Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Independent Bathroom Showrooms: Their challenges and how manufacturers and distributors can support them (Part 1)

Distributors and manufacturers of bathroom products should view independent bathroom showrooms as key customers. If they adopt the right sales and marketing approach and provide the correct support, the rewards, for all, are significant.

With increasing competition from DIY sheds, large builders’ merchants and particularly the Internet, it’s important that the showrooms themselves adapt to the changing market and their place within it. 

In the final interview of our series: Selling and marketing to the small independent trades in the building industry, we discuss these issues with Keith and Sue Matthews, owners of Charisma Bathrooms, an independent bathroom showroom in Essex.

Why independent bathroom showrooms are different
Charisma Bathrooms has been in business for 25 years and many things have changed during that time. According to Keith Matthews, there are three key things that haven’t changed and these form the foundation of their whole business philosophy.  

“When people are planning to spend a significant amount of money, they want to physically see what they are buying before committing. They also like to deal with people who have experience and knowledge. Finally, people want excellent service and the personal touch, based on trust. These days the consumer is much more educated about bathroom design, which is in part due to the increase in home-improvement magazines and TV make-over programmes.”

It is Keith’s view that the alternative options for buying bathroom products do not fully cater for these three vital customer needs.

“The Internet doesn’t really allow for any of them and this is also the case with some merchants. It is particularly true for the sheds, as they just do not always have the specialist knowledge, consistency and longevity of staffing and supplier independence to truly adopt this philosophy. 

“When you buy from an independent business, you deal with the owners of the business and that makes a huge difference to the seller/customer relationship.” 

However, Keith and Sue are also very aware that some consumers and property developers are only really interested in low quality and purely functional bathrooms - this is where they can offer clear differentiation to potential customers. As Sue explains: 

“Although we do cater for all budgets, we focus on those looking for something extra in their bathroom refurbishment. Likewise, we also supply architects and developers with the industry knowledge and support they need to make a bathroom work effectively, especially space ultilisation and providing the know-how on which products can help realise their plans.”

As an independent luxury bathroom showroom, Charisma has to go that extra mile to look after their customers’ needs. They achieve this by offering a full and personal service for their project - from conception to completion and beyond. So Charisma offers a free design service and can arrange all aspects of product selection and purchase, plus installation and after-care support. Keith commented: 

“Although it is a bit of a cliché, our best form of promotion is recommendation through word of mouth. This can only be achieved by making it our primary concern to take care of the customer and give them the inspiration, service and end result they dream of, but we do need the resources and support from suppliers to help us achieve this. We are affected by heavy on-line discounting, so we have to provide an overall experience which has added value.”

Support from the bathroom manufacturers is key for survival
So what support is required to help a small bathroom showroom and why should the bathroom manufacturers invest in the required support? 

A bathroom showroom is one of the best sales tools there is for a manufacturer or supplier of bathroom products. They are like a permanent exhibition - products are taken to the public and brought to life from the pages of a brochure or the Internet.

We have already established that physically seeing a product is key in turning interest into a sale. A lovingly created bathroom setting helps the homeowner visualise exactly what they could have in their home and gives them the confidence to commit to the purchase. It also allows them to consider other options and add-ons, which they may never have even considered before seeing them in-situ in a showroom. This is a classic example of up-selling - but where the customer is entirely comfortable with their decision.

Charisma Bathrooms would not survive if it were not for their showrooms. As Sue points out:

“We our very proud of showrooms, we put a lot of love and effort into creating settings that will suit all tastes and budgets, whether it is for a new house, a refurbishment or just adding or replacing items in an existing bathroom. 

"These settings are our main vehicle in attracting customers, as they help visitors decide what they really want. However, we couldn’t create them without the support of our suppliers. They provide us with heavily discounted products for display and informative and striking point of sale materials and literature to help inform the potential customers.”

It is obvious that the high quality products which are on display will generate more interest than those not displayed and, of course, better sales. Therefore, as well as their own knowledge and instinct, Charisma relies on the advice of their suppliers to ensure that the latest trends and most popular products are displayed and changed when necessary.

However, it is not just up-to-date product displays that are important.  In part two, we discuss the level and nature of communication required from sales representatives and the companies themselves.

If you are looking to recruit for sales and marketing professionals within the bathroom and wider KBB sector or are looking for a sales job in the KBB sector, contact our specialist KBB team on 01480 405225 or via our website at

Thank you to Keith and Sue Mathews for their insight into the industry. Charisma Bathrooms is a family- run, high-quality bathroom showroom and retailer. For more information, please visit

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