Producers and importers of SPC are constantly striving to stand apart from the pack in this hyper-competitive subsegment of resilient flooring. Some suppliers key in on visual attributes and performance; others emphasize ample product availability and attractive pricing. Then there are those who pride themselves on providing top-notch service to their customers. Durato USA says it checks all those boxes.
While not yet a household name at the specialty retail level, Durato—headquartered in Fort Pierce, Fla.—has made significant inroads in the U.S. multi-family market and new commercial contract arenas, particularly hospitality and corporate office sectors. For the better part of the past decade, the company has been building its presence primarily through high-profile projects in key markets in addition to old-fashioned word of mouth.
“When we entered the market about seven years ago, nobody knew who we were because we were a new company,” Jason Pyon, Durato president, told FCNews. “As a result, we decided to get into the commercial market, where many buyers were complaining about their current suppliers—specifically that they didn’t meet their needs. So they asked us to re-engineer the product to provide better performance.”
And with that, Durato got to work. Working closely with its manufacturer partners in China, the company began testing various iterations of SPC in an effort to address the inherent shortcomings of the product (i.e., susceptibility to temperature variations). “When SPC first came out, the first generation was—in my opinion—terrible,” Pyon stated. “Yes, it was slightly better than WPC, but it had its own set of problems. In order to rectify those issues, we had to re-engineer it and change the process of how to make it.”
Without giving up the “secret sauce,” so to speak, Pyon would only say this: “Our SPC is a little bit different from what’s out there in the marketplace today. I won’t get into the details in terms of where we source the materials, but I can say we source raw materials from different parts of the world. However, raw materials alone won’t give you a better product—you have to change the way you make SPC. Some processes we added steps to; in other cases, we took steps out of the processes. For some procedures we had to modify them heavily.”
Take, for example, the locking system used in Durato’s SPC offerings. While the company has licensing agreements with Unilin and Välinge, it alters the respective locking systems in its products. “It’s based on their technologies, but we feel the angle on our locking system is better,” Pyon stated. “The people who install our products rave about how easy they are to install.”
Durato’s overall SPC re-engineering exercise, however, came with some fits and starts. “The early product failed and we lost a lot of money in the process,” Pyon recalled. “However, we took all the lessons learned from that experience, reapplied them and worked with engineers and scientists across the globe to help us develop a better version. Since we reintroduced it, we’ve had very few claims—our complaint/claims ratio is under a quarter point, in fact. And even if a customer has a problem that’s not due to the product itself, we still take care of it right away. That’s how we built the business.”
Durato also works hard to ensure consistent quality by implementing strict quality controls in the facilities where the product is made. For example, the company ensures it has engineers present during every shift—even though the plants are independently owned by its manufacturer partners in China. “If the mill runs on one shift, we have an engineer there—and it’s our people,” Pyon explained. “If it runs on two shifts, we have two engineers there, all the time. That’s the reason why our claims ratio is so low.”
But don’t just take the company’s word on it. Durato’s customers attest to the consistent quality. “We haven’t had any claims in four years,” said David Montani, owner of Carpet City, Fairfield, Conn. “And my installers love it!”
Looks good, too
It’s not just the performance attributes that have Durato customers voicing their approval. The product line also scores points in the aesthetics department. “For wood looks, our pride and joy is our V-EVO XL line where every SKU is designed to emulate real wood,” Pyon stated. “To make it we use real wood planks and take a 3D scan to capture all the various colors and depth of the image. The end result is a 24-pattern repeat, making it one of the most realistic SPC wood planks on the market. We also have 42- and 60-pattern repeats—that’s among the highest in the industry.”
To add further realism (and texture) to the product, Durato takes a different approach to designing the image below the wear layer. “We don’t print on paper; the image is printed on a special fabric that we have engineered,” Pyon explained. “We’ve also engineered a wear layer with titanium and UV coating that’s less likely to scratch. It’s called QXT technology, which is proprietary to us. The coating is embedded with other molecules to make it stronger.”
Of course, all these bells and whistles mean nothing unless you can provide customers with an ample amount of product on a consistent basis. That’s an area where Pyon—an entrepreneur and former Amazon distribution executive—says Durato excels. “We guarantee product is going to be there when the customers need it,” he explained. “We have had that mentality for the past seven years, and it has paid dividends for us. In one case we even air-shipped some product—at a loss, no less—to make sure the customer received the product on time. We don’t want to be the reason why a building is not built.”
In order to ensure ample inventory for customers, Durato maintains two warehouses in Langhorne, Pa.—one spanning 80,000 square feet; the other 60,000. “We currently have in excess of 10 million square feet in Pennsylvania alone,” Pyon said, noting that the company tripled its warehouse capacity this year. In addition to that, Durato operates a warehouse in Florida near its headquarters, with additional warehousing space planned for North Carolina and Texas in the coming year.
“When everybody else didn’t have product during the last two years due to COVID- 19, we never ran out,” Pyon stated. “We have so much coming in from overseas. In fact, we typically carry 100,000 square feet to 300,000 square feet of one color! Very few people have the resources or capability to do that. We have millions of dollars of inventory on vessels bound for the U.S.”
It’s a huge plus for Durato dealers like Ed Kaplan, owner of Floors Unlimited, Garden City, N.Y., who receives container loads direct from port with backup out of Durato’s warehouse in Langhorne, Pa.
Ditto for King of Prussia, Pa.-based Floors USA, a Durato customer since its inception. “We get service the next day or within two days,” said Scott Erlbaum, owner. “Plus, our mechanics love it; it’s easy to install.”
Ken Borden, owner of Carpet Mill Outlet in New Windsor, N.Y., is another satisfied customer. “Durato is the only line we carry,” he said. “We stock every color of the entry-level lines and special order the rest with two-to-three-day delivery service.”
Pyon estimates that roughly 50% of Durato’s business is direct container business from China to the client. “It never touches my warehouse,” he said. The other half of its shipments to customers is facilitated between LTL deliveries via a third party with the remainder delivered through Durato’s company-owned fleet.
“We have the ability to mitigate a lot of customer’s issues regarding transportation, despite the ongoing issues at the ports,” Pyon explained. “It’s getting better, although it’s not completely resolved. There are still some problems with availability of triaxles, but we have always delivered in spite of that. That’s what makes us different.”
Another plus for Durato’s customers, according to Pyon, is the fact that its retailer customers can enjoy some measure of exclusivity. “They don’t have to worry about competition because not everyone has our products,” he said. “That means less people haggling for pricing, which means more margin for them. More importantly, we don’t supply the box stores; our commitment is to small business owners. I have a small company mentality, so we want to grow our business with them. We will never sell to the big boxes, no matter how much money they offer.”
A winning formula
Durato USA’s philosophy in building its business over the past eight years—providing quality product on a consistent basis at a competitive price and backing that up with fast delivery and local inventory—has turned out to be the right recipe for success. The company went from nothing in 2013 to roughly $80 million in sales last year, and it’s on track to generate $100 million in sales by 2023.
While the bulk of its business, roughly 70%-80%, is attributed to multi-family and heavy commercial projects, Durato is seeing more movement on the residential replacement and new home construction side. Pyon attributed the growing awareness in residential to the reputation the company has built in the commercial arena.
“We’ve grown significantly as a company during the COVID-19 era,” Pyon said. “Every two years we are doubling the business and growing by 30% or 40%. We’re not perfect, but we take care of problems quickly and our client base is very happy with us. Our goal is to be the best at everything we do. That’s our guiding light.”