January 2/9, 2017: Volume 31, Number 15
By Reginald Tucker
While some manufacturers are content to play the “me-too” game, competing in the realm of commodity hardwood flooring products, DuChâteau is taking a different tack. Instead of chasing the low-margin, small-profit end of the business, the San Diego-based producer of oil-finished European oak products has its eye keenly on upscale, high-profit offerings.
“We’re committed to quality design and aesthetics,” said Misael Tagle, DuChâteau’s CEO and co-founder. “The DuChâteau brand focuses on European wood flooring—oak being the most predominant—with a hard wax oil finish. The brand has a European aesthetic—starting with the name, of course. It’s a look that’s exclusive to DuChâteau.”
When developing the various styles, textures and finishes for its hardwood flooring lines—especially the company’s signature Atelier Series— DuChâteau looks to the logical source for inspiration: Europe’s highly stylized fashion industry. “Branding and marketing is a big deal for us,” Tagle explained. “We take a fashionable, sexy and edgy approach, which is very much in line with European marketing.”
As opposed to taking the obvious cues from within the flooring and interior design sectors, DuChâteau’s objective is to set the pace in terms of both style and innovation. Hence the association with established labels that might appear on the glamorous fashion runways in Paris or Milan. “We identify with upscale brands like Armani, Dolce & Gabana and Versace, to name a few,” Tagle explained. “When you think about products, ask yourself who makes the best watches, cars or clothes? Europe is at the top of their game and that’s who we’re going to follow. That’s what the DuChâteau brand stands for.”
So what does that mean, exactly, for distributors and retailers serving the floor covering market right here in North America? For starters, it translates to higher profit margins for DuChâteau’s partners across the supply chain. And when you’re talking about exclusive products that carry a high price tag, everyone along the supply chain stands to make a good profit.
“With our products dealers can make more money,” Tagle said. “We offer great value and design innovation at a price point that ensures retailers will be successful. We’re not the cheapest out there, and we don’t want to get into that category. We have the brand recognition in the market, and people appreciate the quality of our products because of that.”
It’s an approach that DuChâteau’s customers clearly appreciate. Amit Shoval, regional sales manager for National Blinds & Flooring, San Francisco, services clients that develop high-end projects in the Bay Area. He has recommended DuChâteau’s products for various installations, including high-rises, upscale single-family homes as well as wineries in Napa Valley.
Aside from the proven quality and unique aesthetic, Shoval also likes the diverse range of offerings. “The DuChâteau lines can work both ways—either very modern or historic looking,” he explained. “People who live in the high-rises tend to go for that more modern look, with a lot of grays and whites and bleached wood. But in the old Victorian properties like the ones in Napa Valley, they’re looking for more of the reclaimed style of flooring. I always find it easy to recommend something in the DuChâteau line for the clients.”
Shoval is not alone. Others who have also specified the DuChâteau brand have been pleased with the results. “The line product continues to be a leader in product design and catches the attention of designers and flooring showrooms throughout the country,” said Craig Badolian, owner, BI Design Studio, El Dorado Hills, Calif. “They stay on the forefront of fashion and innovative designs in floor coverings and beyond. DuChâteau has always intrigued us and our clients with refined marketing and sophistication. It’s fashion first with DuChâteau even with the way they represent the product and the company in general.”
Points of distinction
To further differentiate its products from many of the mainstream offerings available today, DuChâteau focuses on the distinguishing characteristics. For instance, products in the Atelier Series are treated with environmentally friendly, all-natural hard wax oils that include sunflower, soybean and thistle oil, combined with natural waxes carnauba and canella for a low-sheen, matte look. The finishes also contain tiny silicone dioxide (glass) beads, which make the floor more resilient while accentuating the wood’s natural character and aesthetic.
“Products in the Atelier Series do not contain aluminum oxide or polyurethane finishes like the typical 3- or 5-inch products you see out there,” Tagle said. “Our focus is on the hard-wax oil visual, which provides a rich patina and refinement as it ages.”
The only exception, he noted, is the company’s American Guild brand, which made its U.S. debut at Surfaces 2016. The line, which is geared toward the middle of the market, features a polyurethane/aluminum-oxide finish and is more in line, aesthetically speaking, with the tastes of U.S. consumers.
“We know a big part of the U.S. market is polyurethane/aluminum-oxide finish, so we created the American Guild brand for consumers there,” Tagle explained. “The branding and marketing is all geared toward the U.S. aesthetic mindset as are the finishes, designs and looks. Also, this is more of a price-sensitive product.”
Again drawing comparisons to the fashion industry, Tagle said the American Guild collection is more in line with Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren or Polo, whereas DuChâteau-branded products such as the Atelier Series relate better with Armani and Dolce Gabana. “Where DuChâteau is high end, American Guild is more mid- to high end. The lines don’t compete with each other and it gives us an opportunity to open the market.”
Part of the reason behind DuChâteau’s flexibility when it comes to product development is the fact that it maintains control over its manufacturing processes. The company operates several production facilities, including one in San Diego —where The Atelier Series is produced—and two other plants just across the U.S./Mexican border in Tijuana, where its doors, wall coverings and display systems are produced.
In addition, DuChâteau has developed a line of LVT/LVP products that Tagle says are doing “phenomenally well.” The company also recently began manufacturing porcelain floors at one of its plants. “We’re innovating not only in terms of how we go to market but how we design things,” Tagle added.
Not one to keep still, DuChâteau also plans to launch a furniture division and add rug-cutting capabilities to complement its offering in other categories. It’s all part of Tagle’s vision for DuChâteau to become an iconic luxury lifestyle company. “When we started we were basically a wood flooring company,” he said. “But we’ve evolved to the point where the products consumers buy from us can now outfit a large portion of the home. We’re offering wood flooring, vinyl, porcelain, doors and rugs, and they all tie in together under one roof.”