January 7/14, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 16
By K.J. Quinn
As Wanke Cascade enters the new year, it plans to build upon the success it achieved in 2018 following the implementation of initiatives designed to improve its value proposition. In short, the distributor aims to bolster its importance to customers by ensuring they have the product mix, merchandising and service support necessary to meet the needs of their local markets.
“We really looked at 2018 as not only execution of our programs and improvement as a distributor but to enhance those programs throughout the year,” said Rob Tarver, president of the Buckwold Western subsidiary. “We’re constantly updating our visuals and keeping our programs current.”
Tarver recently started his second year at the helm following two decades working in the manufacturing sector at Wilsonart and Wellmade, where he specialized in sales, marketing, sourcing, design and product development. This experience helped Tarver as he evaluated all aspects of Wanke’s business and got to know its customers and channels.
“We really wanted to talk with all our customers throughout the entire footprint and make sure we had the correct product portfolio for our local market,” he told FCNews. “We made sure our service position was the best it could be, bringing product to market efficiently and effectively.”
This due diligence helped Tarver formulate plans to grow the business into 2018. “The first year entailed determining the right product mix, brands and merchandising for our customers,” Tarver said. “We also wanted to ensure our private-label programs were well designed, well valued and well merchandised.”
The distributor received feedback from its retail customer base to gain a better understanding of their merchandising needs. “It became evident to us that showing a lot of product in a small footprint was critical,” Tarver said. “So we created wing rack systems or waterfall displays that had more information about the features and benefits of products implemented with our private-label programs, then created a website for each program so it appears as a free standing program.”
Plan of attack
Two critical elements of the growth strategy were identifying styles and products that sell in local markets while ensuring local branches maintain adequate inventory levels to support customers. Headquartered in Portland, Ore., Wanke Cascade runs full-service branches in Seattle and Spokane, Wash. “Distributors rely on brands, but our goal is to design products for the local market and not the national market,” he said. “That’s how we strengthen our position with our customers.”
For example, close attention is paid to resilient, as LVT and WPC styles and product constructions are evolving rapidly. “We see the rigid core category diversifying into other areas, such as tile and hardwood,” Tarver observed. “We need to constantly improve and update our programs so they don’t get stale.”
Looking back to last year, the distributor saw a lot of the benefits from the strategies implemented during Tarver’s second year. “We certainly reaped the rewards for that as we had strong double-digit sales growth,” Tarver said. “We really improved our product portfolio and strengthened merchandising of all our products.”
Tarver’s efforts have not gone unnoticed by Wanke’s suppliers. “Rob’s product knowledge has helped our relationship, including assisting as a member of our advisory council, where he has provided valuable insight into product needs and trends,” said Paul Murfin, senior vice president, independent distribution, Mohawk Distribution.
Paul Nystrom, regional business manager for Pacific USA and W. Canada regions, Formica Group North America, agreed. “Since Rob has taken over the leadership, we’ve seen a more customer approach to sales efforts in the field. He also provides vendors a mutually beneficial platform for better sales planning to meet everyone’s goals.”
2019 will see ongoing enhancements of current programming and freight logistics, plus some tweaks to Wanke’s product assortment. “We’ll continue to diversify from China a little bit on sourcing, making sure we have multiple avenues and options where we purchase product,” Tarver said.