In October, AHF Products, a leading manufacturer of hard surface flooring in North America, announced that it purchased assets of Crossville, Inc., from the Curran Group, a family-owned, privately-held company. This acquisition benefits AHF in the fast-growing tile sector, with a comprehensive line of porcelain, ceramic, stone, and accessories for both residential and commercial applications in interior and exterior floors, walls, and countertops.
AHF President and CEO Brian Carson, Crossville President Greg Mather, and Lindsey Waldrep, VP of marketing for the Crossville brand, recently spoke with FLOOR Trends & Installation about how the acquisition came about—and what it means for flooring retailers.
FLOOR Trends & Installation: Why was the timing right for AHF Products to pursue a tile acquisition?
Brian Carson: We looked at what is the next natural adjacency to provide a more complete assortment for our customers, and where we thought we could create some value with our logistics with things that we do well with our relationships. We said "tile."
We wanted manufacturing because we want to manufacture a lot of what we sell—that’s who we are at AHF. We want U.S. manufacturing. And we want a strong brand. It doesn’t come any more blue chip than Crossville Tile. If you think about our brands—Armstrong, Bruce, Hartco, Armstrong—America was built on those brands, literally.
We also wanted a strong business because we're not experts in tile. We wanted a business that had demonstrated success and deep expertise in ceramic. We also wanted a business that really diversified our customer base. What’s interesting with Crossville is our customers are mostly different. There are three or four really big customers that overlap, but they're actually mostly different, mostly complimentary.
Crossville became available. That seemed like a perfect match and fit for what we were looking for. The math had to work, obviously, but the chemistry had to work. We're a very action-oriented, customer-oriented, brand-oriented, people-oriented kind of business. And we wanted to spend time getting to know the Crossville team. We wanted to make sure that it was a strong combination of cultures because if that's not a good fit, the rest of it doesn't matter.
As we got to visit with the Crossville team, and as we got to know the Curran family, while we use different words to describe our mission and values—ours are "transparency", "ownership", "unity", "grit" and "hustle"—they use different words to describe very much the same thing. And they're a people-first business, as are we.
FLOOR Trends & Installation: Why did this move make sense for Crossville?
Greg Mather: From the Crossville point of view and the owners, the Currans have done a fantastic job of owning the company for 35 years. They've given us an opportunity to grow the brand and make it a leader within the industry. As they looked forward, their vision was really to be a leader in niche industries. And porcelain was a niche back when the factory opened, but now it's a big industry. They really felt as though for the brand to continue to be a strong brand for the next 10, 20 years, it was important to get some synergies with a company that could really help foster and bring some growth to it more than what it could achieve by itself independently.
There are obviously different ways you could go about doing it, but one of the ones that made a heck of a lot of sense was pairing up with a company that we could package some multi-surface solutions to different customers. They put a lot of interest and emphasis on who are the right owners for the brand going forward. I think they had an emotional attachment to the company, and I think that they did the right thing. They did the right thing for the individuals that they care about by putting them in the hands of a company that's got a similar culture and will give the company the opportunity to grow in a way that they couldn't provide.
FLOOR Trends & Installation: How does Crossville fit into the AHF Products brand hierarchy?
Carson: We now have 15 brands. We spend a lot of time on how do we segment the various customers with brands to protect margins in the channel for everybody. If our customers can't make money with us, they don't need us. Crossville creates enormous opportunity for us to expand our reach for all of our products.
The Crossville brand is a cut-above brand. Whether you're talking about product consistency, high-touch service, delivery accuracy, if you don't hit the bullnose, you don't put in the job. It's not enough to have the field tile. That stuff has to show up. These guys are aces at high-touch service and high-quality delivery. They make an exceptional product, a cut above product. That's why they're so strong in commercial. You have a highly knowledgeable discerning customer, a demanding application.
There are synergies. Our main distribution centers are located in Tennessee. It creates opportunity to move stuff around more efficiently. In many cases, the customers are buying these other products from somebody else anyway, so it is really powerful and greatly appealing.
FLOOR Trends & Installation: Crossville is known for product design. What's next as we head into 2024?
Lindsey Waldrep: We are focused on wall tile for this late season. We will launch three new collections and an overhaul of two existing collection. That's going to take us through the promotional calendar through the end of the year. I love a little cheese factor, so we're doing “Deck the Walls” as a holiday promotion to take us from Thanksgiving through the first week of January. We have had a great deal of success with our homepage takeovers. Right now, we're promoting panels in our quick-ship program, and we started it in the spring with our sustainability story and carbon neutrality.
When you see us at Surfaces, we are going to showcase our new dealer displays and programs. That's one of the exciting things about this acquisition—getting our name in front of that flooring retailer as opposed to the solely the tile retailer. And there's room to grow there.