Quality control, exceptional source product are winning pair
Nov. 4/11 2013; Volume 27/number 14
By Ken Ryan
Hicksville, N.Y.—Ian Newton has been doing business with Elegance Exotic Hardwood Flooring for eight years. His four Flooring 101 stores in Ventura County carry Elegance’s full range of SKUs, including what he calls the “drop-dead gorgeous” maple line.
While Newton said the Elegance quality is “great” and the price is right, what sets the company apart in his mind is the incidence of claims with Elegance Exotics—or lack thereof.
“Zero claims,” he said, then repeated, “Zero claims on a beautiful wood floor for eight years — that is huge.”
Lukasz Piatek, vice president of sales for Elegance, agreed that the manufacturer and Flooring 101 have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship, noting the subject of claims. “We have done an amazing amount of business with them with no claims,” he said. “We understand that our business is only as strong as our relationships.”
Elegance has an equally strong relationship with The Floor Store, a six-store retailer in Northern California that was named Mohawk’s North American dealer of the year in 2013. Owner Larry Flick said they have grown with Elegance over the years. “We have stocked Elegance for seven years, and they have become our No. 1 wood flooring supplier. They have earned that position.”
Similar to Newton’s experiences, Flick believes The Floor Store has had virtually no issues with claims. “This is no joke…Elegance’s quality control and stock level is the best in the U.S. and Canada of all the wood suppliers, and I have dealt with all the biggies.”
In a hardwood flooring market that Piatek calls “oversaturated,” Elegance believes it offers retailers advantages that no other importer can duplicate. While other Chinese importers are forced to source, Rob Hoffman, executive vice president of sales and marketing, said,” at Elegance we control our destiny.”
Elegance’s parent company purchased a forest in South Africa that will supply wood for the next 50 years. In addition, the company is building a new factory in China that will add 5,000 containers annually. “No one I know of has the capacity we have,” Hoffman said. “We have a 1 million-square-foot warehouse in California and warehousing in Greensboro, N.C.”
Piatek said Elegance’s business has grown for 11 consecutive years, and is continuing to expand its offering of products. “We’re trying to create separation in the marketplace,” he said. “We will double the business this year. We have a commitment to growing but we’re doing it the right way. The key attribute we have is attitude; we think sales and marketing, not dollars and cents.”
Elegance offers a range of solids—natural and stained—and a well-rounded line of engineered products, both smooth and hand scraped, as well as engineered exotics.
“Although ‘value’ is a term that is grossly overused in our industry, we offer premium products at aggressive prices,” Piatek explained. “The products in the market that match our specifications are priced higher. The products that are priced in the same range as ours are ‘cheaper’ products. End users get more for their money with Elegance.
While the company may not be as well-known as others within the category, Elegance is confident in its business thanks to genuine core values.
“We are not Coca-Cola, we are not on every corner,” Piatek said. “We form long-lasting partnerships with our key retailers in each region and then protect them so they feel confident in supporting Elegance. We believe support is a two-way street. If a major retailer is pushing our line, protecting them only strengthens the relationship. In the end we win together.”
Flooring 101’s Newton said the challenge his stores face is keeping Elegance products in stock. “We are having trouble keeping inventory because the product is selling like hotcakes,” he said. “They have a high-end imported product at a very competitive price. It is a winning combination for us.”
There are many benefits to being an Elegance retailer, Piatek said, starting with the fact Elegance is well funded, quickly growing, has a long-term outlook and is fiercely loyal.
“We’ve stayed loyal to our supporters regardless of economic conditions in the marketplace,” he said. “As a result we have the support of many of the largest retailers nationwide, which has allowed us to grow our business each year for the past 11 years. We will continue to expand in new regions nationwide by staying consistent with our current business model, which is based on the value of our products and integrity of our people.”
Nationwide Elegance sells directly to major retailers, while Wanke Cascade is its distributor in the Northwest. Piatek noted the company’s objective is to strengthen existing relationships and develop partnerships with major retailers in untapped regions nationwide.
“Now that [Elegance is] part of the National Floorcovering Alliance, it is even better,” Newton concluded.