Scratching the surface
Mark Hill (pictured), country manager for DuPont Corian, UK and Ireland, explains how the brand aims to stay relevant in an ever-changing market and outlines its plans for growth
Q: Demand for solid surface work-tops has grown immensely in the past decade. Is it fair to say Corian kick-started that trend?
A: Certainly we were an early innovator in the sector and we are still market leader, both in terms of brand recognition, product offering and sales. But, we have not, and cannot, maintain that by standing still. We need to continue to evolve, by listening to the needs of the market and our customers, in order to develop exactly what they need from us in terms of products and services.
Q: What’s your strategy to stay ahead of the curve and meet the needs of your customers?
A: We’ve drawn up a strategy that allows us to go to market in a more efficient way. I’d say we might have been a bit of a sleeping giant in terms of development opportunities in recent years. But that giant is now very much awake and we’re working on some really exciting developments as part of our Endless Evolution international growth initiative.
We’ve renewed and expanded our ranges of ready-made sinks and basins and introduced a collection of shower trays and baths. In line with market demand, we’ve added new colours and finishes to our portfolio and we’ve developed the integration of Corian with wireless charging solutions for smartphones and tablets. Even with those developments, if you’ll excuse the pun, we’ve only just started scratching the surface of innovation. We will continue to make sure we have the right resources, sales techniques and marketing programmes in place to support that growth.
Q: Natural tones and finishes are big at the moment. Are you concerned consumers are turning their backs on solid surface material in favour of real stone?
A: Natural stones have become an attractive proposition, in terms of aesthetic, but not necessarily in terms of functionality and design versatility. A producer of man-made materials like us faces interesting challenges these days, but, with the introduction of new solutions and additions in terms of aesthetic and functionality, we are even better equipped.
Q: How is the surface industry reacting to changes in consumer taste and demand?
A: We’ve seen significant changes in demand for surfaces and the market has responded with the development of new technologies and solutions. That’s had a positive effect on Corian because it’s made us analyse our product offering, production technology and push our boundaries.
Our Earth Heritage colour collection, for example, was specifically developed to look like natural stones, while offering the functional, design and hygienic benefits of Corian. Those finishes are proving to be extremely popular, particularly in the UK. Personally, I think that the laminates market is where we’ve seen the biggest changes. The technology it uses is advanced and flexible, which allows companies to come up with extremely realistic designs. I’d say that sector is our biggest competitor and the market we will aim to take share from.
Q: How’s Corian faring in the UK?
A: The UK is one of the most important markets for Corian. We’ve seen great growth, year on year, as a business and brand, even through times of low expectation.
Q: How are things looking for the brand globally?
A: We’re seeing positive trends in most markets, particularly in the UK, North America, Mexico, China, Poland and Turkey, in both the residential and contract sectors – and western Europe is also performing well. Some markets however, like Russia, are suffering economically and our business is not where we want it to be. But, we’re covering the decline in certain markets through success in others.
Q: How has Corian maintained its position, in such a competitive market, for over 30 years?
A: Competition is good. It keeps you keen and it keeps you mean and hungry to grow. We’re maintaining and growing our share in various segments through a targeted mix of innovation, marketing strategies, sales actions, cost containment measures and optimising our logistics. These elements have made the brand stronger and the market leader in both the good times and the more complex and difficult times. The strength of the Corian brand is also down to the quality and skills of our network of fabricators and studios.
Q: How key are independent studios to the future of Corian?
A: We’ve done a lot of work to strengthen our relationships with KBB studios. Part of that was to introduce our Home Design Partners (HDP) programme, which is about engaging and communicating with our studio partners. We continue to work closely with kitchen studios in terms of training, product development and understanding their needs. I’m really proud of the relationship we have with our studio partners and fabricators. We really do see them as a fundamental part of our team.