Beaulieu: Billion dollar business, small mill feel,

Home News Beaulieu: Billion dollar business, small mill feel,

Saratoga Springs, N.Y.— Beaulieu of America may only be the third largest carpet mill, but it is No. 1 in the hearts and minds of retailers with whom FCNews recently spoke. Many say because Beaulieu is smaller in scope than the “Big 2”—that is, if one can consider a $1 billion mill small—there is a flexibility and personal service component that those of a larger scale find hard to achieve.

This was evident in the comments made by retailers who attended Beaulieu’s Day at the Races here Aug. 16. A resounding theme centered on a company with the flexibility of a small mill, one that is among the easiest in the entire industry with which to do business.

Bob Taylor, president of Carpetmaster Carpet One in Latham, N.Y., suggested Beaulieu is a throwback. “With Beaulieu it’s like business in the old days. The company is more friendly. We are dealing with people instead of names. And it seems Beaulieu knows more about me and my business than the other flooring companies. When I go to a convention, they all know me and I know them. Other companies want to know just what’s on paper. But there’s a whole lot more to our business than that.”

Taylor admits some suppliers seem to want to make things as difficult as possible, like imposing restrictions on products. “Some may not be so available to us or not for the right price. Some have better programs for the big boxes where we can’t compete. Some have mandatory compliances as well as credit restrictions, whether it be time or dollar limits. We don’t run into any of that with Beaulieu.”

Taylor also believes Beaulieu goes out of its way to make him more successful. “It gives us exclusivity on certain products. It gives us the flexibility—marketing, making stock purchases, credit, price—all phases of the business. If you need something, like sampling, they are very responsive and act like they want to do business.”

Service is something on which Beaulieu has always prided itself, and these Northeast retailers attest to that. Take Main Street Floor Covering in Essex Junction, Vt. As co-owner Bruce Aiken recalls: “One time we had a particular order that didn’t make all the connections to get to us. Our rep, Shane Freebern, got a horse trailer, drove to New Jersey to get our carpet and delivered it. He is always there for us.”

It is this type of service that earned Beaulieu the Sherwin Williams Vendor of the Year award in 2009. “That’s a big deal,” said Jim Snell, district sales manager of Sherwin Williams Floor Covering. “It won the award because of its personalized service. Everyone responds to your needs. They make you feel like you’re part of the company. We are always looking for companies that want to partner with us as opposed to just sell us. The relationship between the two companies is what it’s all about. Without that, everything else is meaningless.”

As an example, Snell said Beaulieu is always willing to private label products for Sherwin Williams. “And if we need special pricing on large projects, they always come to the plate for us.”

It is this type of relationship that Jen Woodfield, sales and marketing, Floor Source, Clifton Park, N.Y., appreciates. “I have seen our Beaulieu rep in the store more times in the last six months than all the other reps combined. But the best thing is he comes in to make sure I have a good handle on what’s going on. He’s there to help my business, not just sell me.”

Service also comes into play for Christie Carpets in Rochester, N.Y., where owner Mark Leathersich was also singing the praises of the Beaulieu sales team. “I can call my rep from a job site where I’ve been invited to bid, and there is another carpet they are considering. I can give him the specs and find out what he has, check inventory, and I have an answer within 10 minutes. Other sales reps will call you back at the end of the day or the next day. We have been in business 27 years, and our Beaulieu rep is as good or better than any we have had over that time.”

That sentiment was echoed by Jeff Smith, owner of Schenectady Floor Covering Flooring America in Schenectady, N.Y. “We have a better relationship with our Beaulieu rep than the other mills’ reps. We see him more frequently. He does a better job service-wise. For example, a product was back ordered and the rep was able to make a phone call and get the back order date moved up for us.”

Steve Santagata, owner of American Carpet in Pasaic, N.J., tells a similar tale. “Someone called wanting to cover an indoor tennis court. I needed 10 rolls of carpet in one day, and I needed it really cheap. Beaulieu did both. I called other mills, and I can tell you I had the rolls secured before I even got a callback.”

Pricing flexibility

Retailers have confidence Beaulieu is always willing to work with them. “If you are working on a project and you need a certain product at the right price, they are eager to get it for you,” Carpetmaster’s Taylor said.

Schenectady’s Smith agreed. “If you have a commodity item and you need a certain price to get the job, Beaulieu will work with you. It’s not rocket science—buy low and sell high— and Beaulieu helps with the first part of that equation.”

American Carpet’s Santagata said the best thing is it’s never a fight. “If I need to be sharp on something, it’s there. It’s not a haggling job. I don’t have to play games.”

Exclusive product

Product is also something retailers find favor with. “They seem to have a good supply of high- value products,” Carpetmaster’s Taylor said. “Big, thick carpets customers like at the right price. That results in higher-margin opportunities for us.”

More specifically, retailers are validating Beaulieu’s Bliss platform targeted expressly toward women and innovations like Magic Fresh, whose odor-stifling attributes also resonate with the female consumer.

“The Bliss displays are user friendly and easy to sell from,” said Christie Carpets’ Leathersich. “Women like them because you can take a color home easily. Samples can fit in their purse. Products cover the entire spectrum. It’s also an easy name to remember.”

Floor Source’s Woodfield believes one of the best things about Magic Fresh is its attributes are demonstrable in-store. “A consumer can feel confident about the Magic Fresh challenge. It’s amazing. We show the consumer two cubes with a treated and untreated carpet. We dump ammonia on both. After 15 minutes, the untreated carpet smells like it did when you first poured ammonia. But you can barely smell the ammonia on the treated side. Those are results you can see immediately.”

Aside from striking a chord with the female consumer, retailers say it is the exclusivity of Magic Fresh that wins the day. “The salesperson can talk to the consumer about things she can understand,” Leathersich said. “Stains, cigarette smells, etc.” Sherwin Williams’ Snell said products featuring Magic Fresh provide its sales reps with a new angle. “Instead of a me-too, it creates conversation when the consumer walks in a store. Bottom line: Beaulieu is always looking for new angles and products to bring into the marketplace as opposed to the same-old-same-old.”

And it extends beyond retail. “It’s something that differentiates us when we walk into our property management accounts,” said Main Street Floor Covering’s Aiken. “When they see they can get another turn on their units, they see the value in it.”

Easy online access

While Beaulieu’s customer service facilitates a retailer’s business, another way it makes life easier is through its online tool, Access Beaulieu. The website contains price lists, every product line, order tracking and a help desk.

“I know exactly where every order is in the system,” Leathersich said. “I’m on it many times a day. I can get questions answered immediately vs. having to make phone calls and be put on hold.”

Woodfield believes Beaulieu is speaking her language with Access Beaulieu. “I’m part of that new generation that loves the Internet. Access Beaulieu is really easy to use. It encourages me to do everything online. I can see where stock is rather than make a phone call. It saves me time on everything.”

Carpet-only focus

Many dealers say aside from the people, a big competitive advantage for Beaulieu is that carpet is the only game in which it plays.

“They are very intuitive,” Leathersich said. “They are ahead of the game in new product lines, and new marketing. They are not worried about filling trucks with hardwood. By doing only one thing, they can do it as well or better than anyone else because their eye is on the ball.”

-Steve Feldman

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