Top Carpets: Laying It Down – April Issue
Written by Chris Farnell
As a force
to be reckoned with in the South African flooring market, Top Carpets has shown
time and time again that it understands the industry. But this is one company
that won‚Äôt be resting on its laurels. Top Carpets has consistently adapted to
match the fluid nature of the market, and it‚Äôs not done yet!
is a major presence in the South African flooring market. With representation
at 125 different locations, placing it within a 50km radius of any potential
buyer in the country, there isn‚Äôt a group like it anywhere else in South
Africa. Yet it comes from relatively humble origins.
tells the story: ‚ÄúIt was set up 25 years when six disillusioned flooring contractors,
worried about the state of the market, set up a small buying group. That group
had the romantic name of ‚ÄėCarpet Purchases‚Äô. Their thoughts were that, by being
combined together they should be able to provide some protection against the
problems of the day.‚ÄĚ
went on more members joined, and eventually they reached the conclusion that
‚ÄėCarpet Purchases‚Äô wasn‚Äôt the snappy, memorable name they needed. The problem
was that nobody could agree what they should call it instead.
‚ÄúSo we put
it to a design college in London,‚ÄĚ Hoyle explains. ‚ÄúThey ran a competition,
there was a prize winner and they came up with the name Top Carpets.‚ÄĚ
name change, the company hasn‚Äôt changed much, aside from in one respect: It‚Äôs
growth. From six people the company now has more than 125 members using Top
Carpets buying power. As it‚Äôs grown the company has also broadened its cover,
providing full marketing and management assistance to its members and expanding
from carpets into other flooring markets.
expansion has proven to be crucial for the company, as over the last 20 years
the market has been going through some tremendous changes.
has declined by 50% in value in the last 20 years,‚ÄĚ Hoyle admits. ‚ÄúThere are
several reasons for that. Firstly, here in Durban there‚Äôs no such thing as
winter. Winter is 12-14 degrees Celsius through the night, rising to 20-22 degrees
during the day. The climate‚Äôs like that across the country. So we‚Äôve seen a lot
of strong growth in ceramics. They‚Äôve probably been expanding between 15 and 20%
year on year. Meanwhile, unlike other parts of the world, here we‚Äôve seen the
laminate wood market remain strong because we‚Äôre an agricultural country and
there‚Äôs a strong liking for natural materials. You‚Äôve got cultural issues too. Since
1994 when the country started off on its new path there‚Äôs been a lot of
emphasis on homes for everyone, and the vast majority of those are affordable
entry-level homes, which use ceramics because there‚Äôs a perception that they
will last longer. So laminate wooden flooring has been showing continued growth
at quite a pace and so have ceramics, which means carpets have suffered.‚ÄĚ
Top Carpets has been able to move with the times.
started this was very much a carpet company,‚ÄĚ Hoyle says. ‚ÄúMost of our people
came from manufacturing, most of their businesses were centred around carpeting.
So to adapt we‚Äôve had to show some strong horizontal diversification. We‚Äôve moved
into other types of floor, naturally, but we‚Äôre also expanding into blinds and
the changing markets aren‚Äôt the only challenge Top Carpets faces. While the
last few years have been hard on everyone financial, one of Hoyle‚Äôs major
concerns is that there will be enough skilled labour to meet demand once the
‚ÄúWe need to
make sure we have enough skilled labour at every level to cope with the growth
and demand that will certainly come once this current crisis has died down,‚ÄĚ
Hoyle says. ‚ÄúHere in South Africa it‚Äôs a particularly pressing issue because
we‚Äôre expecting huge growth in the floor coverings industry. With so much of
infrastructure being replaced we‚Äôre going to see a lot of both commercial and
housing projects. We‚Äôre blessed with a fantastic opportunity for growth.‚ÄĚ
Carpets itself has only a small team of 35 people at its head office, every one
of its outlets is individually owned, so it‚Äôs important that a new generation
is trained up to meet growing demand. It‚Äôs a responsibility that‚Äôs been spread
across the entire South African flooring industry.
involved in sponsorship and training at a post school level at several places
around the country,‚ÄĚ Hoyle explains. ‚ÄúOur local manufacturers have also put a
lot of money and effort into training programmes so that these staff are ready
for the future. There‚Äôs also credit to go to firms like Floor Works. The industry
itself has a body that looks after wood and laminates, South African Wood &
Laminate Flooring Association, who have also put a lot of effort into training
despite all the effort that‚Äôs going into training this new generation, Hoyle
still believes more can be done.
can‚Äôt tell you where we‚Äôre replacing people fast enough,‚ÄĚ he admits. ‚ÄúI have a
suspicion we‚Äôre not and once the market picks up again we‚Äôll struggle to get
Carpets isn‚Äôt sitting on its laurels. Right now the company is undergoing a
major overhaul to bring new blood into the firm.
the advantages of bringing in some younger minds this makes sense,‚ÄĚ Hoyle says.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre also looking at different groups. For instance, gender is currently an
issue we‚Äôre working hard to address, and we‚Äôre consulting with a female
economic empowerment group to find out how we can improve things there. We‚Äôre
getting new blood into the company at every level, every day.‚ÄĚ
confident about the future of the flooring industry in South Africa. With the
market on the up, and the increase in global communications, Hoyle is convinced
that South Africa‚Äôs industry is a match for any in the world.
take our largest carpet manufacturing company, Belgotex, it‚Äôs a world class
production facility. So to the surprise of many our product offering is just as
advanced as it is in, for instance, the UK. If you were to look at ceramics a
simple investigation would demonstrate our ceramics industry is a world leader
in affordable ceramic tiles,‚ÄĚ Hoyle says, justifiably proud. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a strong
European influence but the quality of our product is very good. What‚Äôs more, we
still have this spirit of adventure. We‚Äôre always open to new ideas, and that‚Äôs
one thing that‚Äôs allowed us to keep up with Europe and the States. We‚Äôve
realised we can be as good as anyone so long as we look, listen and apply.‚ÄĚ
Category: Business Profiles