James Grandberg: Brewster Wallcovering Co., headquartered in Randolph, MA, is a third-generation, independently owned distributor and converter of wallpaper, borders and coordinating fabrics and accessories including window valances and related products.
The company was established in 1954 when Albert and Arnold Grandberg purchased Brewster from Norfolk Paint. Brewster's original product offering consisted of six wallpaper collections. Servicing the six New England states, the father-and-son team began building the company into one of the largest, service-oriented, independently owned wall covering distributors in the world.
The company's growth into new areas over the years was controlled. In 1982, we began to expand Brewster by opening a full-service distribution center in Washington, D.C., to service the Mid-Atlantic states. In 1989, we purchased Creative Wallcoverings of Los Angles, CA, to service the West Coast. We then purchased the assets of Porter Wallcovering in 1993 and began servicing retailers in southern states. In 1994, we relocated Brewster's Washington, D.C., distribution facility to a larger site in Louisville, KY, to better service retailers in southern and Mid-Atlantic states. Brewster began servicing Midwest retailers in 1994, completing our goal of becoming a national distributor.
International efforts began in 1989, when Brewster opened Provincial Wallcoverings in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to service eastern Canada. We began servicing all of Canada in 1995. Our latest international expansion was into Warrington, England, in 1997.
Today, Brewster employs more than 450 people to service the needs of our growing customer base. It is my job to ensure the Brewster team exceeds the expectations of the decorating products retailers by providing the best products, programs and performance.
Our company's headquarters is more than 165,000 square feet in size and contains a design studio along with warehousing and corporate offices. Another warehouse, just three miles away, is a 100,000-square-foot facility. Our distribution centers in California, Kentucky, Toronto, and Warrington total an additional 160,000 square feet.
D&WC: What products did you handle initially? What products do you handle today?
Grandberg: We are primarily a wallpaper distributor. Brewster began offering coordinating accessories to our product offering in 1994. Our initial products included valances, throw pillows and bedding accessories. Today, we are phasing out the bedding accessories, but have added chair pads, napkins and place mats for the kitchen and shower curtains for the bath. Brewster produces both Windsor and Blouson window valances.
D&WC: Which of these products or lines stands out above the rest?
Grandberg: Valances are our best selling item, both the Windsor and Blouson. Shower curtains and chair pads are doing very well in our most recent kitchen and bath collection, Parkview K & B II.
Today, we introduce four to six collections a year with coordinating valances or kitchen and bath accessories such as shower curtains, chair pads, place mats and napkins.
D&WC: Who are your customers? What parts of the country do you service?
Grandberg: Brewster services independent paint, wallpaper, fabric and window coverings retailers in the entire United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
We have more than 70 sales representatives in the United States and Canada who are supported by an eight-member Telesales Team, more than 50 customer service agents and 10 sales support members.
D&WC: What are some of the key factors involved in your growth and success?
Grandberg: The Brewster sales force has been instrumental in our growth in selling fabrics and accessories. They have learned about the products through training, but their biggest knowledge gain comes from the retailers.
We have spent a great amount of time consulting with retailers who told us exactly what we needed to know to make our program successful-for them and for us. We also have instituted a great sampling program that allows retailers to show our products to the consumers.
D&WC: What are your strengths in the marketplace?
Grandberg: Our strength is exclusive products for the retailers, which won't be found in every store. Also, the company's ability to service what we sell. Our fabrics, window valances and other accessories are reasonably priced and have a custom quality for an in-stock, ready-to-ship item. Today we also convert most of the fabric ourselves, which allows us to offer retailers exclusive designs that coordinate with our wallpaper products.
D&WC: What distinguishes you from the competition?
Grandberg: All of our window accessory products coordinate with our wallpaper, borders and fabrics and are in stock. This makes decorating the whole room for the consumer much easier. Also, most of the fabrics we use are exclusive to Brewster. This means retailers don't have to worry about consumers being able to find our products in every store in their neighborhoods.
Our offering wallpaper, borders, fabrics, valances and kitchen and bath accessories allows retailers to sell the whole room and this will increase their sales and store traffic.
D&WC: What advice would you give to other window coverings professionals?
Grandberg: The biggest piece of knowledge we have learned is that our ready-made program actually enhances the retailer's custom business. Also, consumers do buy wallpaper because it has matching fabrics and window accessories.
Retailers today have to be a complete decorating center, which means in addition to window coverings products they must sell wallpaper and borders. Consumers want one-stop shopping and don't necessarily have to go to a big home center to get it. Retailers are able to provide more and better service. Cross merchandising is the key to a retailer's success.
D&WC: Is your business computerized?
Grandberg: Most aspects of our operation are computerized including our new CAD system. The Brewster sales team will have laptops by the end of this year.
The last area in the company to be computerized will be the inventory control bar code system, which will be implemented in 1999.
D&WC: Do you educate your customers?
Grandberg: Brewster has invested heavily in the training of our sales staff so it can share knowledge with customers. We offer a video-based retail store training seminar that our sales reps will conduct for a store, or we will loan it to the store for a home-study program.
We have a 24-minute consumer video, The Wonderful World of Wallpaper, which includes sections on valances, fabrics and other accessories. We also will conduct how-to decorate clinics for our customers' end-users, the consumer.
Finally, we developed a step-by-step How to Run a Decorating Seminar booklet, which teaches retailers how to run their own seminars.
Brewster Wallcovering Co.
67 Pacella Park Dr.
Randolph, MA 02368-1755
Fax: (781) 986-0650