Family-run retailer Ocean Bathrooms has made some major investments in its business during lockdown, including revamping its Bridport showroom and starting work on a new showroom in Poole.
Other changes within the company include setting up a finance package for customers wanting to pay by monthly instalments, new brochures for the contracts and commercial arm and a new TV ad campaign on Sky.
Joe Mühl, managing director of contracts and commercial projects, told kbbreview: “I spent the first two weeks [of lockdown] pretty down and negative, but after that I just thought let’s do it and look for new opportunities. I managed to be really productive. As long as one of the things works, be that the Sky TV ad, the finance package or the new commercial ventures I’ve done, or the new showroom or the change in Bridport, then that’s a great thing to move forward.
“We did this instead of just thinking, ‘Oh, well. If the worst happens then we just have to accept it’. A lot of showrooms are looking at closing, but we have done too much to give up and we have to look forward and make new opportunities.”
The expansion of the contracts market has been on its agenda for more than a year as a response to the uncertainty of Brexit. Those contracts are now fully in development. Mühl said: “Retail is fine until something goes wrong in the world and people start to get worried about spending money. For the past year or so, I have been working on contracts and commercial, so I took the business into another space.”
The showrooms are now being targeted at the higher end of the market. Mühl explained that this was counter to what he saw other showrooms doing. Many, he said, were looking at the affordable end as customers may want to spend less overall. Ocean Bathrooms said it had set its sights on giving the customer an experience in the showroom, as well as managing all the aspects of the supply and fit.
The work on the Bridport showroom started this week and should be completed by the end of August. The new showroom in Poole is scheduled to be finished by mid-September, with an official opening date in early October. The third showroom is located in the Business Design Centre in London.
The Poole showroom will have several experiential aspects, including aromatherapy diffusers and working Geberit Aquaclean shower toilets in the WC. The design presentation area is surrounded by plants and jungle-themed wallpaper.
Mühl said: “With all the humidifiers, and the design area it is a trendy and cool space, so it is a little bit more London Clerkenwell-inspired. People don’t need thousands of choices at the moment. You don’t need 200 toilets on show as you only sell two or three. We are showing limited products, but the right and higher-end product for the customer.
“Rather than have showrooms, we are going to call them experiences. There are fewer and fewer old-style showrooms where you are walking around 200 displays. People are looking for something different.”
There will be one display in the front entrance and shower sets at the back of the showroom. The majority of products are mounted on the wall in niches to let customers see the product without being overwhelmed with displays.
The showroom will be by appointment only. Mühl explained: “Before Covid hit, we were considering doing private appointments anyway, because people turn up at the showroom and then go online and buy it. We don’t want that. We want people to come in who want the service. When this happened with Covid, and we were looking at reopening, I decided that we would keep it as appointment-only.”