By Reginald Tucker
There are manufacturers that would love nothing more than to sell a large volume of products—and then there are those suppliers who just want to provide their retail partners with products they love to sell. Calgary, Canada-based Opus Floors, which supplies a host of innovative hard surface products, falls in the latter category.
“I’m in the flooring business over 25 years because I love flooring—not because I have to do it,” said Opus Floors owner, Vern Verkley. “When Opus Floors started eight years ago, it wasn’t just about making money. I started the journey to produce superior quality engineered hardwood and other types of flooring to my own specifications, something I would love to put in my own home. Obviously, the goal of any business is to turn a profit, but the more important goal was to start to build something I could enjoy with people I enjoy working with, and to ultimately bring products to market that customers will enjoy.”
That’s precisely what Verkley said he intends to accomplish as he looks to extend the Opus Floors brand to the U.S. market this year. The focus of the initial product launch will hinge on the company’s newly launched Green Flow program—a collection of environmentally-friendly cork flooring products designed to entice consumers, retailers, architects and designers looking for something out of the ordinary.
“Cork is going to be our springboard for going into the U.S. market,” Verkley said. “Most visuals currently available in cork resemble the natural cork look. With our ultra-high-resolution digital print program, we can offer retailers everything from wood visuals to concrete looks to natural mosaic patterns. But the best part is that the digital technology used in producing the visuals for the product offers fewer repeats in the patterns, making for a more beautiful, natural looking floor. Combine that with a nanoparticle, commercial-rated finish, it essentially outperforms any product out there. The extra bonus: With the new, innovative 100% cork core locking system, Green Flow will also provide unprecedented negative carbon footprint.”
While Opus Floors does not currently manufacture the products it sells, it works with several reputable suppliers around the globe. “We currently outsource manufacturing to eight different factories, including a top cork producer in Portugal,” Verkley explained. “We also source certain wood species and materials from Canada, France and the U.S.—depending on the color or look we’re trying to create.”
Sometime within the next year, Verkley said the company plans to shift some manufacturing to Canada and potentially to the U.S. For the time being, though, Opus Floors has a formula that works just fine. “We have strong relationships with our manufacturing partners, and we employ an incredible team of veteran, quality people who are driven and have dedicated their lives to flooring,” he stated. “We’re a small company, but we’re fast and flexible—no heavy layers of management. Large companies have their place, but for us, we like to have a structure that can turn on a dime. There’s no such thing as, ‘We can’t do that.’”
The timing of Opus Floors’ entry to the U.S. market speaks to the company’s intrepid but conscientious culture. “Instead of shrinking during this time, we’re launching new products to the U.S.,” Verkley said. “A blessing in disguise with COVID-19 is it forces people to reflect on how their life exists exactly at this moment in time. It makes us ask the question, ‘Should I be putting my energy into what I’m doing right now?’”
For Opus Floors, the answer to that question is obvious. The company plans to duplicate its direct-to-dealer model that it currently operates in Canada. Presently, Opus Floors maintains a network approaching 300 dealers in Canada. The company said it is confident it can replicate that success in America.
Slow and steady wins the race
“We’ve grown slower on purpose,” Verkley explained. “There was a lot of pressure on our company to grow quicker at various points in time. However, we have no interest in expanding for the sake of expansion or expanding in a way that puts too much stress and pressure on our internal systems. You have to create a business that grows organically, naturally and sustainably—that’s our goal. It’s all about enjoying the process.”
In terms of logistics, products will be inventoried in Vancouver and Toronto. In fact, Opus Floors has already set up the logistics, so anyone looking to have product shipped will enjoy competitive freight rates. “We will be able to service any location in the U.S. within a week to 10 days,” Verkley said. “Certain routes, i.e., Chicago, Detroit, New York, for example, should be serviced in about one week; Vancouver to Seattle and Portland—almost instantaneous. In the future, as demand ramps up, we envision having secondary or tertiary warehousing in the U.S.”
A proven track record
If the U.S. response to Opus Floors mirrors that of the company’s customers in Canada, then it stands to reason they will enjoy success in America. Customers like Marty Van Keulen, owner and president of The Carpet Studio in Edmonton, Alberta, has been carrying the company’s hardwood and LVP offerings for the past few years—with great results.
“Opus Floors provides products that allow us to differentiate ourselves from every other me-too product that’s out there,” Van Keulen said. “They provide products we can trust and rely on, so we can focus on what we do, which is selling product.”
Garth Bigelow, owner of Bigelow Flooring, Guelph, Ontario, agreed. “They definitely have some nice products,” he said, citing the engineered hardwood lines and luxury vinyl planks in particular. “We can install any of Opus Floors’ products and know they’re going to be high quality. We have been a customer since 2016, and we haven’t had any service issues.”
More importantly, retailers said they simply enjoy doing business with Opus Floors. “Vern’s company stands out from others we’ve dealt with in the past,” Van Keulen added. “We developed a relationship with Opus Floors by working jointly on product development. They listened to our needs and adapted the product in terms of different colors that we show in the marketplace. It’s a true partnership.”
At the end of the day, that’s what a fruitful partnership is all about. “There’s no reason to do business unless you’re creating a win-win scenario,” Verkley said. “Our goal is to continue producing world-class products that reduce our carbon footprint, but we also want to take care of other people the same way we would take care of ourselves. That has always been the motto that we live by.”