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Quality Craft welcomes next level in leadership

Vancouver, Canada—Quality Craft, an innovative building products company focused on surfaces and storage, announces the appointment of Dennis Hale as its new president. Bringing more than 20 years of experience in the hardware and tool category, Hale assumes this key leadership role, effective immediately, with a focused eye towards product development and growth in category leadership and market share.

Quality Craft comes from a rich heritage of product development in tool storage and flooring and has enjoyed success in being first to market with innovative idea, adapting to new technology and responding to incoming trends. Hale’s appointment as president will take this leadership to the next level by applying more rigid process and procedure to product development so that customers can expect a new cadence of product introductions.

Hale joins the Quality Craft team having most recently been vice president sales/marketing for Belwith Products LLC, where he was a senior sales and leadership executive for this global manufacturer of decorative hardware, door security and home automation products. Prior to this role, Hale was vice president sales, Hardware, Farm, Industrial and Special Markets for Alltrade Tools LLC. His long-standing career and experience in the tool industry also stems from key leadership roles at Swanson Tool Co.

“Dennis brings a wealth of proven leadership capability coupled with defined expertise in our specific product category,” said John Brice, CEO. “We look forward to seeing his influence in ramping up our product development machine and his focused efforts towards growth in Quality Craft’s share of the market and evolving product offerings.”

Quality Craft’s prior president, Barry Retchloff, remains committed to the success of the business. While enjoying retirement and time with his family, he will remain a dedicated shareholder and member of the board of directors.

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Bentley Mills adjusts senior leadership

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 11.29.14 AMLos Angeles—Bentley Mills, a division of the Balta Group, has made several changes at the top of its organization. Ralph Grogan is leaving his post as president, returning permanently to the east coast for personal reasons. Jim Harley, a seasoned industry executive who rejoined Bentley nearly five years ago as chief operating officer, will take the helm as president. Richard French, a proven leader in commercial carpet sales, will move into a newly created role as vice president of sales.

“Bentley is the strong, resilient, competitive company it is today because of Ralph and Jim’s joint leadership,” said Tom Debusschere, chief executive officer of Balta Group, the Belgium-based manufacturer of textile floor coverings that acquired Bentley earlier this year. “We are thankful for his vision, strategy and commitment to our brands. Jim is the perfect person to continue the momentum and lead Bentley into its next chapter.”

Harley has earned a distinguished reputation in the floor covering industry. He started his career with Bentley more than 30 years ago as part of the management team that built the company from a small start-up carpet manufacturer in 1980 into a brand widely recognized for its innovative design, high-quality products and excellence in customer service. He returned to Bentley in 2013 after spending eight years in executive roles at Tandus Centiva (now part of Tarkett), Monterey Carpets and Chroma Systems.

“I’ve spent 20 years of my career at Bentley and have never been more excited about the future,” Harley said. “We have an extraordinary group of people, and I look forward to working with them as Bentley continues to grow.”

To further bolster Bentley’s growth trajectory and meet the demands of a dynamic market, the company has created a new position to oversee its sales strategy. French takes on the role following more than 21 years at Interface, where he served as its vice president of sales for the Americas. French brings experience in exporting to Latin America and developing national accounts across North America, where for Bentley now has a competitive mid-market positioned product in Modulyss.

Grogan, who came back to Bentley in 2013 with the responsibility for reinvigorating the brand and cementing its competitive position in the marketplace, explained, “The decision to leave Bentley is bittersweet, but personally it’s the right move for me and my family. Jim has played a critical role in Bentley’s success over the last four-plus years. There’s no one better for the job.”

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NAFCD releases 2017 Q2 Quarterly Sales Trends results

Screen Shot 2017-06-20 at 3.39.10 PMChicago—The 2017 NAFCD Quarterly Sales Trends Report, a benchmarking and forecasting tool based on member data submission, provides NAFCD members with invaluable data and insights on near term and regional demand trends, sales forecasts and business management. Highlights from the report showed Q1 2017 sales growth was up for both distributors and manufacturers, 2% and 3%, respectively.

Distributors performance versus forecast varied considerably, with only 34% of distributors surpassing the forecast. The Midwest region saw the strongest growth trends at up 5% and online business is now 3% of the sales mix, with online penetration expected to increase four times over the next five years.

Manufacturers saw demand trends decelerated through the month. The Q2 forecast indicates 4% growth and raw materials cost inflation is now forecasted up 2.7%.

Learn more about all NAFCD member benefits including other reports and research at

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Starnet conference marks ‘silver’ milestone

May 8/15, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 24

By Reginald Tucker


Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.31.12 AMCarlsbad, Calif.—Starnet kicked off its 25th anniversary conference in a big way earlier this month, drawing a record number of members and manufacturer reps alike. The event also marked a key turning point in the evolution of the organization.

“We have more than 700 people here—that’s the most we’ve ever had,” said Jeanne Matson, president and CEO. “The mills and vendors are bringing more people than they used to. And our members are bringing more people, which is the byproduct of a good, strong economy.”

Not only are more people coming to Starnet, but the mix of attendee profiles is shifting. “We’re seeing more regional vice presidents here and more local people, which is really good because we’re getting the message down to the street on how critical the relationship is between the Starnet member and our vendor partners,” said Leah Ledoux, director of strategic accounts.

Indeed, Starnet members have evolved over time, right along with the overall industry. Matson, who has been with Starnet for 10 years, said the group has seen a lot of change over the past quarter century. “I think we are more sophisticated as a group, and the members are doing their businesses in a more technology-based way than they did in the past. The challenges with evolving flooring materials and what that means in terms of installation is changing and causing them to be smarter.”

At the same time, the more things change some lingering issues remain. “Labor continues to be an issue—the members can’t seem to find enough good installers,” Matson said. “But that’s one of the areas where Starnet can really provide assistance.”

For instance, Starnet strives to help members connect with one another. This is not only for the purpose of networking but also problem solving. Matson cited an example where one member, Jeff Lasher (The Rouse Co.), was able to help another member who had an issue with wood and humidity.

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.31.33 AMStarnet is also working to better serve its members by developing strong educational programs. Members got a glimpse of that objective via the sessions offered at the conference. “We really try to gear the education to some of the issues such as resolving family leadership issues, profitability issues and running a business, because a lot of our members started out on the installation side,” Matson said. “These seminars help them focus on the day-to-day business issues.”

Starnet’s work doesn’t end there. The group’s leadership also works closely with vendors to ensure success for suppliers and contractor members alike. (The price of admission in the group is at least $5 million as members are expected to meet a certain purchasing threshold.) “Our vendor partners are important to us,” Matson said. “We work hard to make sure they are getting value from this group, so there’s more of an emphasis on partnerships.”

While the market shift to hard surface hasn’t necessarily changed Starnet’s vendor lineup, it has changed its purchasing strategies. As Matson explained: “The carpet tile sector was up slightly last year, but broadloom was down. Hard surface continues to be strong, especially ceramic. Many members were not in ceramic 10 years ago, and a lot more are doing it now. LVT is strong as well. End users are demanding one-stop shopping.”

Equally important is the focus on programs, especially as it pertains to cleaning and maintenance, and strategic accounts. “We now have 40 companies in cleaning and maintenance,” Ledoux said. That’s up significantly from 10 years ago. “We have a national network so we can do national accounts now. It’s a profitable business for our members.”

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.31.21 AMHaving the ability to do turnkey services and installation and then floor care, Ledoux said, gets Starnet members “in the door. We have 100 points where we can service the customer. A lot of clients don’t want to have subcontractors come in who don’t work for them. With our members we have the ability to do that in terms of both installation and floor care. It’s a strong point with end users.”

Key drivers
Starnet leadership cited several key end-use sectors that are driving the business. Healthcare continues to top the list, especially on the assisted-living side. Meanwhile, education has stayed pretty strong. Hospitality, which entails a lot of direct selling, has also grown; corporate has been pretty solid.
“We try to drive specifications through our vendor partners in corporate applications,” Ledoux explained. (Members collectively generate more than $3 billion in sales.) “That’s been a consistent segment for us.”

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 9.31.27 AMMany contractor members are reaping the rewards. “We’re in the fortunate position that we’ve had to turn down work,” said Randy Rubenstein, president of the Seattle-based contracting firm that bears his name. “We have more jobs than we can handle. Corporate clients are hiring; Amazon brought in all these workers to the city, and as a result multi-family construction is up. We’ve been getting a lot of that work.”

In keeping with the overall market shift to hard surfaces, Rubenstein’s mix is changing accordingly. “We do a lot of work with terrazzo and LVT,” he said. “In many other commodity categories we find we just compete with our vendors. There’s better margin in terrazzo; it’s just the material and epoxy and we do it on the job site. It has been very profitable for us.”

Mill partners are prospering as well. “Our first quarter was up by single digits, and multifamily is strong,” said Russell Grizzle, president and CEO, Mannington Mills. “The shift from soft surface to hard surface is just unbelievable.”

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NALFA introduces new leadership

Screen Shot 2017-01-27 at 9.58.40 AMWashington D.C.—The North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) has announced a new leadership structure for the 20-year-old association.

NALFA’s board of directors recently called a meeting to discuss the association’s future and direction following the passing of industry pioneer Bill Dearing, who served as president of NALFA since its founding in 1997.

The new leadership team is as follows.

  • Dan Natkin, president: Natkin is the vice president of hardwood and laminate at Mannington. Dan has served NALFA’s board for seven years.
  • Roger Farabee, vice president: Farabee is the senior vice president of laminate and hardwood for Mohawk North American Flooring division and has been with the company for 22 years. He has served on NALFA’s board for 10 years.
  • Barbara Ellenberg June, CFO: June serves as general counsel and public relations for Swiss Krono USA; she has been with the company since 2012, having previously served as outside counsel since 2004. She has served NALFA for four years.
  • Travis Bass, marketing committee chair: Bass is executive vice president of sales and marketing for Swiss Krono, a position he has held since 2000. He has served NALFA for four years.
  • Jean Briere, technical committee chair: Briere is the hard surface innovation director at Shaw Industries Group, a company he has been with since 2001. He has served NALFA for 20 years.
  • Dennis Bradway, technical committee vice chair: Bradway is the corporate product and standards manager at Mannington Mills. He has been with Mannington Mills since 1982. Bradway has served NALFA for 18 years.

“Bill Dearing was the driving force behind NALFA’s success since its inception,” Natkin said. “Not only does the new leadership have big shoes to fill, we have to ensure our members are well positioned and laminate flooring continues its growth trajectory in an ever-changing marketplace. The leadership team’s passion and knowledge of the industry is unmatched. It’s a great team to be part of.”

Founded in 1997, NALFA united laminate flooring manufacturers to develop and implement an ANSI-accredited certification of laminate flooring products and underlayment, as well as to promote the continuous and responsible growth of the laminate flooring industry.