Roger Cooper: “Brands must support retailers through tough market”

Former Ideal Standard boss and bathroom industry stalwart Roger Cooper says manufacturers and brands must help retailers through the downturn caused by the current economic climate.

Speaking on the latest episode of The kbbreview Podcast in his last interview before retirement, Cooper says suppliers must have a plan to support retailers as part of their own strategy to deal with the difficult market.

And that needs to include a reassurance that prices will be more stable.

“I think it would be a brave company [that would] push through any further price increases this year when the market is delicate and customer confidence is very low and potentially could go even lower over the next 12 months,” he said.

” I think we need to support retailers, and manufacturers and brands need to reinforce that by saying ‘the days of heavy price increases are gone, we see some price stability now’ and then run promotions and activities to make other things possible.”

Cooper, who started in the bathroom industry in 1970, left Ideal Standard 12 years ago and joined the board at Bathroom Brands a few months later, where he remained until retirement at the end of June.

He estimates that the volume of sales in the bathroom market has dropped by 15-20% compared to pre-covid levels, even though sales revenue has remained flat. Price rises, he says, have cancelled out the difference.

He also warns that retailers may see the biggest impact of this drop in volume.

“The bathroom market isn’t a single thing but you can split it into three main sections – the retail market, which is the biggest, then there’s house building and the contract market,” he said. “Of those three, retail and house building are going to be hit the most. The contract market is reasonably buoyant and will stay that way, because there is expenditure on hospitals and schools and there are a lot of commercial buildings being converted to housing.

“But I’m afraid that the retail market is going to be hit over the next two years.”

For anyone working in the manufacture and supply side of the kbb sector, Cooper said that a clear and constantly reviewed strategy is vital for survival at times of economic uncertainty.

“I would be looking to minimise what we do, do what we do all the time but do it better, and then I would look at how we can support our customers with promotions, marketing activity and, if necessary, help them with price, particularly to win contracts or important business to them.”

You can listen to the full interview with Roger Cooper on the latest episode of The kbbreview Podcast. Use the player below or go straight to this episode on Apple PodcastsSpotify or YouTube.. Alternatively, simply search ‘kbbreview’ in your podcast app of choice.

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