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Haines to bail out of Bravo Services Group

February 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 18

By Ken Ryan

 

Haines, the flooring industry’s largest distributor with 2017 sales of approximately $495 million, has announced plans to exit the Bravo Services consortium, effective April 1, 2018. Haines, in a prepared statement, said the decision to end the relationship with Bravo, which dates to 2000, was based on the distributor’s inability to justify the cost and time commitment vs. the overall return on investment.

“Our decision, while difficult, is simply a matter of return on our investment from the efforts we put in,” Mike Barrett, president and CEO of Haines, said in a press release. In a follow-up call, Barrett told FCNews that over the past year he had evaluated the “the time and effort required to attend meetings, answer surveys, attend the annual [summit], plus our dues, and we frankly haven’t been able to justify a return on those investments.”

Barrett said he kept John Carney, executive director of Bravo, and John Sher, president of Adleta, and a group leader, apprised of his concerns the entire year. “So this, while not their hope, was not a surprise,” he stated. “John Carney and John Sher are great leaders in our industry, and we wish them and the Bravo members the best.”

Bravo disseminated its own release confirming the departure of Haines following a lengthy management review. “Bravo wishes to thank Haines for their many contributions to Bravo over the years,” Carney said.

Haines recently expanded its distribution coverage with Armstrong to the South (FCNews, Feb. 5/12). However, Barrett said that move had nothing to do with its Bravo decision. Also, in November, Haines and Belknap-White Group forged a partnership aimed at improving the  effectiveness of both companies. As part of the deal, Belknap will hold limited shares in Haines through an equity investment, which would help Haines reduce debt and continue to invest in new initiatives.

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Apollo Distributing: A family affair

November 6/13, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 11

 

The following is the 11th installment in a series highlighting the 14 distributors that constitute Bravo Services, a group comprising many of the top flooring wholesalers in the country. Here we focus on Apollo Distributing.

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 9.51.59 AMIt began in 1920 in Newark, N.J., when entrepreneur David Slobodien founded the Apollo Radio Co. to market a device to improve radio reception. It was well received and after many years of hard work and astute business management he grew the company into an appliance and electronic powerhouse distributing the finest brand names such as Crosley, Norge and Zenith throughout the New York metropolitan marketplace.

Forty-two years later, in 1962, David relinquished the reins of Apollo leadership to his son, Richard Slobodien, and retired. Under Richard’s skillful direction the business continued to grow and prosper. In response to changing business conditions, he redirected the company’s focus to the distribution of floor covering products with the purchase and assimilation of the O.F. Ruprecht flooring distribution company and, at a later date, the acquisition of Empire Carpet Co., a distribution division of Armstrong World Industries. In 1973, he moved the company to its current nine-acre location in Fairfield, N.J. The company, Apollo Distributing, was soon recognized as a leading flooring distributor.

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 9.51.53 AMIn 1995, Richard Slobodien stepped aside to permit his son, and David’s grandson, Keith Slobodien, to become Apollo’s third president. Under his leadership Apollo has continued to excel by following the successful examples set by his father and grandfather. Of note, two of Keith’s college-age children, Harrison and Rachel, have completed the second of three Apollo summer internships to familiarize them with flooring distribution.

Tradition and continuity are important at Apollo. Among Apollo’s family of employees, 25- and 30-year tenures of service are common. Externally, in the metropolitan New York dealer base, many key accounts have built their solid relationships with Keith upon associations their parents established. An example is Apollo’s 35-year-old partnership with Armstrong Flooring.

“Floor covering distribution is in our blood,” Keith Slobodien said. “It is our passion. The business lessons learned from my family are elementary. They are: first, represent the finest products; second, provide the best service possible; and third, be fair to everyone. If we remain true to these principles the future of our company will continue to be bright and, who knows, maybe it will include contributions from additional family members.”

 

For more information on Apollo Distributing, call 973.228.5000 or visit apollodist.com. For more information on Bravo Services, contact John Carney at 214.215.2880 or visit bravoservices.com.

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Reader’s helps Houston recoup after Hurricane Harvey

October 9/16, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 9

 

The following is the 10th installment in a series highlighting the 14 distributors that constitute Bravo Services, a group comprising many of the top flooring wholesalers in the country. Here we focus on Reader’s Wholesale, based in Houston.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 9.58.35 AMReader’s Wholesale has been a fixture in Houston for eight decades, so when Hurricane Harvey wreaked havoc on southeastern Texas in late August—flooding large swaths of towns and rendering roads impassible—it was only natural for Reader’s and its employees to want to give back.

And it did—in a big way. “Since the beginning of September, Reader’s Wholesale and its top management have made charitable contributions totaling $275,000 and we expect that to rise to $350,000 by the end of the year,” said Lucky Burke, chairman and CEO. “We’ve been in business for 82 years; it is incumbent upon us to support the communities. There are very few companies that will see anything positive coming out of the devastation. However, floor covering will be one of them. We just want to do everything we possibly can to facilitate the recovery.”

In addition to the monetary contributions, Reader’s employees helped their neighbors and fellow Houstonians in a number of ways. One employee, in fact, spent two days on his boat rescuing people from rising floodwaters.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 9.58.29 AMAs a company Reader’s was extremely fortunate. Its building remained intact throughout the storm, and only one of its 90 employees suffered property damage. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, Reader’s worked closely with its suppliers and ordered extra inventory. The distributor also added space to an existing warehouse to accommodate the materials. “We are thankful to our suppliers who stepped up and worked with us,” Burke said. (One of them, Armstrong Flooring, donated $250,000 in flooring to the cause.)

Adam Burke, president, said business is back to normal for Reader’s, and revenue is ahead of schedule. “We already have a nice uptick in our volume for September based on what we are seeing. It appears there is a lot of action [out there] but we have not seen a real increase in business yet. We’ve seen some but the real rush of business will start in about a month. Based on the flooding events the increase in business could last one to two years from the end of this year.”

 

For more information on Reader’s Wholesale, call 713.224.8300 or visit readerswholesale.com. For more information on Bravo Services,
contact John Carney at 214.215.2880 or visit bravoservices.com.

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William M. Bird: A preferred partner for 152 years

The following feature is the eighth installment in a series highlighting the 14 distributors that constitute Bravo Services, a group comprising many of the top flooring wholesalers in the country. Here we focus on William M. Bird.

July 31/Aug. 7: Volume 31, Issue 4

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.41.53 AMHeadquartered in Charleston, S.C., William M. Bird has been delivering the goods since 1865. The company’s first product was whale oil, but soon expanded into paint, glass, and hardware supplies. In 1936, Bird began distributing Armstrong floor coverings and by the 1980s made flooring its single focus. Today, William M. Bird is one of the leading flooring distributors in the Southeast and mid-Atlantic with 10 branch locations in nine states.

One way the company strives to separate itself from competitors is through advanced online marketing and services. More than 50% of customers actively use WM Bird Online to place orders. “We also differentiate by the products we provide our customers,” said Maybank Hagood, CEO. “We purposefully partner with manufacturers Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.41.48 AMwho are aligned with our company’s vision, mission and core values.” Hagood believes the corporate values set them apart. He continued, “Our No. 1 value is ‘We care about each other.’   Our simple view is how will we ever care for our customers if we don’t start with caring for each other?”

Looking ahead, Bird is going through a transition phase. As Hagood explained, “Three years ago, more than 50% of our sales reps were within 10 years from retirement age. We need to work diligently to transition to the next generation. Consequently, we work closely with each associate to understand personal career goals and timing. With that in mind, we are hiring new associates, at the right time, to effectively pass the baton.”

Going above and beyond
From the time an order is placed to the point when it is delivered, Bird’s entire team is dedicated to going the extra mile. If it is past the delivery cut off, it is not uncommon for Bird’s sales reps to personally drive a sample or an order to ensure customers have what they need in a timely fashion. For example, when a hurricane barreled down on Charleston last fall, a team of customer service reps traveled to Atlanta to set up and take calls.

Nuts & Bolts
Geographic coverage: Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.
Brands: Armstrong Flooring, Aspecta, Azalea Lane, Bostik, Bruce, East Bay Supply Co., HomerWood, Johnsonite, Metroflor, Palmetto Road, Protect-All, Roberts, Roppe, Schönox, Stauf, Tarkett, Ultimate RB and XL Brands.

For more information on William M. Bird, call 843.744.8289 or visit wmbird.com. For more information on Bravo Services, contact John Carney at 214.215.2880 or visit bravoservices.com.

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Tingle Flooring: A mainstay in the Midwest

March 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 20

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.45.06 AMThe Moxley family has been managing the daily affairs of Tingle Flooring since the 1970s when Bill Tingle passed the torch to Bud Moxley, who joined the company two years after its founding. Bud managed the business until 1996, when Chip Moxley, Bud’s son, succeeded his father. Today, Chip and his daughter, Lauren Johnson, assist in managing the business alongside a seasoned executive team.

Tingle Flooring’s enduring legacy is built on customer service, and it takes great pride in offering same-day or next-day service to customers in Denver, Kansas City and St. Louis via local inventories as well as its central distribution center. Tingle trucks travel nearly 2 million miles a year and make over 15,000 local deliveries to independent retail and commercial flooring businesses located throughout America’s heartland.

In recent years, Tingle established a cadre of highly trained customer service personnel, a.k.a., the “Expeditors,” to satisfy those occasional orders that require a high level of handling. Any order that is flagged as an “expedited order” is followed, tracked, traced and accounted for by a dedicated individual assigned to the order. “The process requires a little bit of technology and a whole lot of diligence,” Chip Moxley explained. “The payback is better service to our customers.”

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.45.00 AMIn an age of Internet sellers and brokers that can determine the lowest price for any given product with a single key stroke, Tingle’s ability to forge long-term and sustainable customer relationships has kept it a mainstay wholesaler in the Midwest.

Going above and beyond
Through quick action Tingle literally saved a customer’s business from flooding damage during a natural disaster. Tingle personnel, aided by trucks and trailers, moved a customer’s showroom and warehouse before devastating floods arrived. While not a daily occurrence, Moxley said this example illustrates the commitment to customer service that defines Tingle.

Nuts & bolts
Geographic coverage: Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, southern Illinois and a small part of Kentucky—an area approximately 1,100 miles wide and 440 miles long with warehouses along Interstate I-70.

Brands: Armstrong, Bruce, Flexco, Shawmark, Bella Cera, Durock, Mer-Krete, Healthier Choice, Leggett & Platt, DriTac, Floormuffler, US Rubber. Tingle’s affiliated company, Summit Flooring Supply, provides flooring installation products as well as unfinished hardwood and pre-finished wood floors.

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FlorStar: Building a business based on service

February 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Number 18

The following feature is the second installment in a series highlighting the 14 distributors that constitute Bravo Services, a group comprising many of the top flooring wholesalers in the country. Here we focus on FlorStar Sales, whose origins are rooted in the 19th century.

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 9.26.29 AMFlorStar’s modern history began in May 1988 when Wade Cassidy, current owner and chairman, led a management buyout of the flooring division from Carson Pirie Scott & Co. The highly leveraged transaction was not lacking in risk—Cassidy and other managers put up their homes and provided personal guarantees to secure necessary financing. Fortunately, their entrepreneurial spirit, work ethic and support from vendors and customers allowed FlorStar to persevere.

FlorStar reflects its chairman’s humble origins. Cassidy grew up living over a chicken coop in rural Maryland and, as the oldest among his siblings, worked multiple jobs while attending school to help support his family.

In February 2005, the company moved to its current headquarters and main stocking warehouse located in Romeoville, Ill. In 2008, FlorStar entered the hardwood sundries and supplies business via acquisition and has continued building its presence in that space. Ownership consistently has embraced technology and reinvested in systems and its people. FlorStar was among the first in the industry to configure its warehouses with space-saving, narrow aisle racking and wire-guided turret vehicles. The firm’s long-tenured management team, averaging more than 20 years of FlorStar experience, is also relatively youthful with employees in their mid-40s on average.

“Wade’s fair and ethical treatment of customers, vendors and employees, as well as his constant reinvestment in the business, motivates folks to do business here, come here and stay here,” said Scott Rozmus, who was named CEO on Feb. 1.

Among the more significant challenges the flooring industry faces is the decline in the number of independent floor covering retailers and qualified installers. FlorStar addresses these challenges by, among other things, adopting policies and programs to support independent retail. Whether through flexible credit, just-in-time inventory services, technical support, training, participation in organizations or otherwise, FlorStar promotes and encourages the growth of healthy, independent retailers and highly qualified installers.

Going above & beyond
FlorStar has had sales professionals drive six hours to obtain and drop off additional material a dealer needed to complete a job… After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, when all the airports were shut down and no rental cars were available, the company gave someone who had been stranded a lift in one of its trucks (in the cab, not the van) so he could get to his home six hours away.

Nuts & bolts
Geographic coverage: All or part of 10 states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Brands: Armstrong, BASF, Bella Cera, Bruce, FlorStar Glass Mosaics, FlorStar Porcelain Naturals, From the Forest, Healthier Choice, Homerwood, Inhaus, Lauzon, Milliken, Mullican Flooring, Next Floor Carpet Tile, Qu-Cork, Sika, Sound Seal and VPI.

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FCNews to launch Bravo Group profile series

January 2/9, 2017: Volume 31, Number 15
By Ken Ryan

bravo-mapBeginning with the Jan. 16/23 issue, FCNews will kick off a special series highlighting each member of Bravo Services, LLC, a consortium of 14 master distributors.

Bravo Services, which made its official debut last fall (FCNews, Sept. 5, 2016), boasts sales and service capabilities spanning 50 U.S. states, 10 Canadian provinces and three territories. As a group it provides great financial and marketing clout, and the geographic swiftness to service flooring retailers across North America within 24 hours.

The group comprises some of the industry’s most successful distributors—including No. 1-ranked Haines. Together the group represents over $2 billion in annual sales of flooring and related supply products.

As a powerful network of distributors, Bravo has the wherewithal to attract the best manufacturers and, in turn, seek out the best products. “The fact that we are well capitalized allows us to search for suitable products, take the needed time and not rush to market,” said Allen Gage, president of Tri-West, Santa Fe Springs, Calif. “We give our customers the best of both worlds being locally centered with superior market knowledge, yet nimble enough to make changes quickly with a national influence.”

The true benefit to the retailer flows from the collaboration with Bravo members. “At times we will share inventory to preserve orders,” said Scott Rozmus, president of FlorStar Sales, Romeoville, Ill. “The formality of our organizational structure facilitates that. We continuously strive for excellence. We help each other get over the speed bumps.”

Collectively, Bravo's 14 distributors provide the capability to service most dealers in North America within 24 hours.
Collectively, Bravo’s 14 distributors provide the capability to service most dealers in North America within 24 hours.

The collaboration among Bravo distributors works on many levels, from brainstorming to sharing best practices as well as pooling financial resources. “Bravo is essentially 14 entrepreneurial organizations, fully autonomous yet operationally exceptional in their respective regions,” said Ed duDomaine, president of Schnier, Canada’s largest wholesaler. “We are able to share best practices, which in turn elevates our individual performance and sales/service capabilities.”

Bravo has nearly 250 suppliers in its portfolio. In a given week, there could be 20 to 30 new product demonstrations that the group shares amongst its 14 members. Bravo’s product committee looks for what it calls true strategic partnerships, which will add value throughout the chain.

John Sher, president of Adleta, said one of the hallmarks of Bravo distributors is they are well-capitalized experts in their local markets and as such carry larger-than-average inventories. “If we are out of something, we can access it from another Bravo distributor. We have also pooled our resources to invest in technology.”

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Interface forms strategic alliance with Bravo Group, main street commercial targeted

HICKSVILLE, N.Y.—Interface, the world’s largest manufacturer of modular carpet, has reached an agreement with the Bravo Group to distribute an exclusive collection of InterfaceFLOR carpet tile. The line is targeted toward the main street commercial segment.

The agreement is mutually beneficial. Interface furthers its reach to a new customer base with the benefit of having value- added service in local markets, and Bravo distributors, including many of the flooring industry’s best, gain entrée into one of flooring’s few growth categories, one which most currently do not offer.

Almost overnight, Interface not only solidifies national distribution for its modular carpet, but it does so with 13 of the largest flooring distributors in the country that offer warehouses, delivery fleets and professional sales forces. “Interface’s model in the past was limited distribution,” said Al Hurt, president of Mid-west distributor Ohio Valley Flooring. “The primary targets are end users and the A&D community. The focus we can offer to individual dealers with the Interface brand is an essential element. It’s something that adds value throughout the whole supply chain.” Continue reading Interface forms strategic alliance with Bravo Group, main street commercial targeted