We ask bathroom industry experts for their views on where the market is headed in 2021
‘Our industry is incredibly resilient’
Dave Barber, UK MD for Ideal Standard, predicts a challenging year but a positive outlook for retail
Q: Where do you think the industry will go in the next year?
A: The experience of, and bounce back from, Covid-19 have shown that our industry is incredibly resilient. There is still a huge amount of pressure to tackle the housing shortage, so we’ll be working hard to continue to support the residential housing market. Retail has already had a resounding rebound from the pandemic, as many people have used the time and the money saved to rebuild and renovate their homes. We’ve also seen a huge growth in e-tail, so I think this sector will perform strongly next year.
Ideally, this should continue into 2022, providing the level of unemployment doesn’t rise significantly. But with vaccines ready to be rolled out, I have a strong sense of positivity for our industry.
Q: What will be the main challenges going forward?
A: It wouldn’t be an interview without mentioning the elephant in the room – Brexit. Leaving the European Union will be one of the main issues that we’ll need to work together to mitigate the impact of.
From Ideal Standard’s perspective, all eventualities have been considered and robust contingency plans have been prepared. Due to our unique position as the only large-scale bathroom manufacturer in the UK, Brexit is unlikely to have an impact on our capacity for production or to supply customers.
Q: What is your advice for retailers to make sure they thrive this year?
A: I would advise them to continue to strive to stand out in their area of the market. Retailers need to continue to offer the great service and advice that they are already known for, as there will always be a need for flexibility and creativity from customers, as well as a demand for retailers that enhance the consumer journey.
I’d say 8. I have high confidence for our business in 2021. The fundamentals of our company remain strong and we have some very exciting product launches coming through the pipeline over the next few months. I’m looking forward to putting 2020 behind us and moving forward to a challenging, but exciting and successful year.
‘The market is in good shape’
John Schofield, sales and marketing director at JT, is optimistic but recognises hurdles in terms of supply chain and rising unemployment
Q: Where do you think the industry will go over the next 12 to 24 months?
A: The market is in good shape and the momentum looks certain to carry us through the first quarter at least. Confidence should come from the fact that house builders have very strong sales, with some having sold their allocation through to August. Of course, there are a number of macro issues, such as Brexit, and the sad fact that people are losing jobs, which is likely to have an impact in the longer term.
Q: What do you think will be the main challenges going forward?
A: In the short term, there is still the challenge of getting products – whether this is UK manufacturing, such as ourselves, where the uplift after shutdown and subsequent increased demand meant that despite running 24 hours a day, lead times have had to be pushed out. For imported product, the challenge has been just as, if not more, of a challenge, with pinch points running through the supply chain. This start to ease as the shipping demand calms down after Christmas and factories catch up.
Q: What is your advice for retailers for the coming year?
A: Retailers have had to adapt over what was an extremely challenging 2020, not just in terms of volumes, but also trying to interpret the ‘essential’ or ‘non-essential’ shops conversation. The retailers I see being successful are those that add value to the process – be it design, installation or high level of service.
Q: How would you rate your confidence in business out of 10?
A: I’m an optimistic person and put my confidence at a 7 or 8.
Q: What will be the main areas for growth product-wise?
A: The shower tray sector continues to grow as people are replacing baths and the majority of refurbishments tend to include an additional bathroom. Increasing demand for trays has also been driven by more consumers moving to showering to save water.
‘Now is the time to make sure you are visible’
Abode marketing manager Leanne Adamson says the strong demand created by people working from home due to the pandemic will continue through 2021
Q: Where do you think the industry will go over the next 12-24 months?
A: 2020 saw the KBB industry operating in an incredibly unpredictable trading environment and the current situation will probably continue for at least the first half of 2021. For Abode in particular, the national switch to working from home that resulted from the pandemic created strong demand for refurbishment projects involving sinks and taps and we would think this is likely to continue into 2021 and beyond.
Q: What do you think will be the main challenges going forward?
A: I would say consumer confidence levels in and around such uncertain times. This may cause delays in planned home improvements as a result. Backlogs and waiting periods rolling into 2021 caused by increased demand this year may also deter some consumers from committing to previously planned projects.
However, 2021 will be about adapting to a ‘new normal’, planning while bearing in mind that this too could be temporary and things are likely to change as we go.
Q: What is your advice for retailers to make sure they thrive in the coming year?
A: Any new year offers a great opportunity to revamp your showroom window displays, add new products to your displays and invest in your marketing and that certainly is the case for 2021. Independent retailers offer products and customer service levels that often can’t be rivalled by DIY chains, but it is important that customers know about you in the first place. Now is the time to make sure you are visible.
Q: How would you rate your confidence in business over the year ahead out of 10 and why?
A: Ten, simply because it is important to be confident and, despite the turmoil of 2020, there is reason to be positive. Yes, the next year or so will present challenges for the industry, but it will also present many opportunities, to introduce new trends and to work in new ways with our customers.
Q: What do you think will be the main areas for growth or decline in the next 12 months product-wise?
A: Sales of Pronteau steaming water taps grew quite substantially in 2020 as consumers switched to working from home and families upgraded from old kettles to a more modern convenience. We see this trend continuing into 2021. The trend for home baking will continue in earnest and time-saving will remain a big selling point.
We are also likely to see a growth in sales of large sinks, brought about in part by a migration from city to country living.
‘Consumers will be cautious with their spending’
Ben Bryden, sales and marketing director at RAK Ceramics UK, believes consumers may be cautious but that independent retailers offer a personal experience that theywon’t get anywhere else
Home comforts will remain a priority to consumers for the foreseeable future, as the pandemic shows no signs of abating, with people continuing to invest in their properties.
We also predict that consumers will be cautious with their spending, not wishing to overextend themselves financially. It is, therefore, going to be very important for manufacturers and retailers to be able to demonstrate quality, longevity and variety in their offering, to make any investment justifiable.
I think, and certainly hope, consumers will be focused on supporting small businesses and their local retailers in 2021, so this really is the perfect time to pull out all the stops and convince them to purchase their new bathroom from you.
A bathroom is a really big investment and an emotional purchase too, so consumers are looking for a retailer they can trust to lead them through the journey, with product choice obviously playing its own important part in this.
Independent retailers are well positioned to offer consumers the personal experience they are looking for, which can’t be found with the multiples or with an online purchase. Retailers need to make the most of this now.
Bathrooms need to be luxurious spaces to retreat and enjoy some time for ourselves. Trends are reflecting this, with glamorous brassware finishes, sanitaryware in soft shades that offer an alternative to crisp white, walk-in shower areas and hotel-inspired, large-format tiling.