Here comes the mirror man
Already known for its innovative LED mirrors and mirrored cabinets, bathroom distributor HiB has branched into new product sectors and completed a comprehensive rebranding. Managing director Robert Ginsberg tells Tim Wallace why it needed to change its message
When it comes to catchy company slogans, HiB has always relied on the Ronseal approach, doing exactly what it says on the tin. ‘Quality Bathroom Products’ might not be the most imaginative tagline, but when chairman Warren Ginsberg first coined it 25 years ago, it perfectly summed up the company’s ethos.
Back then, HiB – short for ‘Home Improvement Bureau’ – was more interested in appealing to the trade than building a brand proposition aimed at the end consumer. A simple slogan worked, and its ranges of illuminated mirrors – soon followed by mirrored bathroom cabinets – proved very popular. The company always stuck to what it knew best, resisting the temptation to broaden its innovative product mix. As such, it quickly became a respected market leader in its chosen niche.
Times change, though, and with kitchens and bathrooms now major fashion sectors, HiB’s 25th anniversary has persuaded it to reassess its message and take stock of where it wants to be in the future. “We’re known for our innovations and our customer service, but we weren’t sure whether the branding to the consumer was right,” managing director Robert Ginsberg (Warren’s son) explains. “And whether the brand and image was right for the products or whether there was a conflict.”
To address these concerns, the company has recently embarked on a major rebranding exercise. It’s also begun to broaden its offering, adding en-suite furniture, basins and ventilation to its portfolio, but still targeting independent showrooms rather than the sheds or online. The plan is to prevent its products from appearing to be merely a “finishing touch” to any bathroom. Instead, they want the consumer to see them as a central part of the project.
The new HiB tagline came from within. ‘Making Bathrooms Beautiful’ wasn’t dreamt up by Warren, but by a member of staff who apparently got a nice little bonus for their troubles. It was the winning idea from 350 suggestions made by its employees.
“We think it’s a strong message that really moves us on from the ‘quality bathroom products’ trade angle,” Robert tells me. “It’s more modern and consumer-friendly. One of the first products people turn to is a mirror or cabinet. If, when the bathroom is finished, it’s one of the wow items, why is it seen as a finishing touch? We’re saying by making bathrooms beautiful we’re at the heart of the bathroom design.”
The rebranding, which includes a new brochure and website, is built on solid foundations. Last year was the third in a row where turnover increased by more than 20%. “We’re happy with where we are,” Robert says. “2015 turnover was around £18 million. We’re only focusing on a few sectors, but we’ve got a 10 to 15 year plan of growth that will see us develop strongly and enter more sectors. Realistically, we’re looking at 10 to 15% year-on-year growth.
Robert admits mirrors and cabinets weren’t exactly his chosen career path from an early age, but with dad Warren now concentrating on developing HiB’s export markets, particularly the Middle East, the chance came for him to take on the MD role.
“When I was growing up I had no interest at all in being involved in this business,” he laughs, “but I realised I could make a change and make things happen. We moved positions round in 2012 and I took over the running of the business and Warren concentrated on the export side. He’s only working eight days a week now!”
HiB has always tried to keep itself at the forefront of innovation. It pioneered mirrors with LED lighting, then back-lit options. It then introduced shaver sockets and charger points, mirrored backs and sides, steam-free, various magnification options, then ventilation. The design side is all done in-house, but the company works with supply partners in Europe and the Far East.
Bathroom cabinetry is an area that has grown rapidly in the past three or four years and all HiB’s products are made from aluminium. En-suite furniture is a relatively new venture for the company, although Robert admits previous attempts to push this side of the business weren’t as successful as hoped.
“Furniture never took off like mirrors and cabinets,” he says. “The problem was we only had a couple of ranges in the middle of the brochure. So we spent a year or so researching and came up with a new brand called Novum. It was a massive investment. We do wall-hung and floorstanding and different basins. By putting the right range together, we can really grow the business.”
While other bathroom companies tend to offer products from as many sectors as possible, HiB prides itself on offering only what others can’t.
“We only go into a sector if we think we can add value,” Robert explains. “Before we arrived, you’d probably go to the electrician to get bathroom lighting. We brought it into the showrooms. It’s been a great sector.”
“Ventilation was very similar. The electrician sorted it, but it was cheap and noisy, so we introduced a range of bathroom ventilation with different styles. It’s been designed for the growth in wet rooms. So we developed that and brought that sector into bathroom showrooms.”
Understandably, Robert is reluctant to go into specifics on how HiB will develop from here, but stresses the importance of looking at the broader picture: “There’s always that question of how we can take the business forward,” he says. “We make sure we keep our eyes not just on the bathroom industry. You have to look wider than that, at lighting, fashion, soft furnishings, TVs, telephones… We’re already working on ideas.”