Feb. 17/24 2014, Volume 27/number 21
By Ken Ryan
Nature Flooring isn’t new to the U.S. market, having sold through distribution for the past seven years. However, in many respects, Surfaces 2014 represented a coming out party for an international hardwood flooring company that boasts new executives, sales reps and customers.
Founded in 1995, Nature Home Co. (Nature Flooring in the U.S.) is a world leader with international brand recognition. It is part of China Flooring Holdings Co., a publicly traded company on the Hong Kong exchange backed by Morgan Stanley and HSBC.
Nature Flooring’s corporate values are focused on social responsibility (it plants a tree every time one of its floors is sold) and the production and delivery of first-class flooring, according to board chairman Se Hok Pan, who met with FCNews at Surfaces.
The company is looking to make a big splash in the U.S. market. To that end, in 2013 it hired Scott Nebenzahl as its national marketing manager and George Tammany as its national sales director/international business development. Their task is to drive the Nature Flooring brand in the U.S. through strong distribution partners.
At Surfaces, Nature Flooring displayed its new products on the main floor, including its French Oak collection and held meetings in a room upstairs. “Surfaces was an amazing show for us on multiple levels,” Nebenzahl said. “We had numerous goals achieved. We wanted to emphasize our international leadership in flooring as a company that is involved in literally the acquisition of the forest to the delivery to the customer. All the benefits we provide assure a quality, reliable, value-oriented product in the market.”
Nebenzahl said the company was able to “create some synergy” and develop new relationships at the show. “It was a great way to come out of the chute for the new year.”
Nature Flooring met with distributors to outline its plans to expand significantly in the U.S. It has added sales reps in all the major geographic regions and will soon announce new distributors joining its ranks.
“We’re like the 800-pound gorilla in the room,” Tammany said. “The message we are trying to get across is this: Yes, we have a current base, and we want to be the global company that hires U.S. citizens and those abroad. We are adding new salespeople and new distributors as we go.”
Derr Flooring, one of the top 10 U.S. distributors for hardwood flooring, has been a Nature Flooring customer for seven years. Derr carries three of Nature’s lines, including a ¾-inch solid and an engineered exotic with a distressed finish.
“The exotic product is nice because—honestly, for us—they have very aggressive pricing and their inventory levels have been very good,” said Rick Holden, COO at Derr Flooring. “Nature Flooring is a large corporation, and the company is committed to having backup inventory in case we miscalculate things.”
Holden said the engineered product complements the solid and provides greater options for dealers. The engineered selection is available in handscraped and click, as well as glued, stapled or floated.
While many hardwood-flooring companies left exotics when the recession hit, Holden said, Nature Flooring stayed the course. “Because they remained committed to the market, they were able to keep consistency with the product, which is pretty important to us. We appreciated that.”
Nature buys raw materials in the U.S. for its red oak flooring and, in some cases, ships to China where it is manufactured. “The Chinese think red oak is beautiful,” Nebenzahl said.
Owning the forest
Nature Flooring owns forests in France and Peru, which Nebenzahl said allows it to control its destiny. “Owning the forest gives us certain strengths. We can keep track of every piece of wood we have. As we grow larger we will be more beneficial for current and future wholesalers. We can assure a quality, reliable, value-oriented product goes to market. We can produce a product for anyone in anybody’s market, and that is what makes us exciting.”
The company’s portfolio includes unfinished engineered and solid hardwood, exotic engineered and laminate, and its breadth of offerings is what appeals to distributors. “I don’t want to say we have one popular product because the market changes,” Tammany said.
Nature’s Pacific Mahogany collection is hand selected from premium trees in the company’s own concession. It oversees the entire logging and production process to ensure white and red oak finished products are of the highest quality.
While company executives said it received strong orders at Surfaces, it is “what is on the horizon” that will bring about the evolution and growth that Nature Flooring expects.
“We want to exponentially grow our business in the U.S. market,” Nebenzahl said. “A committed Nature with the resources and balance and depth we have will be a major force in the market.”