kbb Birmingham 2022: ‘Promote the benefits of UK-made products’, says Carron Bathrooms

James McMorrine, managing director, Carron Bathrooms 

Q: How’s business compared with last year? 

A: The momentum built in 2020, after the first lockdown, continued throughout 2021 for Carron, and while we were at times stretched for raw materials, we increased revenue by 10% against 2019 and 19% against 2020. Clearly, in 2022, external economic factors may disrupt the momentum built as the cost of living and inflationary factors could lead to a slowdown, which we are conscious of when planning for the year ahead.

Q: What are the main challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

A: Accessibility of raw materials has been challenging, and while availability has improved, many of our material prices have increased by over 200%. We have sought to minimise the increases passed on to the market in the hope that these increases are transitory, however until demand slows, [the cost of] raw materials will remain high and could force a significant reduction in demand.

Q: How do you view the health of the UK KBB market? What could the industry do
to improve? 

A: From a bathroom perspective, demand for product has been strong since Covid, however there feels to be a handbrake on supply of installation due to the lack of qualified installers. Many of our customers report difficulty in finding installers either directly or in collaboration to carry out work. 

As a UK manufacturer, I also believe we can do more as a sector to promote the benefits of products still manufactured in their entirety in the UK. There is clearly a consumer recognition that we must protect our planet, and sourcing products with 20- to 30-year warranties while keeping revenues within our country can only be positive. We are driven to produce great products for the professional sector and rely on the designer, retailer and installer to recommend our products to the consumer to allow us to continuously reinvest in new designs.

Q: How do you think the relationship between supplier and retailer is changing?

A: From our perspective, we are eager to be far more engaged with retailers and merchants. Working with Q4 Bathrooms, Davroc and FBS allows us the opportunity to provide the retailers with in-depth knowledge and confidence in Carron products, while still ensuring a market-leading service. We have long recognised that the changing face of retailing needs to be thoughtful, and our commitment is to real world retailers who want to commit to Carron. We look forward to talking with them at the show.

Q: If you were opening a retail showroom in this market, what would your strategy be?

A: Having tried retailing earlier in my career, I would not claim to be an authority on making it work. I am constantly awestruck by the depth and range of knowledge retailers and installers hold. As a manufacturer, we are determined to reward that knowledge with genuine support. Any showroom that affords Carron the opportunity to display must be supported in a strategic way to grow our business together. In Scotland, where we have worked more closely with the market, we have grown our sales by over 33% in five years by listening and working with our customers to offer products and services that lead the market. We are sure that can be replicated with fantastic distribution partners in the rest of the UK, too.

Q: How does it feel being back at social events like kbb and how important it is to the future of the industry? 

A: We are excited and enthused to be back talking to our customers about their thoughts for the future and how we can work together to support each other. The shared challenges we have faced over the past two years have demonstrated the resilience of our sector and I hope that we can start to look forward with more confidence about the driving forces of our industry. 

Kbb Birmingham reflects the UK’s best opportunity to challenge and drive forward innovation. For Carron, design innovation is fundamental to our commercial offer, and while designs can be imitated, we believe that our integrity cannot and this show provides a dynamic environment where all stakeholders meet in a neutral area to focus on working together.

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