Canadian cabinetry firm opens doors in U.S. markets

Ontario company has chosen big-box stores as its portal to larger market

Jonathan Glick, president of Cutler Kitchen & Bath

Cutler Kitchen & Bath produces sleek cabinetry that looks high-end but is competitively priced. Made in Canada at the company’s 210,000-square-foot facility in Mississauga, Ont., the cabinets are sold in Canada and the United States through Home Depot, Lowe’s and Home Hardware.

“Our aim is to give the customer great design at affordable prices,” says president Jonathan Glick, who previously worked at Calvin Klein.

The cabinets, which have European hardware and matte and wood-grain melamine finishes, are designed to look and feel fashionable, says Glick, who immigrated to Canada from Cape Town, South Africa, in 1999.

Under Glick’s watch, Cutler expanded into the U.S. “Once we were able to consistently keep up with demand in Canada we slowly migrated into the U.S., which as we all know is 10 times larger than the Canadian market.”

“For us this is a marathon and not a race. We have a long way to go and a lot to learn along the way.”

Mr. Glick talked about his company and its foray south of the border.

When and why did you first expand outside Canada?

We felt that the situation in the U.S was similar to what was being experienced by Canadian consumers: an oversaturation of imported inferior product. Mass consumers in larger urban centres like California, Chicago and New York had nowhere to shop when it came to affordable modern cabinetry.

Part of the reason IKEA has been so successful in kitchens and baths is because it offers a contemporary look and feel at an affordable price. We felt that what we manufacture went a step beyond that but without having the hassle of assembling the product yourself. All our pieces are already assembled.

What’s the biggest challenge you have faced?

Convincing consumers that furniture is not just about aesthetics and price; it’s what’s on the inside and how it is constructed. Your home is probably the largest investment that you will ever make, so why fill it with an inferior product?

Has the foreign expansion paid off?

It’s been a deliberately slow expansion, as we want to be cautious. It’s important that we don’t disappoint or compromise our customer base in Canada, so we have to be sure that before we expand we can handle what lies ahead. So far it has been very successful.

Do you work with designers or other partners?

Several designers use our products on HGTV home-decor shows and write about us in their blogs and magazine articles. But that’s extent of it. We design our products ourselves.

Our larger customers, the big box retailers, carry exclusive colours and designs that are only available to them, and so we have special partnerships with them.

What about within Cutler itself?

Cutler Group has been in existence for more than 40 years and it needed a change. We rebranded the company and created something that Cutler staff became passionate about. My success is their success.

How much do you travel?

I travel a fair amount, but nothing crazy. Generally I’m in Europe two or three times yearly. I go to get design ideas and look at trends. For the vanities, we manufacture the quartz and cultured marble tops in Asia, so I travel there once a year as well. I also have to travel shorter distances within North America to take care of the shop, so to speak.

How difficult is it to compete in the international market?

There will always be competition. We believe in our product and in its unique characteristics, so we focus on our design and quality along with our other strengths and not those of potential competitors.

Anything else to share about taking business abroad?

Make sure that you have the infrastructure to tackle larger overseas markets. Mistakes can often be very costly and crippling

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Best Global Trade Finance Bank, GTR Leaders in Trade 2014

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