Copy of article that
appeared in the September 2010 issue of Broom, Brush & Mop
Magazine, and for the September/October 2010 issue of
Maintenance Sales News Magazine.
Although the company’s history dates to 1918, there are plenty
of new things going on at Flexo Products Limited, a Niagara
Falls, Ontario, jan/san distributorship.
distribution, equipment service and showroom portion of Flexo
Products has moved to a new 37,000-square-foot facility in
Niagara Falls. Flexo Products President Steve Parker said the
new facility features 18-inch walls and a two-tone brick
“The heating system that has been installed has dropped energy
while the 25-foot height gives us flexibility to stock pallets
higher. We have doubled the storage space from before due to
extra square footage,” Parker said. “Meanwhile, our new inside
docks make it easier to load and unload trucks, and we can store
full truckloads of products inside. As a bonus, we have
beautiful grounds on three acres of property.
“Since we have been there, we have brought down our operating
costs and increased our stocking and delivering efficiencies.
The new facility comes complete with a 4,000-square-foot
showroom.” Flexo Products also has an overflow facility located
in Niagara Falls along with branch locations in Toronto and
Cambridge, Ontario. Meanwhile, the company’s manufacturing
branch, under the name Parkside Professional Products, is housed
in a separate location in Niagara Falls and produces such items
as floor wax, degreasers, liquid and powder dishwashing and
laundry detergents and disinfecting cleaners.
When it comes to jan/san distribution, Flexo Products’ main
service region extends north to Toronto and Oshawa, Ontario, and
west to London, Ontario, forming a triangle that encompasses the
majority of the company’s customer base. Niagara Falls serves as
the southern point of this service region. Among the company’s
vast array of jan/san and paper products are such staple items
as mops, brushes and brooms. According to Parker, there has been
a push as of late toward higher-end products in this category,
especially when it comes to mops. “I would say a couple of years
ago, there was a big push toward cheaper off-shore mops. These
were items that may have looked the same as higher-end products.
However, many people recognized that their quality was not as
good,” Parker said.
would say there is a resurgence of Canadian/U.S. made products
as a greater number of people are willing to pay a little more
for quality. He added it’s better for his distributorship to
sell higher-end mops that include microfiber and are washable.
These products are considered a bigger ticket item. Whether it’s
a mop, hand soap, broom, disinfectant or any other type of jan/san
supply, working with quality suppliers is a must for Flexo
Products, Parker said. The distributorship strives to build
lasting relationships with its supplier base.
just about working with suppliers that have nice
representatives, it’s more about how they perform when needed.
It’s important they can react to the marketplace,” Parker said.
“This is essential for us due to where we are located. Although
similar in many ways to the United States, there are also
differences that must be overcome when working in Canada. For
example, sizes for some paper products are different. There are
those suppliers that make a commitment to the Canadian
marketplace and some that don’t.”
the overall economic state of southern Ontario, Parker said the
current slow automotive manufacturing climate in the region has
begun to liven up some after a period of major struggles.
a strong automotive manufacturing base here which took a hit the
same way Detroit and other U.S. automotive areas did in the
United States,” Parker said. “The local automotive industry
drives a lot of other business. I would say this has stabilized
our business (at Flexo Products) is very solid. We sell a lot of
different types of products, which helps. We supply over 6,500
items, and work with a lot of government-related clients. This
is pretty steady work during hard times.”
course, the Niagara Falls area, both in Ontario and New York, is
known for its tourism and hospitality interests. In response,
Flexo Products provides many types of items for this business
segment, including hotel/motel amenities and dishwashing and
said the 2010 tourism season in the region is being described as
“an average year.”
“‘Average’ is what the area hotel representatives are telling
us. Niagara Falls is a big destination place, particularly for
those people living in the United States. Right now, however,
the value of the Canadian and U.S. dollars is fairly close.
Because of this, it’s not quite as attractive for those in the
United States to come here (in Ontario),” he explained. “A
couple of years ago, the U.S. dollar was worth 30 to 40 percent
more than the Canadian dollar. A hotel room that was going for
$100 (in Canada) would cost someone from the United States the
equivalent of $60. That was very attractive. Now, the currencies
are about even.”
Another challenge to attracting more visitors to the Canadian
side of Niagara Falls has been brought about by the relatively
recent passport requirement, Parker said.
of June 1, 2009, people from the United States and other
countries arriving in Canada by air, land and sea must possess a
passport or equivalent travel document. According to Parker,
this impacted travel somewhat to the Canadian side of Niagara
Falls as a lot of Americans did not already possess a passport.
been an effort, however, during that past 10 to 15 years to
attract more visitors to the region. Parker said bigger hotels
and a couple of casinos have been built with the goal that more
visitors will stay longer.
issue for Niagara Falls over the years has been the amount of
time people actually stay here. A lot of tourists will come for
a day, stay overnight, and then leave. There has been an effort
to try to get these people to extend their stay,” he said.
today’s security issues when crossing borders, Flexo Products
has been limited to the amount of business it conducts in the
United States. Parker said the Canadian/U.S. border has become
much more difficult to cross in a timely fashion when driving a
truck full of different types of products.
that has helped Flexo Products grow in recent years has been the
increased supply of products regarded as environmentally
feature a lot of innovative and new items,” Parker said. “Flexo
Products also has a strong computer and logistics program in
place. We focus on minimizing back-orders and maximizing
customer service. We are a high service company. In tough times,
people want to do business with companies that excel in these
distributorship features an integrated online catalog as well as
a printed version. Parker said approximately 16 percent of the
company’s business is conducted through an Internet program
called “Customer EasyOrder.”
been doing this since 1999 and are now on our fourth version.
It’s totally integrated with our main server. A customer can get
a user-ID and password to use this system,” Parker said.
with ordering products, customers can view past work histories
with Flexo Products, such as invoices, pricing, etc.
customers like to work with us. We try to make is easy for our
customers to buy. That is where the Customer EasyOrder systems
comes into play. People can go in and place an order in 30
seconds,” Parker said. “For example, a restaurant manager can
place an order after closing down for the night and receive
delivery in a timely fashion.”
training is another key element to Flexo Products’ success. In
response to this demand, company officials are in the process of
creating a training room at its new distributorship facility.
it’s a great way to bring customers into our place of business.
Sometimes we even offer them the opportunity to have their own
meetings at our facility,” he said. “For example, a cleaning
contractor can bring his supervisors to our place. We will spend
time showcasing our products, and then we leave them alone so
they can conduct their own meeting. It’s all about getting
closer to customers.”
business for 92 years, Parker’s great-grandfather, Sam Seigel,
started the company. Steve Parker purchased Flexo Products in
1988 from his father, the late Earl Parker.
mechanical engineer and used to work in the aerospace industry.
I also have an MBA in marketing and finance, and just recently
received a masters certificate in supply chain logistics
management,” Parker said. “I have found that all of these things
are very important for running a business in 2010. Business is
getting more sophisticated. You have to stay on top of it to
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