Role Model, Internet, Acquisition
Our lead story this month concerns a remarkable businessman, a person to be admired. Oliver Ma is founder, owner and CEO of Treasure Garden, a global company manufacturing umbrellas and other shade products.
His story, as told by staff writer Tom Lassiter, is one of hard work and intelligent determination. Ma, you see, entered the U.S. market alone, and with little to no knowledge of the English language. He spent months learning the language by watching and listening to television shows and movies.
The key word there is “listening.”
Something about Ma impressed Buzz Homsy (California Backyard) deeply. “Whenever he got around casual retailers, Ma wasn’t concerned with selling. He listened. He asked questions. He jotted things down in a pocket notebook.
“He looked to us to teach him the culture of the United States and the casual business,” said Homsy.
In many ways, Oliver Ma exudes qualities that we all should try to emulate. (See The Man Behind Treasure Garden.)
The greatest challenge facing specialty hearth, patio and barbecue retailers today has to be the Internet and its multitude of sellers. But this is an area in which manufacturers can make an important contribution in protecting their retail base – if they have the will to do so.
It’s one thing (and it’s a good thing) for manufacturers to promote MAP pricing (Minimum Advertised Price), and quite another to enforce it on a regular basis. It seems logical, and certainly in their best interests, for manufacturers to protect their network of brick-and-mortar stores. Yet it appears there are many who just don’t do it.
Increasingly, the price paid for such neglect is to be dropped by those brick-and-mortar retailers. A recent survey by Hearth & Home shows that 59% of specialty hearth, patio and barbecue retailers have dropped a manufacturer they feel does not do enough to protect them.
Consider the time and effort required to create a solid retail network across North America, and it seems self-preservation alone would be reason enough for every manufacturer to protect that base at all costs.
Internet Impact is discussed thoroughly in this issue of Hearth & Home. (See Internet Impact.)
Gas Buys Wood
Seemingly out of nowhere came the news that the family that owns Empire Comfort Systems (The Empire Group) had acquired SBI (Stove Builder International). Usually we find that industry rumors precede such an acquisition, but not this time. From first discussions at the HPBExpo in March in Atlanta, to completion of the agreement in November, only eight months had transpired.
Apparently the two companies complement each other in a rather perfect manner. Empire manufactures only gas products, while SBI manufactures only wood, pellet and venting products. Together, they will be able to offer dealers a full line of hearth products (with the exception of electric fireplaces, but our guess is that category will not be far behind).
There are many other synergies involved in the transaction that you can read about. (See Gas Buys Wood.)