Vegas debut: IFG set to confront "the big box threat"
"the big box threat"
A newly formed alliance of specialty retailers who are pooling their resources in a bid to match the buying power of big box retailers, gathered in Las Vegas recently for the National Kick-Off Convention of Import Flooring Group, Inc. The Oct. 25-28 meeting drew 58 retailers, according to IFG's founder and president, Fred Meredith. He termed the convention an "overwhelming success."
"There is a ton of anxiety about big box retailers selling flooring products," said Meredith, a veteran of the flooring business who has held senior level positions at Mohawk and Royalty Carpet Mills. "The big boxes are a huge threat because they can buy direct from factories and quarries. Our members may be able to by direct for one category. But if they buy hardwood direct what about granite, stone and tile?"
IFG's members are retailers that generate at least $10 million in sales, he said. Aside from ordering container loads of products from overseas suppliers, the buying alliance will maintain product in U.S. warehouses to assure ready access to back-up inventory. The idea is to take the risk out of importing product to the U.S. while lower costs. The group is a subsidiary of the public traded Westport, Conn.-based company IWT Tesoro, whose holdings also include International Wholesale Tile.
Retailers on hand were generally enthusiastic about the prospect of lower wholesale costs. "It is a great idea and the potential is there," said Fred Donnert, owner of Wholesale Direct Flooring in Hawaii. "Hopefully they will be able to pull it off."