Will Hunt, store manager at Wholesale Woodfloor Warehouse in San Diego, said Johnson Premium Hardwood is the rare supplier these days—one that can deliver distinctive high-quality products while providing uncommon sales support.
“You won’t find many like them,” Hunt said of Johnson Premium. “It has very saleable products that you have to see to appreciate and you get a level of support that, quite frankly, you just don’t see in the industry.”
Bill Schollmeyer, CEO of City of Industry, Calif.-based Johnson Premium Hardwood, said the company—and its marketing team which includes Johnny Xu—set out to be a market leader that adheres to product quality and service. “We were among the first to market handscraped products and other leading-edge offerings. Even in this ultra competitive market where a low price is often the determining factor in product development, we market several higher end, high fashion product lines. Our product quality has always been strong, and this is a result of our longstanding relationships with our retail partners.”
Asked why a flooring dealer should carry Johnson Premium Hardwood when there are so many choices, Schollmeyer admitted today’s dealers don’t have to choose Johnson…but, then again, “If I were a retailer, I would look for suppliers who offer a variety of products with the ability to choose the ones that complement my business—like Johnson. Aside from attractive products and competitive prices, I would choose suppliers who understand the market, and are easy to work with. I would choose those who have local sales representatives to help support my business. Johnson offers all of this to a retailer.”
Taking the high-end road at Wholesale Woodfloor, Johnson Hardwood is the highest-end line in the showroom, and for good reason. “Johnson is strong on inventory and its engineered and solids are high quality at a reasonable price,” Hunt said. “It has a very good name (brand) and is very well known in the San Diego market, and it occupies a dominant position with us.”
Harvey Johnson, owner of MasterCraft Flooring Distributors in Miami, said Johnson has always provided a high-end line without the high-end cost. “Quality wise we can compare the Johnson line to the best-of-the-best, and we will always match up, or look better. The finish on its products is as good as any in the industry, and the high gloss products have been flawless. We hold our head high when presenting the Johnson products, and our customers feel the same.”
Both Hunt and Johnson spoke glowingly about the quality of the wood supplier’s wear layer. Hunt said the stains and color of the luster on the finish stand out among other samples in his showroom. “Stains that are not done properly can turn ugly. Some lines lack a real luster. You can see it. Johnson’s really stands out. Johnson’s finish is the highest quality. The overall appearance of the product really makes a statement.”
Harvey Johnson added, “In all our Johnson Premium high gloss items the wear layer has always been 3mm and the consumer can see the quality.”
Hunt said Johnson Premium’s sales support is unparalleled in the industry. “The rep comes into my showroom a lot, and he comes in to set up my rack or restock. He’s always here. That’s how the company operates. They work with you.”
Patriot Flooring Supply has serviced the Johnson product line for four years throughout the Northeast—from Pennsylvania to Maine. The distributor carries exotics as well as standard and strand bamboo, and the engineered ForeverTuff line.
“Our business needs have grown to the point where we felt we needed to invest in East Coast inventory,” said John Salvador, Johnson’s product, marketing and global purchasing manager. After considering the expense and the opportunity the company made the commitment. “Patriot has grown our business every year despite the economy; 2011 is on pace to be the best year we have had with it.”
Johnson Premium Hardwood may be a relatively new company in the U.S. flooring market (it was founded in 1999), but several of its key people have 20-plus years of industry experience. “Because of our experience, we’re able to recognize trends as they develop,” Schollmeyer said. “As we saw the solid exotic business in China beginning to have supply/quality issues two years ago, we began a transition to producing these products in South America. The result was a better grade of material, more consistent supply, and a longer length product than typically found in China.”
For Johnson Premium Hardwood, its signature ForeverTuff line continues to grow, and its higher fashion, hand-textured products do well also. MasterCraft carries what Johnson calls “the high gloss series,” specifically 9⁄16 x 5-inch and 3-3⁄4-inch-wide Brazilian cherry, Brazilian oak, Brazilian walnut, Patagonian Rosewood ruby, and Burgundy and Santos Mahogany. “This series has been a strong seller for several years, and still performs very well.”
Three years ago Johnson sold exclusively through distributors and saw no reason to change. But after its top Texas distributor, Hoboken, suddenly closed its offices, Johnson decided it would be prudent to sell direct in the Texas/Louisiana region.
The wood company has since expanded its direct-to-dealer efforts to its home state of California, and an area that encompasses western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and parts of Kentucky. “Rather than go to a different distributor in each of the areas we wanted to chart our own course, we wanted more control,”
Schollmeyer said, “It’s not an easy thing to do. [Going direct] is a lot more involved, a lot more costly than people think—to do it the right way at least.”
Still, Schollmeyer explained the company’s current direct-to-dealer efforts are proving to be a strong model. “If you are going to go more direct you need to have sales reps in the field. We also enjoy great relationships with several distributors and are focused on growing those relationships and sales volumes.”
Patriot’s Salvador said it has a great working relationship with Johnson, one “that is built on communication and trust. We keep the lines of communication open and work together to create solutions and sales opportunities.”
Johnson Premium Hardwood has recently added three sales reps recently—at a time when many others are cutting back.
Schollmeyer maintains that investing in personnel is a good thing. “I’m not sure we’ve outpaced the competition, because like many, we’re all struggling to simply remain profitable. But we’ve kept the momentum going by investing in growth. We truly have one of the strongest, most professional, and most motivated sales forces out there, and we value their efforts every day in representing Johnson in the best way possible. This is our key to long term success.”