February 18/25, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 19
By Ken Ryan
Among mid-sized carpet mills, Southwind stands out for the way it has aggressively expanded into the hard surfaces arena. In three years, hard surface—LVT, WPC and hardwood—has gone from zero to an estimated 60% of Southwind’s overall business, and flooring dealers are quick to praise the Dalton-based company on the merits of product innovation, unwavering service and promptness.
Specialty dealers who spoke with FCNews were consistent and unanimous in their appreciation of all that Southwind represents. “We do well with their products—a few are actually some of our top 10 products we sold in 2018,” said Dave Snedeker, executive vice president, Bob’s Carpet & Flooring, with 17 locations in the Tampa Bay area. “We do both hard and soft surfaces with Southwind and have been very happy with their products’ performance on both sides.”
Barry McIntyre, owner of Flooring Depot in Panama City, Fla., said Southwind is now its biggest LVP supplier. He praised the company for its diversified hard surface offering, including 9-inch embossed in register boards, 6-inch products and a retro 3¼-inch offering that “nobody else has. They know what they are doing.”
Flooring Depot recently brought in 30 pallets of Southwind’s LVP, with much of that going toward the massive rebuilding and remodeling taking place in the Florida panhandle in the wake of Hurricane Michael, which hit Oct. 8, 2018.
Dave Meister, owner of Naples, Fla.-based The Floor Meister, is another fan of the new 3¼-inch WPC product Southwind introduced at Surfaces. “We will put it on our showroom floor,” he said. “I am 69 years old, and it reminds me of the old days. I like the old parquet look. People are buying that look again.”
Meister said 75% of his business in southwest Florida is now WPC. “[The majority] of people in Naples have cats and dogs. The dogs can’t ruin WPC.”
As much as dealers rave about Southwind’s products, they told FCNews they are equally impressed with the people driving the business.
“They are great to work with, and what I am telling you is from the heart because not everyone is like that,” Meister told FCNews. “Ken Allen, their rep who calls on us, is a first-class guy.”
Flooring Depot has been carrying Southwind for more than a decade—first with carpet and now WPC in a big way. McIntyre described the company as “awesome to deal with. I’ve known upper management for many years. Bret Perkins [vice president, hard surfaces] is really just a brilliant guy as far as picking out the right products and colors and pricing for our market.”
Bob Carpet & Flooring’s Snedeker cited Southwind’s straightforward approach to dealing with retailers as a plus. “They are always looking for a win-win situation for us both. They have great value in some of their offerings, and we have had a solid partnership with them for a long time.”
Brenda Fowler, owner of Village Floor Covering in South Point, Ohio, has been doing business with Southwind for 15 years—first on the carpet side and now with hard surface. “If you have a question on anything, they get right back to you,” she said. “If they don’t know the answer, they find someone who does. If there is a claim, which is very infrequent, they are right on it. They are just very responsive.”
Fowler said her most successful Southwind product continues to be Harbor Plank, a 6 x 48 WPC core with a high-density wood plastic composite and Uniclic locking system. Attached to each luxury vinyl plank is the Southwind IXPE underlayment pad, which is said to be impervious to water, hides subfloor imperfections and provides added sound absorption. “It has been selling like hotcakes,” she said.