J. Sonic Services Inc.
St-Laurent, Quebec
Hardwood flooring, consumer electronics
Primary market: Canada
Number of employees: 55 full-time, 10 part-time, 12 in China
Jean Aucoin, president
Michele Quenneville,  vice-president

Entrepreneur floors the competition

There is a popular perception that companies that source product in China have it easy: they just write out purchase orders, let the Chinese do the hard manufacturing and sit back and take profits.  According to one successful marketer, nothing could be farther from the truth.

“When you import mass-market goods, the margins are so small, that the effort only makes sense if you bring in huge volumes,” says Jean Aucoin, president of J. Sonic Services, which supplies a full line of flooring products sold in major retailers such as Sam’s Club, Walmart Canada and Costco. “The challenge is that this also opens you up to huge losses.”

Having a keen eye as to which SKUs (stock keeper units) will sell is key. “When you deal with the majors, if the goods you supply don’t move, you eat them,” says Aucoin, a veteran merchandiser, who also operates an electronics outlet on Henri Bourassa, which sells re-furbished Samsung, LG and Sharp products. “In short, in this business you had better make sure you push the right items.”

Due to high shipping costs, returns of China-produced goods are prohibitively expensive. To get around this, Aucoin works with only the best suppliers that have the most demanding quality control systems. But even these he does not fully rely on. He also maintains a dozen or so full-time staff on the ground in China, whose main responsibility is to oversee suppliers’ quality control.

Despite his success, Aucoin isn’t slowing down any time soon. He is currently planning to boost sales by 30 per cent over the next three years, by marketing new categories such as wall tiles, baseboards, crown moulding kits and synthetic grass. He is also clearing space for his son Ryan 23, who joined the business early in the New Year.


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