March 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 20
By Reginald Tucker
In a sea of European oak, wide-plank/long length sameness, Ribadao Wood Boutique is looking to set itself apart from the pack. The key, according to the company, lies in targeting the mid-to-high-end tier of the market with visuals, profiles and product formats consumers and commercial end users won’t find among the bevy of commodity offerings currently flooding the market.
Utilizing its expertise in raw materials sourcing (the company has long maintained manufacturing and finishing facilities in Portugal), Ribadao focuses on various exotic species from South America and Africa as well as wide-plank European oaks planks. Once a private-label supplier to major importers as well as manufacturers based in the U.S., the company is focusing on driving awareness of its own brand by leveraging its manufacturing capabilities and history.
“The company has been producing hardwood flooring for a long time—just not under its own brand,” said Bruce Hammer, vice president of sales, Ribadao Wood Boutique. “The company was founded in 1976 by the father of current president and CEO Pedro Tavares. His dad began trading African lumber and commodities and then started making flooring and other products. The company quickly became a global leader in the production of exotic flooring, lumber and decking, supplying several OEM and private-label programs to some of the leading brands and U.S. manufacturers in the industry. Now it’s looking at being a branded manufacturer in America.”
Ribadao’s go-to-market strategy in the U.S. market will entail, essentially, a dual-distribution approach, according to Hammer (formerly of Elof Hansson), who teamed up with Tavares several years ago while they were developing new collections for the American market. “We are going with distribution in certain markets, and we will go it alone in other territories,” he explained. “We have a mixed bag of products that bring value and selection to our customer base.”
But don’t expect to find your run-of-the-mill, entry-level hardwood flooring options among those offerings. “We’re still very bullish on exotics, although it’s just one line that we offer,” Hammer explained. “It’s true the U.S. market is nowhere near what it was for exotics about 10 years ago, but that doesn’t mean there’s no opportunity for us.”
The company’s signature offerings include the Exotics Skins line and its Rio collection. Ribadao is also working on an engineered exotics line and—in a limited number of SKUs—engineered birch. Outside of exotics, Ribadao also offers European oak wide planks, some as broad as 10 inches wide in a ¾-inch format with a 4mm wear layer. “There are a lot of companies out there today offering 7½-inch European oak planks, but there’s a limited number of suppliers that can do the wider widths and longer lengths,” Hammer explained.
Priced for profit
For retailers, Ribadao strives to offer products that will command a higher price point at retail and, more importantly, higher margins for dealers. Take the company’s Exotics collection, for example. Considered a “medium- to high- priced” offering, the line opens at roughly $5 per square foot for certain grades and moves all the way up to $14 for some species.
Outside of retail, Ribadao has also been successful marketing to the commercial sector. According to Hammer, 30,000 square feet of the company’s products were installed at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City, and the company also has a contract to supply Chanel stores globally.
“High-profile installations are a feather in our cap,” Hammer said. “But we also know that to get good turns out of inventory we have to have products sold through retail that’s not just an A&D spec.”