In Greek mythology, King Midas had the power to turn anything he touched into gold. Today, millennials seem to possess a similar type of power: transforming pretty much anything they touch into a digitized version—from movie-streaming services like Netflix and Hulu to e-commerce sites like Amazon and eBay.
While the bulk of our shopping and entertainment experience has shifted to the World Wide Web, the flooring industry has been making a slow transition. But John Dupra, co-founder of e-commerce flooring site Revelwoods.com, has plans to speed up the process—literally.
A second-generation member of the flooring industry, Dupra was introduced to the business at a fairly young age. Growing up, he spent the summers helping his father, who worked as an independent contractor for 22 years. “I grew up around the actual labor side of the industry—installation, sand and finish, specifically,” said Dupra.
As he got older, Dupra decided he no longer wanted to work in flooring and attempted to break into another industry.
“I went to college and got a degree in public relations and journalism,” he said. “But when I got out of school in 2008, the only job I could really find was in the [flooring] industry.”
So Dupra began working for a multinational corporation making sandpaper for hardwood-flooring contractors. “I did that for eight years, traveled the country, really networked and learned the industry from the manufacturing side,” he said.
Meanwhile, his father, who’d left contracting to start a wholesale company called Installers Warehouse, had tried convincing Dupra on several occasions to return home to Rochester, N.Y., and join the family business. After resisting for a while, Dupra eventually gave in. It was only after a short period of time working there that he realized his father’s business model needed some drastic improvement.
“I was concerned with the future of this industry; I could just see it shifting,” said Dupra. “Eventually business models change and technology gets introduced that modernizes a particular industry, and that wasn’t happening in hardwood flooring. It seemed like everything had been very incremental—very traditional distribution method, very old business model, very old supply chain.”
At that point, Dupra began looking at the business through a different lens.
“I told my father, ‘Installers Warehouse is a great company and it’s doing a great job, and I think it’ll definitely be around when you retire, but I’m not sure it’ll be around when I retire.’ So, what does the future of our business really look like?”
Dupra and his operations manager, Jonathan Mucha, went back to the drawing board and revamped their entire business model.
“The question we asked ourselves was, ‘How do you take a technical product like wood and a boutique, in-person type of experience required to sell wood, and move that into the online space?’ We needed to break the whole process down into an essential component and see if that would translate into the digital space,” Dupra said.
After doing some web surfing one day, a lightbulb went off. “I was playing around with a site called Trunk Club and it dawned on me that this is how we should do it,” Dupra said.
Trunk Club is a personalized shopping site in which customers are paired with stylists to help them build out their wardrobe based on the customer’s taste. Similarly, Dupra figured they could digitally pair their customers with a supplier showroom catered to the customer’s personal needs and taste, thus bringing Revelwoods.com to life.
“When customers are shopping for wood floors the traditional way, you don’t just leave it up to them to figure out how it all goes together, so [the website] is curated to their specific experience,” he said. “Different structures [of wood] don’t necessarily work in all spaces. For example, what works for a cottage in New Hampshire might not necessarily work for a beach house in Miami or a ranch in Arizona. It’s just so many different factors when it comes to wood that you kind of have to know what works where, and people don’t want to have to do a doctor-level’s worth of research for this one purchase.”
With a new and improved business model in place, Dupra and his team were able to focus on perfecting their service.
“We really are positioned to be the best,” he said. “We’re not trying to beat everyone else’s price. We don’t want to sell the most floors, we want to sell the right floors to the right people.”
While reasonably priced, Dupra clarifies that their products and services are not necessarily meant for bargain shoppers.
“Our target customer is somebody who appreciates quality, sustainability, responsibly sourced materials, and is willing to invest in their overall quality of life,” he said. “In other words, a discerning, quality-oriented homeowner who really wants the best experience and the best products.”
To ensure their customers receive the best products and service, Dupra and his team vet all of their suppliers. “We only picked a few suppliers that we really knew and understood,” he said. “Currently, we’re only sourcing from the U.S. and Canada. Beyond that, the materials have to be responsibly sourced—the glue, finishes, everything has to be environmentally responsible and humane.”
As of now, Dupra is focusing on revamping Revelwoods.com, which he says is relaunching in July. The updated website will include an enhanced design, functionality and ordering system, which Dupra says will enable Revelwoods to be more efficient.
“The site is going to be brighter and faster, and it’s going to work better,” said Dupra. “And on the backend, our system for order taking and fulfillment is going to be much faster and more automated, enabling us to scale with our growth.”
And as for the future of Revel Woods and the flooring industry as a whole?
“Our belief is that the revolution in the wood industry is going to come from process—not from product,” said Dupra. “Everybody is trying to develop the next best wood floor, but wood is a very old building material. You can do some cool things with wood, but it’s only going to go so far. And to overcome the challenges that we’re seeing in some of the other floor companies out there, our revolution is going to have to come from process and not product. And that’s what we’re hoping Revelwoods.com is going to do for our customers—provide a better, easier way to buy the right quality wood floor for them.”