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National Floorcovering Alliance: Opportunities lie in diversification beyond flooring

April 30/May 7, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 23

By Steven Feldman

Cancun, Mexico—As the National Floorcovering Alliance (NFA) embarked on its spring meeting here last month, Dave Snedeker, president of the group and division merchandise manager, Nebraska Furniture Mart (NFM), set forth one mission: get a feel from each member as to how the NFA board can add value to the membership. At the end of the day, the answer was, in a word, diversification.

As successful as NFA members may be—after all, they comprise some of the biggest and best independent flooring retailers in the country—many have not ventured beyond their core business into products like window treatments, countertops and cabinets. “Some members are looking at [diversification],” Snedeker said. “Some are just starting in it. Some aren’t doing it at all. So we’re just trying to make the connections easier so they can decide if that’s the route they want to take.”

NFA will facilitate this by bringing these types of companies to their meetings and opening up the communication lines. “I can’t think of a better way given the format of our meetings than to bring in somebody like a countertop, cabinet or window coverings supplier,” said Deb DeGraaf, co-owner, DeGraaf Interiors, Grand Rapids, Mich. “We’re amongst a group of people we trust and value their input.”

DeGraaf sells window treatments and countertops. “We’ve grown our window treatment business quite a bit, but I would like to do more with it.”

Macco’s Floor Covering Center in Green Bay, Wis., sells neither cabinets, countertops nor window treatments, so there is plenty of opportunity to grow in these non-flooring categories. “There are a lot of sand boxes we’re not playing in right now that we need to explore,” said Jim Walters, president.

Likewise, diversification into non-flooring products is uncharted waters for Flooring 101 in Ventura County, Calif. “Like many in the group, we’re definitely looking at those avenues where we don’t participate now,” said Ian Newton, president. “The beauty of the group is sharing ideas. There are a lot of people out there making those first mistakes along the road that we can learn from. They can tell us what worked, what didn’t work and how to get there. It’s really an educational process for us all. With more hard surfaces being sold, we’re getting less frequency of that return customer. So we have to diversify the products we offer.”

Ambassador Floor Co. in St. Louis is another NFA member that currently sells only flooring. “In the past we’ve done other things; the recession knocked some of them down,” said Kelly Taylor, president. “But it’s time to take another look at it. As you talk to the rest of the group, I was surprised at the success some are having with window treatments.”

Nebraska Furniture Mart is, of course, involved in all categories as the retailer sells everything from furnishings to electronics. “We’re just on the cutting edge of the cabinet business, but we’ve done countertops for several years now,” Snedeker explained. “It’s a very big category for us.”

Paint is one relatively new category that might be of interest to NFA members. “We’ve talked about paint in the past,” Snedeker noted. “We have one member who’s very good at it. That’s the winning part of this group; if somebody is already doing it and doing it well, you can visit his store and see whether or not you can do it.”

Metroflor joins vendor ranks

With the demise of companies like Beaulieu and Royalty, the meeting marked the debut of Metroflor as a core vendor. “Metroflor does a decent business with a lot of our members,” Snedeker said. “They have a pretty solid line. They do good business in multifamily, and that’s where a lot of the business is going right now.”

Metroflor also has the ability to service everyone in the group. “That’s one thing we have to look at; people have to be able to cross the border into Canada and also be able to service the [entire] U.S. market,” Snedeker explained.

Metroflor had previously been a specialty vendor for a number of years, exhibiting at the afternoon showcase on Surfaces eve. “It’s almost like a vetting process,” DeGraaf said. “How did they perform and rate as a specialty vendor? If many of us believe a company is disorganized, they are not going to move up to the next level.”

Speaking of the Specialty Vendor Showcase, Cali Bamboo and Xintory were two companies that scored well with members. Cali Bamboo manufactures green building materials made primarily of bamboo and offered something unique to the group. Company president Doug Jackson has a good relationship with the group from his Tuftex days, Newton said.

Xintory is billed as the flooring industry’s first online marketplace to buy and sell drops, seconds and overstocked inventory. “I can see the concept being very valuable whether you want to get rid of something or find something,” DeGraaf said.

Installation issues

The one challenge NFA members continue to face is the same for all flooring retailers across the board: installation. The one variable is how NFA members attack the issue.

Nebraska Furniture Mart, for example, collaborated with the local community college for a training course. “We just graduated our first class; there were six who took the class and four of them are going to start with us,” Snedeker said. The class is taught by Nebraska Furniture Mart’s installation manager along with some installation experts employed by the retailer.

Flooring 101 is finding installation to be more of a challenge on the soft surface side, especially with the more intricate patterns. “We have a lot of good crews for hard surface,” Newton said. “You have to pay a lot more money. The challenge on the soft surface side is the jobs are smaller. You’re looking at 50-, 70-, 80-yard jobs now because carpet has gone to the bedrooms and the rest of the house is hard surface. A crew can’t make a living on 70 yards, so they end up doing two jobs in a day. The challenge now is servicing the customer between scheduling. So, we see a lot of challenges both on getting it installed correctly and making enough money for them.”

 

 

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Economics: 2018 looks strong; possible bend in the road for 2019

January 22/29, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 16

 

 

One of the highlights of the annual North American Floor Covering Distributors convention is the economic overview from ITR Economics, one of the most accurate forecasters in the country. This time around it was Brian Beaulieu, one of the company’s two principals along with his twin brother, Alan, who gave an upbeat forecast for the next 10 years.

What follows is a synopsis of the 90-minute presentation in Beaulieu’s words…

The future looks good as the economy continues to grow. We still see softness in 2019 that you can manage through. We see the first three quarters of 2019 being flat and then the economy begins to rise in earnest in the fourth quarter and into 2020 and 2021. We are not anticipating any significant recession in the next four or five years.

Given that we see a lot of growth in our future, given that interest rates are still so cheap, given that we have a labor shortage to contend with, you should take advantage and invest in your businesses today. The No. 1 problem we will face for the next 13 years is a labor shortage. Attracting and keeping talented people will be the bane of our existence. Invest in technology and equipment that will alleviate your need for labor. This is a global phenomenon.

Politics
Republicans believe the economy does better when a Republican is in the Oval Office. Democrats want to believe the economy does better when a Democrat is in the Oval Office. Warren Buffet said, “Red or blue, I can still make green.” Stop worrying about who is in the Oval Office. What you do every day in your office matters far more than what they are doing in Washington.

Tax cuts
If you think the tax changes is something that will knock the socks off the economy, we don’t see it that way. Go about your business with the hand you’ve been dealt. Stop relying on a tax break to make things better. If you think deregulation has helped you, more power to you but that can be changed with the next president. Stay focused on the business of your business.

Stock market
The stock market is going up because corporate profitability is on the rise. However, it is relatively expensive. If you put fresh money into this stock market now your average rate of return for the next five years will be between 1% and 2%. The best thing to happen would be to see the market pull back. A 10%-15% correction would be beautiful. You can’t time this market in terms of the lows and the highs, but you can decide when to put in fresh money. Be patient. Now is not the time.

Trade
Contrary to popular belief, trade is important to the U.S. And if you throw trade barriers to stop imports you will also end up hurting exports. Sixty percent of our exports are manufactured items. Manufacturers will feel this pain more deeply. We are still one of the world’s pre-eminent manufacturers, but we also are in need of being able to sell our wares abroad.

Global picture
The world’s total GDP is $65.278 trillion; the U.S. comprises 24.7% of world’s economy. China is 14.9%. How long will the U.S. remain No. 1? When will China overtake us? The reality from an economic perspective is the U.S. will be No. 1 for the next 100 years. Why? Three factors:

  1. Demographics. A growing population ensures organic economic growth. We have a growing population in the U.S.; China does not. Every 13 seconds the U.S. net population (birth + immigration – death) increases by 1. India is another country that has a positive demographic trend.
  2. Natural resources. You have to own your natural resources if you will thrive during a period of inflation like we are moving into. The U.S. is blessed with natural resources; China has a relative paucity of natural resources. You have to get to India before you find another country strong in natural resources. Brazil, Canada and Mexico are strong but have negative demographics.
  3. Rule of law. History shows private property rights is essential to long-term growth. Also, intellectual property; if you are going to be an innovative, creative society and economy, you have to have the intellectual property. And bankruptcy law; you have to be able to fail forward. You have to be able to come out from underneath, make mistakes and try again.

The only country that wins on all three of those scores is the USA.

Housing
This is a tale of two stories—single unit and multi-family. Single unit starts is a rising trend that will generally last until 2029-2030. It is not a continuous rise and will stall from time to time, but it won’t be like the Great Recession.

Buy urban because people are going urban. That’s where baby boomers want to live. And at least 40% of millennials now say they want to go there. It’s the one place where the supply will be less than the demand going forward. People also want to live near water. So buy in an urban area, high up where you can see water or be on the water. That’s the trifecta. There are 100 million more Americans coming at us between now and 2050. They all are going to want someplace to live. You may as well own that place.

You want to sell most of your real estate off in 2029-2030. We think that next decade will be one of deflation, and you don’t want to be stuck holding that property.

Multi-unit starts is a different story. Don’t expect anything good during the first half of 2018. Be careful about this segment of the market. Rent growth is 2%, barely keeping up with inflation.

Home prices are going up. That trend will largely continue until 2029-2030. The only thing that can upset this trend is if they repeal Dodd-Frank. That would stop home prices from growing. This would be good for the economy and a blessing for the financial industry but disruptive to this trend.

Bond market
The bond market is bigger than the stock market. This market looks forward 18-24 months. Much more dollars are involved globally. The bond market looked at the election, looked at Trump’s promises and decided interest rates needed to go higher. If you are going to exacerbate the labor shortage by restricting immigration, then labor cost will go even higher. If you are going to cut taxes without cutting spending, the national debt will go up. International debt, inflation and the bond yield goes up. It was the same thing when Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980.

Certain forces back then gave us a declining trend. Globalization gave us deflation and declining interest rates. What’s the worldwide trend today? Protectionism. Trump is anti-globalization. That coupled with the propensity for inflation means interest rates are likely to go up. So the only rational thing to do is to borrow as much money as you possibly can to invest in your businesses, or buy wealth-creating assets. How much should you borrow? If you are sleeping through the night you have not borrowed enough money. Unless you are three to seven years away from retirement.

Credit
We are on a long, rising trend. Seventy years of history says debt does not take down the economy. The economy actually grows with consumer credit. It’s not about what the debt is, it’s how we are handling that debt. Don’t be afraid to extend credit terms to other businesses. Do your normal due diligence, but one of the ways you can increase market share and attract more business is through your credit offerings. This is a safe environment to do that.

Retail business
Sales are growing at a good, 3.8% clip. That is strong enough to ensure the economy will continue to grow through 2018. When retail sales drop below a 2%-2.5% growth rate, that’s when you start worrying about the economy. There is no need to worry.

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Engineered Floors enters into asset purchase agreement for Beaulieu

engineeredfloors

Dalton–Engineered Floors LLC has entered into an agreement with Beaulieu Group LLC to purchase substantially all of the operating assets of Beaulieu.

The companies had previously announced they had agreed to terms in a letter of intent. They have now concluded those negotiations and executed a definitive agreement.

Beaulieu, which is operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, will seek court approval of this transaction, which is now expected to close in early November. Engineered Floors plans to operate the assets going forward and continue to grow the residential and commercial businesses.

“This will be good for both our business and the community,” said Bob Shaw, chairman and CEO, Engineered Floors.

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Beaulieu Group files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection

Beaulieu-AmericaDalton—Beaulieu Group LLC announced that it has filed voluntary petitions under Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Rome Division.

According to Beaulieu, the company’s existing lenders have agreed to continue to support the company by providing debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing that will be combined with its cash from operations to ensure and support continued business operations.

“Beaulieu family members and our board of managers believe pursuing a restructuring through Chapter 11 is the best path forward at this time,” said Michael Pollard, president of Beaulieu Group. “We have evaluated alternatives to address Beaulieu’s capital structure, and believe that restructuring through the Chapter 11 process will best position all of Beaulieu Group LLC’s businesses for future success.”

Pollard continued, “this is a necessary process as we continue to execute our long-term strategic plans for the business. Our business model has changed with the industry and our client base since our current capital structure was put into place. This restructuring will allow us to invest in the business going forward and emerge a stronger organization. We remain steadfast in our commitment to our customers and employees throughout this process. I am confident that we have the talented and committed team capable of executing the reorganization plan. We appreciate the support of our vendors and customers as we move through this process.”

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Hillis sees bright days ahead for Beaulieu

January 2/9, 2017: Volume 31, Number 15

Steve Hillis
Steve Hillis

When Beaulieu America expanded Steve Hillis’ role to include both the commercial and now residential businesses, they were tapping a man with a wealth of floor covering experience. A big believer in customer feedback through dealer councils, Hillis knew from day one that the residential division was stuck in neutral for the past few years in terms of product development and marketing. With the family-owned business now positioned for growth, Hillis sat down with FCNews’ publisher Steven Feldman recently to discuss where the company is heading.

How does Beaulieu sit today from a financial standpoint?
Being a family-owned business the financials are private, but we are actually doing fine. We have no long-term debt, we have solid equity in our business, great manufacturing facilities and great people. The company is not for sale, we are not going out of business and we are focused on building the business for the next 38 years. We are investing in the business as evidenced by the fact we are launching new carpet and hard surface products in January and more excitement in our sales team than we have had in the last five years.

Talk about the management changes in 2016. What does that mean for the company?
The main thing is the second generation of family is coming in to guide the business through its next chapter. We have established a new board, a new management team and we are finalizing a business plan focused on the next five years. The idea is to set the company on a new direction, and that new direction is focused on building strong partnerships with our customers—both residential and commercial. That is the core philosophy on which this company was built, and we are getting back to that. We lost our way a bit over the last six years with different selling strategies. The focus now is on getting back to our roots: developing great relationships and servicing those relationships.

How was business in 2016?
I have to answer that two ways.

Commercially, it was one of the best years we’ve had in a long time. We improved our profits in 2016 on the heels of many changes in manufacturing and a lot of new product development. I also attribute that growth to superior sales training. We put an aggressive sales recruiting program together a couple of years ago and hired talented people to move our business into the high-end commercial specified market. The second thing is listening to our customers. When I took over the commercial business two years ago, the first thing I did was develop a design council. Our products were stale, and we hadn’t invested in marketing. We meet with this council every six months and get input on styling, color trends and sustainability, and that has driven our product development for our commercial group.

On the other hand, residential has been in neutral for the last five or six years. We did not have a good direction where we wanted to go, so we had not invested in new fixtures and products. We kind of became irrelevant. Product and service had suffered. We had focused more on the big box than our core business, and that affected our quality and service. So that had to be rebuilt.

Are you focusing more on PET or nylon these days?
We think being strong in both yarn systems is important. We will have a renewed and energized investment in nylon but we are creating more styling and innovative carpet products in both systems. We used to be one of the strongest solution-dyed nylon houses for years, and we will go back to that. You will see us moving into that upper-end, stylish market we feel will be important.

How does Beaulieu provide value to retailers?
The short answer is strong, trusting partnerships. We are a family-owned business, and we identify with our customers on a personal level.

What differentiates Beaulieu? What do you do better than your competitors?
No. 1 is we listen to our customers. I think a good illustration of that is my first 100 days was not spent sitting in Dalton trying to figure out the next business plan. We are in front of our customers, in some cases bringing them to our guest house in Dalton.

No. 2 is responding to our customers’ needs with product offerings and displays. The displays we are about to launch are unique to this industry. This came from listening to our customers, what the showroom of the future will look like and how technology plays into this.

No. 3 is giving retailers an opportunity to expand their Main Street commercial business. We have these products in a different division. Our industry has always operated within silos. Who suffers? The customer. To my knowledge we are the first manufacturer to break down these silos. Residential, commercial and hospitality—which have always operated separately—now operate as one. If a customer wants a printed carpet for a Main Street job, he can have it. Our salespeople have twice as many products to offer than they did two months ago. I think next year that will be one of the most powerful differentiators we bring to our customer.

No. 4 is we know our customers. People used to know they could call Carl Bouckaert on a Saturday afternoon and he would stop what he was doing to solve that problem. Our customers expect us to respond quickly and we are committed to this level of service because we truly care about our customers.

Why should retailers consider you in 2017? How do you help them make money?
We help them make money by giving them better products and merchandising that helps them win in their market, and we will launch those the first week in January. The other is we are a low-cost producer in what we sell, so bringing great value to the products they sell is important. Third is investing in sales training. We not only teach our people great selling skills, but we also are now training our customers’ salespeople. When I ask retailers about their biggest challenge, it is training their salespeople. We have many training modules built around helping salespeople improve their selling skills. 

How has your diversity into the hard surface game been received by your partners?
Very well. When we launched the COREtec products, our sales force built that brand and our hard surface business went through the roof. We are launching in January some new products with a waterproof core called Impervio. We also have laminate, engineered wood and now commercial sheet vinyl.

You currently source from overseas. Could you ever see owning your hard surface manufacturing?
The short answer is yes. We may consider that in the future—whether through acquisitions or greenfield (starting something from scratch). We have always been a big carpet and rug manufacturer and we must stay in tune with changes in the flooring market. That’s the kind of thinking we have toward the future and how we can better service our customers. 

What has been the impact of Shaw’s purchase of USFloors, a supplier of yours?
It has helped us make some tough decisions and forced our group to increase our focus on bringing more innovative products to market. It has helped us because we would not be so far along in launching new products. It may have been confusing for some with USFloors and Beaulieu offering a product by the same name in the marketplace. Our focus going forward is to have a clear value statement to our customers and to make sure it’s not confusing.

Thoughts on not participating in Surfaces 2017?
We are focusing on our Winter Road Shows this year and those start the first week in January, but we plan to be at Surfaces in 2018.

Talk a little about Your HomeStyle (YHS), Beaulieu’s private-label aligned program.
YHS is an exclusive dealer program that was another thing we had not properly marketed in the U.S. It’s a great program that was proven in Canada for many years, and we initially tried to plug and play in the U.S. However, there were many pieces that needed to be altered. So months ago we started bringing in dealers who bought into YHS in the U.S. We spent days listening to them, how we could make it better, how they could make more money with it. It gives them exclusive coverage with certain products in their territory. Our plan is to expand it this year.

What sets Your HomeStyle apart from all the other aligned programs out there?
No. 1 is that it is really a unique product selection system. Retailers have told us they can hire fewer salespeople to cover the store because of this system. It’s a whole experience. When a customer walks up to the display there is a unique customer profile established. Customers take a short survey on a computer screen, almost like a personality profile. They answer questions by looking at room scenes. It is a quick survey that validates for the customer their home style. From there it guides them through the carpet and hard surface products they should consider given their style and preferences. It allows the customer to quickly focus on her style. For retailers it is something they can have that no one else in their geography have. They have a much higher closing rate because it appeals to the emotions of people instead of focusing on price.

The other thing we do is surround YHS with concierge services that don’t exist in our industry. We have dedicated people who can that help our elite dealers build their websites and drive business to the website. We have dedicated people handling everything from claims to getting a sample out to answering a technical question. It’s the 5-star service of the flooring industry. That’s where we got into training. We not only train their salespeople on the selection system and products, but we also bring sales training skills such as the ways in which you can identify the four buying styles and close a particular personality.

What has Your HomeStyle delivered to your retail partners?
Our business is significantly up with dealers who have taken on the program. Their average sale price is up, and their margins are up. It helps them sell carpet for more money and have less competition.

 

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Beaulieu promotes Dominie, Bagley

Dalton—Steve Hillis, president, Beaulieu Group Flooring, has announced a pair of promotions: Paul Dominie has been elevated to the position of senior vice president of the central division for Beaulieu; Robert Bagley becomes senior vice president of the Southeast division.

Paul Dominie
Paul Dominie

In his new role, Dominie will be responsible for the management of the residential and commercial business units in the central division of the U.S. Prior to this assignment, he headed up the YHS (Your Home Style) program for Beaulieu and served as vice president of strategic accounts.

Robert Bagley
Robert Bagley

Bagley, who previously served as regional vice president of the Bolyu commercial group for Beaulieu, will now be responsible for the residential and commercial sales teams in the Southeast territory.

Both Dominie and Bagley will report to Hillis.

 

 

 

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Beaulieu announces Vercruyssen's departure

Karel Vercruyssen
Karel Vercruyssen

Dalton—Beaulieu has announced the decision of CEO Karel Vercruyssen to leave the company. Vercruyssen also acted as CEO of Beaulieu America’s sister company, Beaulieu Canada, since 2007.

Michael Pollard, president of Beaulieu America, confirmed that although Vercruyssen was a strong asset, the leadership remains confident in the long-term success and future of Beaulieu America. “We will continue our efforts to increase efficiency and optimize operations, to ensure that we are best positioned for this company to thrive for years to come, and continue to offer excellent service and products to our partners,” Pollard said.

“We wish Mr. Vercruyssen great success on all of his future endeavors,” said Carl Bouckaert, owner of Beaulieu America. “His years of service to our family and his dedication to the continued success of Beaulieu was highly valued.”

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Latest Beaulieu restructuring focuses on personnel, strategy

13062446_1184141704931465_9155659538196564321_nDalton—Beaulieu America has announced a new restructuring as part of its plan to prepare for “the next phase of growth” for the business.

Four new senior management positions have been created over the past few weeks. Michael Pollard, the son-in-law of founder Carl Bouckaert, was recently named president. He will lead the development and execution of the company’s revised long-term strategy.

Next, Stan Bouckaert has moved from his position as director of hard surfaces to senior vice president of special projects. In this role, he will provide counsel on Beaulieu’s new business strategy to identify and capitalize on new opportunities for growth. Mike Hoffman has been named COO, responsible for all manufacturing and distribution operations. Finally, Steve Hillis, president of Beaulieu Commercial, will also assume responsibility for the residential side of the business. In his expanded capacity as president of flooring, Hillis will be tasked with leading all sales activities, resources and reporting for both commercial and residential functions. “This is a very important and exciting time for our company as we revisit the way we operate to ensure we are best positioned for current and future success,” Hillis explained.

Karel Vercruyssen and Del Land will continue with their respective functions as CEO and CFO of Beaulieu America. “The board of directors and I have put a lot of time, thought and energy into these leadership changes to ensure we have the right people in place who are committed to the long-term success of Beaulieu America,” Vercruyssen said.

In a related move, Kevin Biedermann, who had served as executive vice president at Beaulieu America since July 2015, has left the company to pursue other interests.

This latest restructuring comes on the heels of the company’s recently announced plans to trim about 6% to 8% of its workforce—or about 320 people—over the next few months (FCNews, May 9/16). According to Beaulieu, the actions are being taken to improve efficiencies across the company’s various product lines while enabling the organization to leverage emerging opportunities in the flooring industry.

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Carpet: Beaulieu back on track under new leadership

September 14/21; Volume 30/Number 7

Goal-oriented company on growth trajectory throughout North America

By Steven Feldman

Dalton—It wasn’t too long ago that Beaulieu owned the distinction of being the industry’s first and only privately held $1 billion carpet mill. But while recession and strategic restructuring may have knocked the company off that perch, it is not only still a viable mill but primed to start growing the business once again.

Under the leadership of Karel Vercruyssen, president and CEO, who took over for Ralph Boe after the latter’s 13-year run; and former Armstrong executive Kevin Biedermann, executive vice president of sales, Beaulieu has a message for floor covering retailers. “We are in it to win it in the retail business in a very meaningful way,” Biedermann recently told FCNews in an exclusive interview. “We are not closing down, and we are not selling. We are here to grow. We have products that will roll out this fall, and we have a variety of things in development.”

As such, Biedermann said retailers will see one of the company’s largest lineup of introductions at Surfaces. “It’s all about style and design. We have done extraordinarily well with the independent retail channel, and that’s where we are putting much of our focus. We want to grow with them in a significant way.”

Beaulieu has always prided itself as an alternative to the two carpet mill behemoths, and that remains a constant. “We can do things differently from Shaw and Mohawk that have a place in the market,” said Vercruyssen, largely credited for the turnaround of Beaulieu Canada.

“As consolidation continues, we don’t have ambition to be the largest flooring company,” Biedermann noted. “The ambition is to bring value to the retailer and provide another option.”

Among other things, Beaulieu is in the process of repositioning its sales and marketing. “We brought on Kevin to build a top-class sales force,” Vercruyssen said. “On the marketing side there are many things in the works. We are rebranding the organization somewhat. This fall, retailers will start to see what we have been working on behind the scenes and put us in the position where we want to be.” This includes new products, new merchandising systems and new retail programs that will be rolled out in 2016.

One thing that will soon become apparent is a transition from carpet mill to flooring company, which was one of Vercruyssen’s key strategic decisions at Beaulieu Canada. In fact, he noted that Beaulieu Canada today is 50% larger than its low point in 2007.

“If you look at the product assortment Beaulieu Canada offers, you will see what we want to accomplish,” he said. “Beaulieu Canada diversified into wood, laminate, LVT, COREtec and sheet vinyl—everything except ceramic. We have become more important to our dealers in Canada, and that is what we are going to do in the U.S. In Canada we have a strong aligned program called Your HomeStyle, where the biggest and best dealers aligned with us can have all products. Our sales and marketing team is working diligently on how it can become a North American program.”

Biedermann added this is only progression and not a reinvention of Beaulieu. “This is a great company with great capabilities. I am learning this company isn’t toe-dipped in carpet. We make all types of yarns in a meaningful way. That lineage and heritage is huge.”

In illustration, the company remains strong across all constructions, from nylon to PET to polypropylene. “We are too large as a carpet company to be specialized in one segment,” Vercruyssen said. “We have nylon assets all the way to convert caprolactam into nylon chips. We also…gave a strong push to filament polyester and position it in a big way. We are also strong in polypropylene.”

The one area that Beaulieu has abandoned is the nylon builder business. “Low-end nylon is not a segment where we have a lot of ambitions.”

 

Financially sound

Beaulieu remains a 100% family-owned business run by a professional board appointed by the family. “There is simply more structure in place than traditional family businesses would have,” Vercruyssen said.

While persistent rumors paint a company in financial hardship, Vercruyssen was quick to dismiss them. “The company is stable. The rumors out there are unfounded. Because Beaulieu is a privately held company we don’t disclose financials, so people speculate because they don’t know any better.”

Biedermann added that the company is not highly leveraged. “Growing a business takes enormous amounts of capital. We are a family business. When 100% of your equity is family equity, and you are not highly leveraged, you can’t always grow as fast as you would like. But companies that are more leveraged will have a tougher time. We know what we are today. The idea is to explore what we could be.”

Where does Beaulieu see its strengths? Vercruyssen and Biedermann outlined a few key points:

  1. North American reach, touching all retailers in Canada and the U.S. with regional distribution centers.
  2. Strong brands like Magic Fresh, Bliss and Everstrand.
  3. Family business.
  4. Technical expertise around carpet and a good understanding of retail, style, design and the consumer.

At the end of the day, Biedermann said the goal for Beaulieu is simple: to be a responsible company that is relevant with its retail customers. “Relevant means offering a broad assortment of hard and soft surfaces—products [retailers] want, that they can get behind and sell, be confident in and make money with. Products that have differentiated features and benefits. We won’t be the cheapest out there, but we will be the best value for the consumer.”

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Beaulieu America names Williams director of training and leadership development

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 2.52.14 PMDalton—Kirk Williams has joined Beaulieu America as director of training and leadership development, effective immediately. In his new role, Williams will oversee the development and implementation of training programs, helping both new hires and existing employees to be successful in the performance of their job duties.

“His appointment generates an opportunity to positively impact many of our associates by bringing in a proven leader who not only teaches fundamental principles, but actually developed many of the courses and techniques he uses,” said Lynn Chambers, vice president, employee development, Beaulieu America.