Whiteriver flooring the competition

HAI CEO Annemarie Harte travelled to Whiteriver Group’s HQ in Louth where the team showcased their investments and vision for years to come.

Gearing up for the future

Driving into Whiteriver Group (WRG)’s headquarters outside the Co. Louth town of Dunleer, I’m struck by how tidy and organised the yard is. Brian Wogan, the company founder, explained that when he started the business in 1997 one of his founding philosophies was to be “just that little bit better”. It’s clear that Brian has that theme running through the whole premises as the offices are equally ship-shape, modern, and minimalist, having benefitted from a significant investment over the last couple of years.

This simple philosophy has seen WRG become the largest distributor in Ireland of interior wood-based products; their core products include laminate flooring, engineered flooring, internal doors, mouldings and composite decking. WRG is now jointly managed by Brian’s sons, Bernard & Iain Wogan. The company is now split into two divisions and operates from two locations: Whiteriver – based in Dunleer – distributes laminate flooring, engineered flooring, mouldings and composite decking, and Seadec – based in Ferbane, Co. Offaly – distributes doors and mouldings.

Product

Peter Ryan, WRG’s Product Manager, explains that their product range continues to evolve and that the company is always exploring new products, ideas and ways to display their product ranges. For Autumn 2018, they will be launching a new Seadec Door, Whiteriver Laminate and Whiteriver Engineered brochure. These follow the recent successful launch of their new composite decking brochure which was very well received at Bloom (Ireland’s largest garden festival), where Whiteriver had a large composite decking display.

Trends in the market see increased demand for laminate flooring and in particular long plank laminates. Whiteriver now have 120 laminates to choose from. During 2018 they launched a new range of flooring profiles which provides a nearest colour referenced match for all their laminates. This has simplified the sales process significantly for merchants that have adopted this range.

Engineered flooring sales are now clearly focused on the mid to higher-end market segment and they are seeing continued strong demand for white/grey/beige toned floors. Interest in herringbones remain strong but plank sales remain the dominant choice.

Seadec Business Manager Declan Gorman says that door sales continue to be dominated by the growth of white primed doors and mouldings which allow the consumer the opportunity to custom pick the exact colour finish they want. They will be launching a new range of white primed designs in the Autumn. Oak and walnut continue to hold a sizeable market share and are being regularly combined with white primed mouldings.

The projected growth in house building will bring increased demand for materials in the market which is a challenge they say they are ready for. Bernard Wogan explains that lead times for floors could be as much as three months, so they always aim to carry more stock than necessary.

Marketing

A recent upgrade to their website www.wrg.ie now provides an easy to navigate platform and has seen a large increase in use. They are finding that the combination of strong brochures and the website are providing many sales enquiries for their builders’ merchant customers. Despite the rise in internet-based consumer sales, Iain still sees bricks and mortar-based retailers as being the champions of selling their product range. While consumers will use the internet to research the product, Iain still finds that they will want to touch and feel the product. To support their customers, they recently completed three days of training where over 50 customers received a one-day intensive training course on flooring and composite decking.

WRG are always happy to work with customers to improve their presentation and product knowledge.

An impressive new showroom has been constructed onsite where customers can send clients to view the most comprehensive range of flooring that you will find in Ireland.

Whiteriver Group can help you with your store layout planning to ensure your sales are maximised. Iain stated the most important thing for consumers is to create a relaxed well-organised showroom complete with clear labelling, as purchasing a fl oor is very much an informed decision.

Investment

Bernard Wogan explains that Whiteriver has always reinvested to ensure their team and company have the very best facilities. Their two biggest areas of investment are in facilities and marketing. As well as the refurbishment of the HQ in Dunleer, construction on a new warehouse and loading area for Seadec in Ferbane is also about to start. Whiteriver Group currently have more than 115,000 sq.ft. of warehousing – in addition to this, they also store fast moving lines with their transport partner Johnston Logistics.

Bernard says that their new offices, showroom and increase in warehousing space are the foundation for continued growth over the next ten years, and they are committed to continuous investment to meet the demands of a growing market. He believes that WRG consistently strive to offer the best products and supporting marketing material and this has played a major factor in the company’s success. He was also quick to say that this is a work in progress. From viewing their extensive warehousing, it is also apparent that they back their product and marketing offering up with large stock holdings. Bernard informed me that the company hold more than €6 million in stock.

If you have a story to tell as a supplier or manufacturer in the Irish market, please contact Annemarie on 01 298 0969 or annemarie@hardwareassociation.ie for more information.