Shower specialist Coram is planning a strategic relaunch of its Dutch accessories brand Geesa into the independent retail sector. Rebecca Nottingham speaks to Coram Group UK managing director John Blackburn about his strategy and objectives for the brand in the UK
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few decades, it’s fair to assume that the majority of you working in the bathroom sector will already be familiar with Dutch accessories brand Geesa.
Its credentials speak volumes. Established in 1885, Geesa has been specialising in the production of bathroom accessories for more than 130 years. It operates in a total of 65 countries worldwide, offers a 12-year guarantee on all of its products and has even teamed up with renowned Dutch designer Marcel Wanders to co-create the award-winning ‘Haiku’ collection.
Secondly, the brand has been part of the Coram Group since 1988. Eurobath, which later became known as premium brassware specialist Vado, started distributing Geesa in the UK in 1995. The two companies parted company in 1994 and the accessories brand has been somewhat under the radar in the UK retail sector ever since.
So, why has the Coram Group decided that 2016 is the year to target independent retailers and push the brand in the UK market?
“Geesa has been part of the Coram Group for almost 30 years, so the brand is in the company’s DNA,” Coram Group UK managing director John Blackburn explains. “Since the beginning of 2014, Coram Group UK has held the licence to distribute Geesa products throughout the UK.
“In early 2015, we tested the market with a soft launch of the brand, and found the result to be overwhelmingly positive. We have some exciting plans for bringing the products to the UK and believe that the dynamic brand is ideally positioned to align with our Impey wet-room products, to create a visually stunning, modern showering environment.”
According to Blackburn, the brand gained real ground in the UK specification market during the soft launch and went on to win a significant number of hotel, house and apartment projects. It was this success that proved to Blackburn, and the Coram Group, that it was time to reintroduce the brand to the independent retail sector. Six of Geesa’s ‘best-selling’ ranges – Modern Art, Nexx, Nemox Chrome and Nemox Stainless Steel, Wynk and Tone – have been chosen as part of its initial roll-out to independents.
“There are accessory brands in the market, but you’d be hard pushed to find one as significant as Geesa,” he says. “It sells thousands and thousands of accessories worldwide and has been doing so for 130 years.
“Our strategy is clear, we [the Coram Group] want to be seen as the specialist of the shower space in the UK and reintroducing the brand here is a key element of that aim. We are now primed for a full-scale UK launch into the independent retail sector which we feel is the ideal channel for the brand.”
Q: Vado used to distribute the Geesa brand in the UK, but they parted company in 2014. Can you clarify exactly what happened?
A: The two brands had a good working relationship but, in 2014, Vado simply decided to take its own route into the accessories market. So, to clarify, the parting of the brands was not a failed implementation. Geesa had, and still has, a really good name and reputation in the UK and is recognised in both the retail and contract sectors as a very strong brand.
Q: What’s your strategy for relaunching the brand in the UK market?
A: We’re already doing well with Geesa in the specification market and will continue to develop the brand there. The traction we have in the contract sector is what really gave us the confidence to drive the brand into the retail market, which is our focus moving forward. If you can prove your credentials in the specification market, why wouldn’t it work in a domestic environment?
Recognising that the needs of the retail market are different from the specification sector, we’ve cherry-picked a selection of the entire portfolio to make it easier for independent retailers to sell and will be offering next-day delivery on those particular products, which we understand is key to the sale of accessories. The rest of the Geesa portfolio is obviously available to independent retailers but with longer lead times.
Q: How important are independent retailers to the success of Geesa in the UK?
A: It’s a quality brand and, therefore, requires a quality resell service that we feel independents are best placed to offer. It is available to any Impey dealer but, as part of our strategy, we want to build partnerships with people who really want to drive the brand. We are introducing a Preferred Retailer concept, where qualifying retailers will benefit from a range of additional benefits. They will be expected to commit to the brand by featuring a set number of prominent displays. In return, they’ll receive extra benefits, including improved sales terms, sales staff incentives, exclusive promotional offers and FOC display units. The aim is to get between 80 and 100 independent retailers on board.
Q: How will you measure the success of the brand?
A: Because we’ve got access to the brand without significant investment, there is less pressure on us to make a certain level of turnover. The main point of reintroducing the Geesa brand in the UK is to give the Coram and Impey brands added value. We want to be known as the ‘shower space’ specialist and we think Geesa is the last part of the puzzle. Once we start seeing real movement in the retail sector, we’ll start working with Geesa on products designed specifically where products in the UK market are lacking.
Q: How’s the implementation of the brand in the UK going so far?
A: Overall, we’ve had a really positive reaction to our plan. We’ve presented to approximately 40 retailers so far and have signed up 20. What we’ve got to do now is to convert the retailers we’ve presented to and work with them to get the brand into their studios. There’s no reason why, from the interaction we’ve had with retailers so far, we won’t easily meet our target of 80 retailers by the end of the year.
Q: The UK market isn’t short of bathroom accessory brands, so what will really make Geesa stand out?
A: There are plenty of brands and offers in every sector in every market, so when something new comes along it has to have a point of difference. What’s genuinely unique about Geesa is that it is a true accessories specialist. Its focus is 100% on designing, manufacturing and distributing accessories – it does nothing else. The fact that Geesa is a specialist in its field really mirrors what we’re trying to do as a group. By covering wet rooms, enclosures, shower pods and accessories, we want to be recognised as the shower space specialist.
Q: How’s business for the Geesa brand at the moment?
A: On the whole, business is good. The brand performed well last year and started 2016 very positively. It operates in a total of 65 markets around the world so you always see fluctuations in performance depending on how each market is faring.