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Ronile Growing on All Fronts

Rocky Mount, Va. — Ronile Inc. is celebrating the close of its first full year as a complete soft floor covering supplier, with a product range that runs “from the front door to the bedroom.”

The second-generation, family-owned manufacturer has specialized in space-dyed and specialty yarns since it was established in 1984. Ronile made its first foray into floor coverings with the acquisition of Burlington's Bacova division in the summer of 2001. Two years later, it acquired Gulistan, a century-old soft flooring supplier concentrating on broadloom carpet. The buyout of Lacey in spring 2005 extended Ronile's reach in the bath rug business.

“Going into the new year, we think we are very well positioned,” said Phillip Essig, whose father, Abe, and stepmother, Elinor, founded Ronile — a name they came up with because it is “Elinor” spelled backward. “We've brought all of these pieces together and we're doing it not by taking cost out of the product, but by adding value into it.”

While still under Burlington's ownership, Bacova “was at the front of the curve,” Essig said, already sourcing parts of its line. Once it became part of Ronile, the company's imported offerings — produced through overseas partnerships and one site it owns in Uruguay — grew to more than half of its line.

But an “equilibrium has been found” since Ronile acquired Lacey, Essig said. The Lacey plant in Cartersville, Ga., — now part of the Bacova division — also distributes all of the company's institutional business. Because much of the line is domestic, Lacey has leveled out Bacova's total imports to about 45%, he explained.

Ronile operates six plants for its yarns and home textiles businesses. The facility in Low Moor, Va., is a newly revamped state-of-the-art operation where Ronile prints and finishes some Bacova programs as well as distributes almost all of its Bacova and Lacey products. Essig called the overhaul “the single largest investment we've made for our home textiles business.”

Ronile's plant in Rocky Mount produces space-dyed and specialty yarns as well as dyes for some of its solid colored bath rugs. The Gulistan division operates three sites in North Carolina — Aberdeen for yarn production, tufting and finishing; Wagram, which is a dye house; and Turnersburg, used for yarn production.

Ronile also purchased from Burlington its bath consumer products assets: accessories, shower curtains and embellished towels. These are Ronile's only non-floor covering programs but still represent about 20% of its home textiles business, and with the Lacey line pose potential cross-merchandising opportunities.

“It made sense because in the end, it's all decorative product. And often the accent rug buyers of [our customers, the department and specialty] stores also buy bath. Adding Lacey has made us now a more complete supplier to the bath departments,” Essig said.

A privately owned company, Ronile does not release annual sales figures.

But Essig offered a breakdown of its home textiles business, outside of yarns and broadloom carpets: Accent/scatter and area rugs — from the Bacova and Gulistan divisions — make up the largest chunk at 40% of the total business. The remaining businesses — doormats, Lacey bath rugs, and bath coordinates — each generate 20%.

The thrust of the business for the Gulistan division is broadloom carpet, which makes up 90% of the division's sales. Yet its area rugs, coupled with Bacova's area rugs, are the fastest growing part of Ronile's business right now, Essig said.

“We had the infrastructure in place already, plus a number of customers asked us why we weren't in room sizes. They asked us to get more into it,” he explained. “

Rug industry veteran Kea Capel Meacham is credited with driving this growth in area rugs for both the Gulistan and Bacova divisions. She joined the company two years ago this month to help expand product offerings, broaden distribution and direct design and marketing initiatives for both under the post of business and brand director of area rugs.

“Our retail partners for Bacova are driven in part by price point, and they know that a $99 price point works. So we think about how we can add value to that,” Meacham said.

For the outdoor category, the company has created a reversible polypropylene rug that will debut in January during the Atlanta International Area Rug Market. The company has also developed the industry's first fade-resistant printed outdoor area rug, she said.

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