By Reginald Tucker — TThe industry’s largest hardwood flooring manufacturer by brand just got a little bigger.
AHF Products, which counts the Bruce, Capella, Hartco, HomerWood, LM Flooring, Robbins and tmbr lines among its extensive hardwood offerings, adds three more strong names to the mix with the recent purchase of select assets from American OEM, the trading name of Cumberland Products Group, LLC. The addition of established US OEMs Hearthwood, Emily Morrow Home and Raintree wood/SPC hybrid lines brings the total number of brands to 13 – including some resilient lines – under the expanding AHF Products portfolio.
Founded by Don Finkell, a veteran of the hardwood industry in 2013, American OEM manufactures specially designed hardwood products at its facility in Only, Tennessee. With the acquisition, the company brings a broad range of high-quality, innovative hardwood and wood hybrid products in various styles and types with widespread consumer appeal.
“American OEM has made a name for itself in the industry with style and innovation, and we look forward to integrating these capabilities and brands into AHF Products and our strong stable of brands and customers,” said Brian Carson, CEO and president, AHF. “American OEM brings us new products and capabilities that are manufactured here in the Americas, providing shorter lead times at a time when it’s more important than ever to our customers.”
As part of the deal – the financial terms of which have not been disclosed – Finkell will remain on board and will continue to oversee factory operations and product development for the US OEM brands. “We are excited to be part of AHF Products and to contribute to its growth,” said Finkell, referring to operational synergies between the two companies. “We approach things in a similar way to AHF Products; product development is a collaboration between American OEM and its customers, in much the same way that AHF Products approaches the market. This has been one of the reasons for AHF Products’ success over the past two years since its founding.”
AHF Products’ purchase of certain American OEM assets provides tangible benefits to both companies. First, AHF gains access to US OEMs’ specialized manufacturing technologies. “The Only, Tenn. plant has some absolutely fantastic styling options, including a spot-on-stain finish,” explains Carson. “Another thing that the US OEM is bringing is an innovation called WetWorx, which is basically a 360-degree waterproof technology for composite hardwood floors. We will strive to leverage those capabilities even further in the future.”
The purchase also increases AHF Products’ manufacturing capacity in the United States – a major problem in today’s environment where imported shipments are a real challenge. The US OEMs plant, with an annual capacity of 8 million to 10 million square feet of processed hardwood, complements AHF Products’ plant in Somerset, Ky., which also specializes in engineering manufacturing. “The Tennessee plant gives us additional capacity in the US at a time when everyone is looking for more local capacity because of freight, duties and lead time issues,” said Carson.
In addition, AHF will gain access to retailers, distributors and end users with which it previously had no relationships. “Our goal is to grow those relationships, not change them,” explains Carson. “We spend a tremendous amount of time and energy keeping our retailers and distributors segmented through brands, products and features and benefits. Although we are getting more production capacity, our options are complementary and not double. It’s what I call ‘addition by addition’. Ultimately, it will create more value for our partners across the supply chain.”
More importantly, AHF Products retains the “brain power” that Finkell brings out given his vast industry experience. “It was very important to us that Don stayed with the company,” said Carson. “His creativity and ability to come up with innovative concepts – then execute and build on those concepts – makes us stronger. It really is a perfect match.”
At the same time, US OEM brands will benefit from AHF Products’ market position as a leader in hardwood flooring. “We have the scale that allows for greater investment in both companies,” said Carson. “We have the resources to invest and stand behind some of the US OEM brands to help them grow faster.”
More options for retailers
In addition to the inherent benefits of the acquisition for AHF Products and the US OEM, it is perhaps the carpet dealer that gains the most. With more options, differentiated products, custom solutions, and overall better access to inventory in the United States, floor dealers will have more choices to offer to consumers and end users. “The response we’ve had from retailers and distributors so far has been phenomenal,” said Carson. “They are genuinely excited about the opportunities that arise, as are we.”
From a strict merchandising standpoint, the acquisition opens up creative avenues for retailers to bring hardwood and wood/SPC hybrid products to market. This fits in nicely with the trend towards greater consumption of hard surfaces. “It’s safe to say you’ll see new displays popping up in support of the new brands, and we’ll be adding fresh new collections over time as well,” explains Carson. “You may even see new product platforms, but I’m not going to reveal all of that right now. You just have to stay informed.”