The manufacturers, middle men and marketers of resin flooring


I’ve spoken before about the “smoke and mirrors” used in our industry to promote certain products, however there’s another side to that story that many of us are starting to talk about.

To put it very bluntly, there seems to be a rise in recent times of creative suppliers calling themselves manufacturers when they’re really only marketers trying to sell a “home brand”. This is making it harder for contractors to work out exactly who they’re dealing with and they’re getting tangled up in hollow supply relationships as a result.

To help contractors struggling with the different types of resin flooring suppliers, I thought I’d quickly put down on paper the way I see the Australian market these days. Once again, some of this may come across as a touch blunt, but I make no apologies because I believe the overall lack of transparency is hurting our industry.

1. Manufacturers


Manufacturers are the traditional suppliers. They formulate the products from raw materials, make the products, test them, and are responsible for quality control. Here some of the things you may notice when dealing with a manufacturer –

  • They have direct control of product quality and understand the capabilities and limitations of their products.
  • They’re proud and protective of the brand they’ve built from the ground up and can be a little more conservative as a result (especially smaller manufacturers).
  • Not all manufactures are very strong on the practical/application side of things. You may deal with sales staff in the field and be able to call upon an in-house technical person (or people).

2. Distributors


Distributors don't claim to manufacture and they’re typically independent of the product manufacturers. Here are some of the things you may notice when dealing with a distributor –

  • They offer the convenience of many products in the one shop, however they may lean towards products they sell rather than finding the best fit.
  • They may not be strong with specific technical support due to the diversity of products they offer, however they will generally consult openly with manufacturers to get the answers.
  • Pricing may not be the cheapest because they have to add their own sales margins.

3. Middle men


Middle men typically buy product from a manufacturer and put their own label on the can. The same arrangement can exist between the manufacturer and multiple middle men, i.e. the exact same product and price, only with a different label. Here are some of the things you may notice when dealing with a middle man –

  • They have a strong focus on sourcing the cheapest products so they can attract more customers with the lowest price.
  • They find it hard to answer technical questions and provide manufacturing details.
  • They have little control over what’s in the bucket and aren’t always aware of formulation changes or quality control issues.
  • Some middle men are competing contractors trying to distribute as well. They attract leads and do the application themselves or through a spin-off company.  
     

4. Marketers

Marketers are in a separate category I’ve saved for last because they take confusion to a whole new level. These are suppliers (mostly middle men) that offer the same product as others, but go to rather extreme lengths to make what they have sound somehow superior.  

A personal favourite of mine is the very subjective use of terms like “leader” and “#1”. There are only a handful of established, reputable companies out there that could legitimately claim to the leader or No.1 in aspects of resin flooring, but that doesn’t bother marketers. “Fake it till you make it” is their motto.

They also throw around other terms like “the best”, “highest quality”, “toughest”, “superior” and “most durable”, even though they often don't know what’s actually in the bucket. They’re constantly pursuing the cheapest supply chain and swapping manufacturers to maximise their margins – it’s only the label on the outside that stays the same.

An example of a billboard using rather extreme and perhaps questionable marketing tactics.

The billboard photo above is from another industry and clearly a joke, but it’s a good example of deliberate deception that seems acceptable nowadays. Do you think it’s just clever marketing or do you think a line has been crossed?

When I started in the business 15 years ago, you didn’t see people making outrageous claims or using these sorts of sneaky tactics. The scary part is with social media platforms like Facebook, people can put whatever they like online and pay for “Likes” to act as proof!  We can’t let this practice go unnoticed because all of us end up paying for the damage it causes.

Just out of curiosity, who do you depend on for product and technical support? Does your current supplier answer all your questions and give you confidence…or just add to your worries and doubts?

Take care and keep smiling,

Jack