October 29/November 5, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 10
By Reginald Tucker
Specialty hardwood flooring manufacturer Ribadao Wood Boutique has been quietly building its North American distribution network while simultaneously increasing its presence in the global market via high-profile retail and hospitality installations. Now the company has announced plans to expand its manufacturing footprint by investing in a new hardwood flooring production facility at its home base in Portugal.
The new facility (Plant #2), which occupies nearly six acres in Santa Comba Dao, Portugal, will be dedicated to the production of engineered flooring. At present, both solid and engineered wood flooring products are made in the existing factory (Plant #1). Upon completion, which is slated for May 2019, the new plant will have the capacity to produce 25 container loads—roughly 425,000 square feet—of engineered floors per week.
“It’s amazing,” said Bruce Hammer, Ribadao’s vice president of sales for North America. “The whole operation will be run and managed by a small, highly trained crew. Everything is automated, even the sorting and assembling of cartons for shipping.”
Ribadao’s latest plans follow investments the company has made in its manufacturing facilities and logistics operations over time. Several years ago, it invested in a new finishing line, expanding the covered area to 160,000 square feet. In that same time frame, Ribadao also opened distribution centers in Hillside, N.J., Miami and Los Angeles to better service its customers across North America.
In anticipation of the increased production capacity that’s expected to come online when the new plant is up and running, Ribadao expects to grow its warehouse operations accordingly.
“We’re looking at opening up a third warehouse, also on the East Coast. It will likely be in the Southeast, somewhere between New Jersey and Miami,” said Pedro Tavares, president and CEO. “From a logistics standpoint, it just makes sense for us to have something in between those two points that can serve the East Coast and also serve the middle of the country. We want to continue to keep bringing in inventory to supply distributors if they run short on product.”
Seizing the opportunity
As far as strategic initiatives go, Ribadao’s investment plans couldn’t come at a more opportune moment. Amidst the recent imposition of tariffs on imports from China, Ribadao is looking to leverage its European manufacturing base and diverse sourcing structure.
“This whole tariff situation presents an opportunity for our company,” Hammer told FCNews. “One of our main selling points has always been that the turnaround time out of Europe is better. For example, we can take a special order or container order and normally turn it around in six to eight weeks from the point of being issued to delivery. Our typical lead-time is a month and a half to two months; China is probably 90–120 days out. That’s almost half the time.”
Not only is the turnaround time substantially shorter, but Ribadao also claims it provides other advantages—namely product quality. “Even with some of the tariffs that are being imposed, the Chinese manufacturers do things really doggone cheap over there,” Hammer said. “But we believe we’re much more competitive by comparison.”
As a case in point, Tavares cites Ribadao’s ability to customize products that still allow its customers to turn high margins. “We can develop products to fulfill our customers’ specific needs. Engineered, solid, unique species, different finishes and surface textures, smooth, wire-brushed, distressed, handscraped—whatever they need, basically,” he said.
That’s where owning the plant makes the difference, Tavares explained. “Customers can talk directly with us because we are the mill. We are not just an importer or distributor; we are a true manufacturer.”
More importantly, Hammer noted, Ribadao is a manufacturer that doesn’t trade at the low end of the spectrum. “We’re not a commodity type of company,” Hammer said, citing floors the company has furnished for prestigious retail brands such as Chanel and Banana Republic stores.
More recently, Ribadao’s floors were specified for Sacoor Brothers, a high-end men’s clothing chain with locations in Portugal, Spain and Dubai. “We do mid to high-end work. It’s a more upscale, quality approach,” Hammer added.