By Steven Feldman
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 Midwest 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.”
Bob Hart, president of Bravo Services, called Interface and Bravo, “a great fit. Matching the best modular carpet manufacturer with the best flooring distribution will benefit everyone. Our institutional, corporate and retail accounts will applaud this alliance.”
Steve Arbaugh, vice president of marketing, brand alignment and experience for Interface Americas, believes this strategic alliance will open a number of opportunities for the company. “This is a new channel of distribution for us. We already sell to a number of segments, such as A&D, government, retail and hospitality. This gives us the opportunity to expand our reach into Main Street commercial in a major way.”
Arbaugh noted that aligning with the Bravo Group is a perfect match. “From our perspective they are a consortium of major players that come together to leverage brands and build categories, and they don’t trip over each other’s territories. For us that provides a winning solution.”
Making the partnership even more attractive is that the modular tiles Bravo will be marketing is an exclusive collection. Created by David Oakey of David Oakey Designs, the line will include 10 styles in more than 50 colorways. All products will be commercially rated and include post-consumer recycled content.
The collection will include styles with InterfaceFLOR’s patented Convert Design Platform, which recently was awarded the industry’s first Environmental Product Declaration (EDP). It also reflects InterfaceFLOR’s commitment to Mission Zero—a promise to eliminate any negative impact on the environment by 2020. “We’re already 60% of the way toward zero environmental footprint,” said John Bradford, InterfaceFLOR’s chief innovations officer.
Distributors with whom FCNews spoke are excited. For one, Keith Slobodien, president of New York metro area Apollo Distributing, referred to the program as one of best. “It is inspired by Interface’s best selling colors and designs. It is almost as though it’s a greatest hits package.”
Hurt was also excited about the styling, but said that is just the beginning. “Modular flooring is one category on the carpet side that has been growing over the last few years because it offers benefits when compared to traditional broadloom. And the Interface story, because of its ecologically responsible commitment, makes this even more special.”
As proof of the category’s growth, Interface reported that its modular carpet segment was up 9.9% in the first quarter over the same period in 2009. Net sales in the Americas grew at a healthy 9%.
John Wells, president and CEO of Interface Americas, believes the growth is attributed in large part to a format “that makes sense.” He particularly cited innovations such as the company’s TacTiles, a glueless adhesive system that creates a floating floor.
But this is not just about product. The program entails going into showrooms and helping retailers set up a Main Street business. With that in mind, a retail merchandising display has been designed. “It will also be attractive to consumers who may want that grade of product in their home,” Slobodien said, adding the opportunity goes beyond retailers. “This program will also allow us to go after the small, individual contractors who today may not have a relationship with Interface or have access to the Interface brand.”
Given that the carpet tile category is new to many of the Bravo distributors as well as their retail customers, there will be a training component to the program. “We will be training the Bravo sales force and making joint sales calls,” Arbaugh said. “We are there to support them just as they are there to support us.”
Hurt acknowledged the learning curve. “We will take this to our specialty retailers; some will require more training than others. But we have a full-time instructor and this will become part of his training.”
Slobodien added that while training will be a joint effort between Interface and the Bravo distributors, “We will take the lead because we have the relationships with retailers today.”
As for a timeline, the Bravo network can start selling and promoting InterfaceFLOR between the second and third quarters with the expectation they will be delivering the merchandising and samples within 45 days.