Dossche family re-enters the game with IFC brand

Home Featured Post Dossche family re-enters the game with IFC brand

IFCSt. Kitts, West Indies—After revolutionizing the industry 11 years ago with the introduction of game-changing COREtec, Piet Dossche is trying to catch lightning in a bottle one more time with the launch of International Flooring Co. (IFC). The difference this time around is that Dossche is taking a back seat to sons Julian, CEO, and William, executive vice president, making this a bona fide family business. The team is completed by John Tighe, vice president of sales, who was also part of COREtec.

While this may seem eerily reminiscent of the Dossche startup USFloors in 2001, IFC is not seeking to reinvent the wheel. Yet. The USFloors experience will, however, serve as a blueprint to a certain extent. IFC will focus on the upper end of the market, launching with a premium WPC offering along with some domestic and imported SPC. The recent National Floorcovering Alliance event here served as the brand’s official coming out party.

“We’re taking a lot of the USFloors roadmap and bringing it to the marketplace again with beautiful products that again drive profitability back at retail,” Julian Dossche told Floor Covering News. “It’s about elevating everything and ensuring the retailer can make the money they deserve. As for us, product is what we love, what we do. And then making sure that retailers can get the points they need to ensure profitability.”

When it comes to WPC, the Dossche family is credited with being the originators of a category that has expanded into SPC and its various core iterations. So it is inarguable they are the experts. “WPC is in our blood,” Julian Dossche explained. “You cut our arms open and out comes some WPC. So we are definitely looking to bring that category back to light because SPC done right is still a beautiful product and solves a lot of problems, especially around price point. But WPC is, in our opinion, that elevated product. It’s for that consumer who would love to have wood but can’t necessarily afford it. We believe we’re hitting the market at the right price point with this product line. We have a 15mm thick, 9 x 84 product. You put that in the average consumer’s hand and they’re going to think it’s wood.”

IFC launched with a 24-SKU, exclusive collection for the NFA two weeks ago. A broader rollout for specialty retailers will come by summer. In the meantime, specialty dealers have access to a six-SKU imported SPC collection at a value price point (5mm thick, 20-mil wear layer with an attached cork underlayment) called Classics and an upgraded 12-SKU domestic SPC line (7 x 48, 20-mil wear layer, IXP backing) called the Founders Collection. The latter will soon be expanded with a 7 x 60 EIR, a first of its kind to be made in the USA, according to IFC.

Piet Dossche made it clear that the company is ready to take orders immediately. “We already have inventory in north Georgia on the opening price point made in Vietnam, and we will be well stocked on the Made in the USA product and other WPC products basically within the next couple months.” The new WPC line will retail between $5.99 and $8.99.

The WPC market today is dominated by COREtec, Shaw and Mannington, owning a more than 90% share, research shows. So why do business with IFC? Julian Dossche had the answer. “At the end of the day we created the category. We saw the opportunity. We are perfecting it all the time. We have what I believe to be the best supply partners and understand the market. But it always comes down to the same thing: great product, great service and great relationships. And then you have a business opportunity.”

If the NFA meeting was any indication, IFC has a bright future. When the dust cleared, approximately 30 of the 40 members signed on to either go all in or to test a portion of products in a portion of their stores. “I said if we come out of this meeting knowing there is room for a young company with great-looking products, great quality, great service and an enthusiastic team, we know this whole thing has been validated and we will be very satisfied,” Piet Dossche explained. “Everything right now has been focused on SPC; WPC has been somewhat neglected. We believe it’s still the best rigid core.”

Dealers chime in

Scott Browne, president, Macco’s Floor Covering, Green Bay, Wis., is a believer, ordering displays for all six locations. “I think it’s an exciting opportunity for the NFA,” he told Floor Covering News. “I’m very confident in the products. Any chance we have to get exclusivity on premium products in a competitive marketplace it’s a win for the NFA and a win for our partners. We can trust the people, the products are absolutely beautiful and the concept of going direct to the NFA is an absolute win.”

Those comments were echoed by Susan Hadinger, CEO, Hadinger Flooring, Naples, Fla. “The products are beautiful; they’re perfect for us,” she said. “We appreciate the partnership with the NFA, and they are strong businessmen. I trust them completely. Whatever needs to get done, they will get done. At the end of the day they made some beautiful product that we will be able to make money with.”

But just because the innovation has yet to come on the product side, that doesn’t mean there are not some unique wrinkles to IFC. The first is a twist on the traditional stacker display. “As you look at the marketplace today, the stacker is the display of choice amongst most independent dealers,” Julian Dossche said. “We call ours TWGS—the world’s greatest stacker. We want to continue to elevate how we sample, how we showcase not only to the retail market, but to the consumer as well.” The idea behind this merchandising unit is that the racks are on four castor wheels which roll on the base and easily slide out, giving that consumer access to the most unreachable samples.

IFC is also trying to bring efficiency to the entire sampling process. While still in development, IFC is seeking to reinvent the wheel on how consumers can take home product samples. “We asked, ‘How can we get samples into consumers’ hands where they’re not always taking sample boards?’” Julian Dossche stated. “That’s a massive expense both on the retail and manufacturing sides.” The answer? Digital print. “We’re looking at digital print concepts where we scan full-length boards, roll it up into a nice, little package to where the consumer can see the product at full length. They don’t have to bring home a whole board; it can fit in Mrs. Jones’ handbag and off she goes.”

Macco’s Browne called the concept a “wonderful” idea. “I’m surprised more companies have not jumped on board with that,” he said. “It makes it easy so our samples of our best-selling products are not out of the showroom and  Mrs. Jones has something she can take home and keep.”

At the end of the day, IFC is focused on much more than product alone. “It’s technology and order entry, order processing, inventory management, ease of ordering, transparency for our retail partners in innovation when it comes to sampling,” Julian Dossche said. “Making it easier and profitable for the retailer where he or she comes back to doing business with IFC.”

Lasting legacy

While USFloors proved so successful that Shaw Floors shelled out hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase it in 2018, the success of IFC will have special meaning for Piet Dossche with his sons taking the reins this time around. “I’m just behind the scenes as a father, an advisor and an investor to support them. I want them to be successful, but it is their business,” he stated. “They are going to be the operational team. Like any dad, you want your sons or daughters to be successful, and whatever I can do to help them I will do. I am a dad first. I am a chief corporate relations officer second, and then I’m a banker third. I will always want COREtec to be successful, but my focus and my drive is now moved from USFloors and COREtec to IFC and my sons—and making this successful.”

And just like with USFloors, expect to see IFC make its mark on the industry. “At USFloors we kept looking to find solutions to problems,” Piet Dossche said. “We kept finding the needle in the haystack or the jewel on the ground. We are going do the same thing here. We are innovators, we are entrepreneurs; we’re not copiers. This is just a start in a product category that’s still growing and very well accepted. This is not the end; it’s just the beginning. And I have no doubt that we will find something that again will make an impact on the industry.”

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