Clearwater and the importance of being a specialist

Focusing on one thing can drive innovation and sinks and taps brand Clearwater prides itself on being a specialist. Vicki Evans visits Tewkesbury to see development and procurement manager Daniel Bolton and general manager Andrew Hall

Daniel Bolton (left) and Andrew Hall (right) from Clearwater

A brand is always going to reflect the driving force behind it. Sitting and chatting with David Bolton and Andrew Hall at the Clearwater headquarters in Tewkesbury brings this home to me.

With their drive and creativity, the Clearwater brand has grown to become what it is now. The brand and the team both started from the bottom and worked their way up. As a result of hard work and determination, the people have become successful leaders, and the brand has become respected in its own right.

Let’s start with the people spearheading the brand.

Bolton started at the company at only 15 as a work experience placement. He worked his way up through the company doing many different jobs. At one point, he worked on the returns team, where he spent time disassembling and determining why a product was sent back.

This knowledge has proven invaluable as he knows what was being returned, what might break and how to fix it. Now, he is Clearwater’s development and procurement manager, using his on-the-ground experience and creativity to make the products the best they can be.

Hall started driving the company’s vans as a stop-gap job when he was younger. One day he was asked to speak to a client on one of his deliveries, and then he was asked to wear a suit and go out and speak to more clients as a salesperson. He continued to progress until he became the general manager. Every job opportunity that Hall had, he sunk his teeth into, as he believes that the best way of learning is by doing.


The pair reflect on how they have seen the company grow over the years, how the team started with only a couple of employees plus the founders and has grown to 30 – with the majority having had at least a decade of service.

There is a sense of building individuals up and giving them a chance – both Hall and Bolton started at entry-level jobs and now hold senior positions. It is part of the joy of working in a small team as there isn’t a sense of stuffiness in the company – everything is open.

Let’s go over a timeline of events. In 1995, Sterling Distribution was founded – it specialised in distributing sinks and taps brands. The company’s distribution arm is still going strong and distributes top brands like Gessi, Abode, InSinkErator and Grohe, to name a few.

In 2000, the Clearwater and Thomas Denby brands were founded. It was an opportunity for Sterling Distribution to sell its own products. The two were always in the same brochures as the companies Ster­ling distributed, but in 2018, Clearwater got its own brochure.

Clearwater and Thomas Denby have distinctive looks. The latter is more trad­itional with ceramic butler-style sinks, while Clearwater is more modern. Clearwater is the main focus out of the two for Sterling.

“Clearwater is our main area of growth,” says Hall. “Our distribution side has grown but the development of the Clearwater brand has been vital. It is now an entity that stands on its own two feet and is a huge focus of what we do.”

In the early days of Clearwater, there was little focus on innovation. Before, the brand sought out good quality manufacturers that they knew would create a good product. However, they knew they needed to be more creative. “Until 2018, that’s how we did it,” explains Bolton.

“It was all about the natural growth of the Clearwater brand and pushing on with the distribution side. As we went on, we learnt more about how sinks and taps were made and wanted to be more creative. Back then, we were in a bit of a dead-end, where we would only launch new products once or twice a year.

“So, the natural course was to focus on Clear­water and be in charge of our own destiny.”

Eventually, the time came for them to start honing the designs and making them a considerable part of the business. “We started to focus on design and develop our own brand of stainless-steel sinks,” says Bolton. “We wanted to create some wow products, not necessarily thinking how many we can sell but how can we create a hero product and create some interest in the brand.”

Hall interjects: “You have to have a product that people want to talk about. It is part of the marketing exercise that you need to have something that is unique to you. If you create something that goes into a showroom and there is a product that you can touch and feel, move and play around with the different functions, then it is more engaging for people.”

A selection of Clearwater products

A tactile product for the retailer is a key area. Clearwater wants the sinks and taps to be displayed to make customers want to touch the finishes, try the pull-out hose or play around with the different configurations.

As much as this was done to put Clearwater on the map, it does help retailers, as Bolton explains: “We want to give the retailers something to touch and feel and not just something basic. Sinks and taps can be a hard sell, as there are only so many ways you can talk about quality, but having a tactile product helps the retailer.

“We wanted to create all products with a unique selling point that has a tactile nature. Going from stainless-steel to granite to ceramic sinks to taps to filter taps to boiling taps to sensor taps – we are working our way through the categories and putting our spin on everything to create a hero product, as we want to make that sale for the retailer easier and more interesting.”


One strong selling point is how Clearwater sets out to create finishes that coordinate with one another – the sink, the tap and the waste all match. A process that requires a lot of testing and samples to get just right to keep a seamless look.

There is a lot of keeping up with the Joneses with finishes at the moment, a lot of new colours that customers are demanding, meaning there always has to be development into new areas.

However, Clearwater tries to invent new sinks and taps and be the first to market as a way to break the hamster wheel of trends.

Take the twist and spray aerator tap, a totally new idea from Clearwater that solves a consumer problem of needing a different setting on the tap to help wash dishes more efficiently. The aerator is built into the faucet’s design and comes as standard, and the customer is not charged extra. Clearwater doesn’t want to follow trends but make them.

“You have to create what the market wants at the time,” says Hall. “So, we just leave Daniel to his creative side.” Bolton laughs at that. However, that is where he flourishes at the company. Bolton says: “The creative side of the business is where I found my feet.”

There are now 154 products at Clearwater across multiple areas. “We are a one-stop-shop for everything – providing it is a sink and a tap,” jokes Hall. “Our desire to not diversify to other avenues has kept that focus on us.”

The retailer is always at the forefront of their minds. Although Clear­water only did a little advertising for many years, the primary way to get in front of customers was through retailers. They rely heavily on retailers, so they know they must give them the best support possible.

This personal touch kept them in good standing in the industry because the classic word-of-mouth and reputation helped fuel their business for many years. But when you rely on your reputation, customer service must be at the top of your agenda.

Hall is hyper-aware of this fact, as he describes: “If something goes wrong, then that is what you are remembered by. But, of course, things will always go wrong sometimes, especially when factors are out of your control, so our ethos is that we want to make things as easy as possible when things go wrong.

“Reacting this way can be to our detriment as we will send out a part free of charge or give someone a discount on a replacement sink. We will keep the experience as painless as possible. That used to be one of our main slogans as we want to build those relationship and have a good level of service.”

Practically speaking, that means that emails to the company are replied to within the hour and they aim to resolve any support issues within 24 hours. The quick response helps people keep the brand in mind.
Where is the brand’s focus now, and where will it go?

Hall assesses the current situation: “Now the brand wants to push themselves further. There is more than can be done around marketing, which is a key area for the team. They have set up the foundations and are now looking to put themselves out more.”

The foundations are there for them to grow. Their warehouses are packed to the brim with stock. The brand has carefully grown stock over the past few years as they knew they needed product options for retailers. As a result, around 90% of the catalogue is always in stock and can be shipped immediately.

Being a distributor of other brands means they also know the market. Sterling already knows precisely what sells – meaning that all the expensive market research for their expansion is already done.

They just have to look through their books to find out what products are the most desirable.
Looking to the future, the team do want to expand the Clearwater brand in a sustainable way. There is a lot of passion for the brand that shines through in every detail, from the waste in the sink, and the taps, to the brochure to the POS and how they interact with the retailer.

Bolton sums up: “For us two, Clearwater has been an area of passion for us, to give the best service possible to our retailers, and to raise our level in the industry. All the while hopefully growing.”

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