very aggressive and confident in our products and our ability to lead the way. We’ve got great product and a great manufacturing structure. And the people we have on board have helped us make the transition and grow even faster.”
The executive structure at IVC has an impressive history that includes some of the biggest names in flooring. Rich came to IVC from Mohawk and Murfin held a senior executive position at Armstrong. They are two of the 150 who work for IVC in Dalton; five years ago the work force in that facility was around 35.
Innovation and market differentiation
Dilks calls IVC “a very progressive company,” and because they operate with very few layers of management, he said it is very easy to get things done. “It is somewhat refreshing when things get done as fast and efficiently as they do.”
In order to avoid distributors viewing IVC as “a one-trick pony,” Rich said, the company has diversified its portfolio beyond sheet vinyl to include LVT and laminate.
Distributors like T&L have also found IVC to be a very easy company with which to do business. “Their motto is ‘Find a way to say yes,’ and we certainly like that attitude,” said Bob Eady, senior vice president of sales and marketing at T&L, which carries IVC’s LVT line. “IVC established a national brand and it was open to T&L in our entire market, which was a big plus for us as we needed more products outside of our traditional Texas market.”
By focusing strictly on LVT, Eady said, “we are seeing costs that allow us to make a reasonable margin on the products.”
To keep up with demand, IVC announced plans in October for an $80 million, 300,000-square-foot LVT facility in Dalton, which is expected to be fully operational by the first quarter of 2015. When completed, it will be the largest such plant in North America.
Investing in new facilities has been a catalyst in IVC’s robust growth. In 2011, it opened a manufacturing site in Dalton that featured the longest vinyl sheet line in the world. From this facility and its distribution center in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., IVC believes it can effectively serve the North American market.
In 2012, IVC opened an LVT and plank manufacturing facility in Belgium that it said would eliminate the need to source from the Far East. The LVT investments in Belgium, and now the U.S., underscore the confidence the corporation has in the North American market.
“We have ramped up spending on merchandising, samples and new programs,” Rich said. “We literally will leave no stone unturned as we push the boundaries of innovation, setting the bar in the industry. We’ve established ourselves as a leader in fiberglass sheet; our goal is to do the same in LVT and laminate. The new facility will help gear us toward that.”
IVC’s growth in LVT is enhanced by the unique construction of its products. Its standard plank size is 7.5 x 52; it also offers customers 9.5 x 59-inch lengths. “This size captures the high-end market,” Rich noted. “We’ve done some things differently; we didn’t just create a ‘me too’ product.”
In addition to the larger plank sizes, IVC has also refined its installation methods to achieve a faster, less cumbersome install. “The drop lock click ends are the easiest click LVT we have seen from an installation perspective,” Eady said.
From its role as essentially a resilient distributor with negligible presence in the U.S. market to the fastest-growing player in the category in a few short years, IVC has positioned itself for substantial growth in the near future.
“We don’t just want to be in the game,” Rich concluded. “We want to be the best.”