Supplies of traditional Baltic birch cores have become increasingly scarce due to the war in Ukraine. As a result, hardwood flooring suppliers across the globe find themselves scrambling to get their hands on alternative materials as Russia and Ukraine—the primary exporters of birch plywood cores—have effectively vanished from the supply chain.
While few engineered hardwood flooring manufacturers are immune to the ripple effects this far-reaching event has caused, some suppliers are moving more quickly to position themselves ahead of the curve in terms of both identifying alternative core materials and implementing them in their finished products—all while addressing the socioeconomic challenges brought on by the war. RIVA is a prime example of such a company.
Based in Vigo, Spain, with U.S. headquarters in Miami, the company has announced the launch of its new RIVA Core, a 3-ply engineered product that boasts a durable, dense exotic teak intermediate layer sandwiched between a European white oak and a pine bottom/backing layer. The end result, according to the company, is an extremely stable product that provides optimal performance.
“Switching to teak ensures our hardwood engineered floors achieve upgrades in strength, durability and resistance as well as design advantages,” said Borja Iglesias, CEO of RIVA. “We were using birch plywood, but due to the war in Eastern Europe, we don’t want to use it anymore. Thanks to the amount of wood that we have in the factory that we have amassed over the years, we were able to test the characteristics of different species. We decided to go with exotic teak based on its density, strength and weight. It makes for a more stable and more sustainable product.”
Exotic teak is a workhorse core material, indeed. Rated among the most durable species on Earth, exotic teak (Tali) is extremely resistant to rot, changes in humidity, termites and other pests. RIVA has further enhanced the specie’s inherent features by employing proprietary processes to ensure that the natural oils found in exotic teak remain in the wood during manufacturing. In addition, high-tech resins and finishes provide visual and performance enhancements.
The fact that the product is built on an engineered platform only adds to its overall stability. “The direction of the grain in the exotic teak core layer is opposite to the top and bottom layers,” Iglesias explained. “We guarantee the middle part, the core, is not going to move.”
Aside from the product’s performance, RIVA customers will also be pleased to know that the company maintains sufficient inventory to ensure timely deliveries. “Right now we have 20 million square feet of exotic teak in stock at the factory,” Iglesias stated. “We don’t need to bring any more material in the near future. More importantly, we will be able to guarantee the price for the next year. This will provide some stability in a volatile market.”
Some of that product is already on its way to RIVA’s distribution center in Miami, in fact. The company also maintains warehouses in Los Angeles and a newly opened facility in Jacksonville, Fla., its “biggest warehouse to date,” Iglesias added.
Future plans call for RIVA to convert the Miami distribution center into a state-of-the-art finishing facility for custom work. “There we will be able to do one-off colors and employ technologies such as reactive stains,” Iglesias noted. “The facility, when complete, will allow the end consumer to see how their floors are being produced firsthand.”
RIVA currently works directly with floor covering retailers as well as members of the A&D community to meet the needs of residential customers, high-end home builders and commercial specifiers alike. On the retail side, the company partners with “RIVA Galleries”—those dealers who can devote more space to display RIVA merchandisers, installed floors and other point-of-purchase systems. For those dealers with limited floor space, the company offers the option to set up “RIVA Corners,” which utilize a smaller footprint.
“The dealers who create RIVA Galleries will have exclusive access to our products across a certain region or geographic radius,” Iglesias noted. “We hire sales reps in major cities who work with the retail stores in setting up displays and servicing the customers. We strive to build a community of architects, designers, consumers and contractors around a particular store.”
In support of those retailers, RIVA has developed a product offering designed to address a variety of consumer tastes and styles. RIVA offers more than 90 SKUs in today’s most popular colors and species.
“We removed about 60% of our products from the catalog and simplified our collections,” Iglesias explained. “In spite of that, we still offer 90% of the palette of colors that are popular right now.”
More importantly, RIVA offers retailers items that can generate high profit margins. Most of the company’s products—which span 8-feet long x up to 10 inches wide—carry an MSRP of $12-$15 per square foot. “We position ourselves as a luxury producer,” Iglesias noted. At the same time, the collections we have created are still accessible to the mainstream hardwood consumer. We want to make sure the product is available to the general public.”
It’s a strategy that’s paying dividends for RIVA’s retail partners. “Time and time and again, RIVA has exceeded all expectations regarding customer satisfaction, quality control and availability,” said Jonathan Cisneros, owner of Wynwood Floors, Miami. “We are honored to be partnered with a reliable company who shares the same values in the industry.”
Kevin Van Beek, president of Specialty Forest Products, Boston, echoed those sentiments. “Since partnering with RIVA, the relationship has been fantastic. These guys are a class act. Having top-notch products and being able to access the whole RIVA team goes a long way.”