some flooring distributors grow by taking market share from weaker competitors; others do it through acquisition. EJ Welch & Company’s ascent from unranked wholesaler to No. 6 (projected 2022 sales of $230 million) has been all-encompassing—the basketball equivalent of a full-court press.
Within a roughly two-year span, EJ Welch has developed and implemented a strategic plan that entails customer service, pricing, procurement, marketing and sales. In short, no stone is left unturned. Today, the Earth City, Mo.-based company boasts 25,000-plus product options, more than 10,000 in-stock items in commercial and residential flooring, tools and sundry items across a 27-state footprint.
Acquisitions funded through its private equity arm, Center Rock Capital Partners’ Merit Distribution Group, started in September 2020 when EJ Welch acquired the controlling interest of then-Top 20 distributor T&L Distributing in Houston. A month later it acquired certain assets of Gilford-Johnson Flooring, another Top 20 player based in Jeffersonville, Ind. In December 2021, EJ Welch agreed to acquire Cheney Carpet and Vrooman Carpet; in January 2022 it purchased the remaining assets of Gilford-Johnson.
EJ Welch has grown organically as well. For example, ProSupply by EJ Welch is its brick-and-mortar storefront attached to its warehouses where flooring installers can pick up tools and sundries. Tools4Flooring.com, for example, is its 24/7 online source of the most popular tools and sundry items. Soon to launch is EJ Welch’s e-commerce platform for customers.
Mitch Jolley, EJ Welch CEO, said the company’s success is a total effort involving employees, suppliers and retail customers. “We’ve given many team members the opportunities to grow their careers and take on more responsibility in our business and at the same time brought in some exceptional talent in and out of the flooring industry,” he told FCNews.
The last 18 months has included a reorganization of its leadership team—with a new director added along with new positions for VP procurement and VP commercial solutions.
For its suppliers EJ Welch is developing multi-year plans while expanding into newly acquired territories. “Our customer strategy is evolving with a lot of priority and emphasis on being on time, accurate and making it easier to do business with us,” Jolley said. “We are redefining the installer, independent retailer and commercial contractor experience.”
EJ Welch’s territory coverage now touches four regions:
- Upper Midwest—It is expanding into a larger warehouse facility and adding a ProSupply near Minneapolis, plus opening a new ProSupply in Fargo, ND;
- Southeast—It brought on Novalis and Raskin as suppliers and recently enhanced its Hill Country Innovations private-label program as well as opened a ProSupply in Knoxville, Tenn., and Orlando;
- Southwest—The company opened new ProSupply locations in Houston and Austin, Texas;
- Central—It added a distribution center in Elk Grove, Ill., to keep pace with sales and product expansion.