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Armstrong severs ties with William M. Bird

February 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 17

By Ken Ryan

 

Lancaster, Pa.—Armstrong Flooring has ended its partnership with Southeast distributor William M. Bird, a relationship that dates to 1936 when Bird began distributing Armstrong floor coverings and building materials as its entree into flooring distribution.

“Ending an 82-year relationship is not something you ever expect; however, William M. Bird is prepared and positioned to handle this transition,” Maybank Hagood, CEO, told FCNews.

Hagood said its house brand products, including Palmetto Road and Azalea Lane, as well as its portfolio of branded lines like Roppe, Metroflor, Tarkett and Somerset, will provide the wholesaler with the flexibility to bring new products to Bird customers “that provide the highest level of value and quality in wood, LVT, WPC, rigid core and laminate products. Our core values as a company have always driven our decision-making and how we partner with our customers with the right products. That will not change at all. We have always been committed to an exceptional salesforce, cutting-edge technologies via our online tools and dynamic warehousing and logistics to assure our customers that when they call us they will be served by a team driven to help our customers succeed.”

Hagood said it is “probably premature at this point” to comment about any potential future partnerships. However, he did note, “We have had some great conversations in the last couple of weeks and we look forward to finalizing and announcing soon the next generation of brands that will help serve to define William M. Bird for the future.”

Hagood put a positive spin on the separation with Armstrong—its longest-standing supplier—saying, “a change like this will allow us to deepen our existing strategic partnerships and continue our mission to deliver the right products and services, to the right customer, at the right time.”

In light of the Bird changes, Armstrong will expand the territories of three of its existing distributors as part of its strategy to improve service to retailers.

The changes, which will become effective April 1, 2018, are as follows:

  • J.J. Haines, which handles the Mid-Atlantic region, will now also serve the Southeastern U.S., including parts of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and the Florida panhandle.
  • Derr Flooring, which also covers the Mid-Atlantic region, will begin serving parts of northern Virginia with the Bruce brand in a dual-distribution capacity with J.J. Haines.
  • Ohio Valley Flooring, which services Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, will expand into western Pennsylvania.

“We are committed to aligning ourselves with the distribution partners that are best positioned to support our growth strategy,” said Don Maier, Armstrong Flooring president and CEO. “We are excited by J.J. Haines’ ongoing investments in distribution infrastructure and logistics technology, and the level of service and responsiveness it can bring to the independent retailers who sell Armstrong products. We are equally pleased to reward the exceptional performance and service that Ohio Valley and Derr Flooring deliver for us every day.”

Maier also addressed the separation from William M. Bird. “We value their role in our company’s development over the years and the service they have provided to customers. We look forward to working with our distributor partners over the next few months to ensure a smooth transition.”

Empowering distributors

In a separate announcement, Armstrong said it is empowering its distributors with increased responsibility for marketing, merchandising and sales of its residential flooring products, focusing resources to drive growth with national retail and commercial customers.

“Since we launched Armstrong Flooring as an independent company in 2016, one of our core objectives has been winning with distribution—to grow sales and market share by rebuilding and leveraging our distributor relationships,” Maier explained. “We’ve made tremendous progress to further enhance these partnerships, and we are confident we are working with distributors who can most effectively advance our growth strategy.”

Shifting elements of its residential marketing and merchandising responsibilities to its distributors, Maier explained, is intended to increase efficiency, move decision-making closer to the customer and improve speed-to-market. As distributors take on additional responsibilities, the company plans to increase investments in national retail and commercial accounts, specifiers, architects, designers and contractors.