Distributors Differentiate With Private Label Laminate

[Brittany Walsh]While brand name products play a large role in the laminate category, many distributors agreed that being able to private label products has given them an edge. And though distributors oftentimes rely on their partnerships with manufacturers for strength in marketing efforts as well as reliable names to back up performance, the ability to offer private labelled laminate to retail partners simply helps to differentiate their offering.

CMH Space Flooring, acquired last year by Haines, utilizes a strong portfolio of laminate brands. But, according to Art Layton, vice president of marketing for Haines/CMH, it is important to be able to offer the retailer something that a consumer can’t get elsewhere.

“Our Carolina Lifestyles laminate line is doing great and we expect a lot of product additions in the line for early 2015,” said Layton. “It’s currently only about a 30 SKU lineup, but what we’ve done is taken some top best-selling looks and offered it to be sold either under the name of Carolina Lifestyles or a private label of their choice. We’re launching some stuff that is absolutely gorgeous.”

Industry insiders agreed that for laminate, differentiation from other retail flooring locations, especially big box stores is critical. 

“We’ve carried some big brands in the past that have decided to focus on the big box business and now it’s the exclusive brand for them,” Layton explained. “It’s not that brands aren’t important, they definitely are, but there is a time where the retailer wants a product in his showroom that he knows is a good value, a good quality and with a name that can be exclusive to their store.”

When Ohio Valley Flooring got into the private label business, Jeff Garber, vice president of sales and marketing, said the company researched businesses like Walmart and Krogers. “They estimated their private label business to be about 20 percent of their total sales. And we said well if there’s about 20 percent of consumers that want only value and don’t care about brand, then they should still be buying from us. So we entered the private label business with that expectation and I’d say we’re not there yet but I think that’s a good goal, around the same as the national sellers,” Garber explained. 

Ohio Valley recently updated its Bella Cera portfolio of laminate products to offer its customers an alternative to major branded products. Garber said the key to private labeling laminate is to keep the SKUs down to a minimum and be particular about what is selling best.

“Retailers need to constantly be evaluating their shelves. If something isn’t selling and is just collecting dust, it is a waste,” he said. “We’re seeing private label grow again this year and it’s going to continue. But in the same breath, if the branded guys are doing the right thing, they’re growing also. We look to provide something that attracts the customer visually, is a good quality for a good value.” 

Rich Kearsley at Elias Wilf, however, said that the company stays away from making private labelled laminate a big part of their market strategy. He explained that laminate brands carry a better advantage than private labeling because of their strength in merchandising and their brand presence on the selling floor.

But Garber noted that with Bella Cera, the retailer has the benefit of knowing they can get these products very quickly and that they are of high quality. 

“All of it is built on that philosophy, and it seems to be doing well. I think more and more people are looking for a quality brand name product they can trust and an alternative brand they know will perform and for a good value. And that’s been a good strategy for us,” he said.

Source: www.floorcoveringweekly.com (published on 10th Nov 2014)