September 11/18, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 7
By Reginald Tucker
First-time visitors to the Hemisphere Imports booth space at the recent CCA Global Partners convention (FCNews, Aug. 14/21) found out firsthand what all the fuss was about. The focus was on a unique species called kupay, a durable, dense hardwood sourced from Paraguay. While it might not be easy to pronounce (it’s also known by its genus name, “copaifera”), the allure is crystal clear.
“It’s a unique species with a look and coloration you cannot get in China,” said Hemisphere Imports president Tom Karol. “It provides an opportunity to sell the features and benefits of the product and sell up instead of down. It’s the only product in Paraguay that’s FSC certified, and it has this unique look and is very durable.”
The primary goal, according to Karol, is to bring innovation and unique styling to the market while giving retailers a chance to make more money. With a suggested MSRP range of $5.49-$6 per square foot, the line targets what Karol calls the “high middle” of the market. “Most of the good retailers are at about $6.99 so we’re right in that nice sweet spot of a product that has all the bells and whistles. It’s not an entry-level product, but it’s definitely mainstream.”
So what kind of margin can retailers make on this line? “Above average, profits,” Karol said. “We’re giving retailers something they can trade up, but not a big step up. Consumers will spend the extra money, if they like what they see.”
Beyond attractive price points and aesthetics, another attribute of the kupay species is its rigidity. On the Janka scale, it’s nearly as hard as hickory (1500) and it’s also very dense. According to Hemisphere Imports, this species stays very stable in both dry and moist environments—a trademark of many tropical species from that part of the world.
“I wouldn’t say it’s bulletproof, but for wood it’s pretty darn close,” said industry veteran Don Finkell, who co-founded the company along with Karol. Interestingly, the species made its debut years ago in one of the collections offered by Anderson Hardwood Floors—a company Finkell ran for many years. “We’ve called it different things—i.e., Spanish hickory, Patagonian pecan—and now that the Lacey Act has come on, we just call it what it is, kupay.”
To further strengthen the product, Hemisphere Imports employs eucalyptus—which is itself as hard as oak—as the core material. According to Finkell, this makes an already stable product even sturdier.
A rare find
Finkell and his team at Anderson came across kupay when it began researching species that would not only excite U.S. consumers but also offer an alternative to products that were linked to excessive harvesting in that part of the world. While it generated some interest in the early 2000s, he said it really took off when a hand-scraping texture was applied. “It was Anderson’s biggest seller at the time,” he recalled.
Fast forward to today, Hemisphere Imports believes kupay, perhaps no longer the best kept secret, may be poised for a resurgence. “No one else is selling this species, not that I’m aware, and that’s key to our distributors,” Karol said.
Abraham Linc, based in Bridgeport, W. Va., is a believer. Earlier this year the distributor rolled out the Canyon collection from Hemisphere Imports, and the reaction from retailers was swift. “It has 10 fantastic colors and great visuals that are not me-too looking products,” said Terry Warne, vice president. “The response among our customers who have seen it has been really good.”