SycamoreLED: The light stuff
In his first interview in his new role as MD of SycamoreLED, Mike Edmond is joined by national sales manager Natalie Paley to talk to Chris Frankland about exciting new developments as the lighting specialist is ramping up its bathroom offering and celebrating 25 years in business
The new 10,000sq ft warehouse, offices and showroom in Garforth, Yorkshire, is the base for SycamoreLED’s new Bathroom Division, where I am meeting new MD Mike Edmond and national sales manager Natalie Paley to talk about the company’s plans for a major push to increase its presence in the bathroom lighting market, how it feels to be celebrating 25 years in business, and some exciting new product developments in the pipeline.
Sycamore also has a 10,000sq ft base in Swillington, which has a showroom and an innovation centre.
Sycamore was founded in 1998 by entrepreneur Gary Baxter, who retired earlier this year. New MD Mike Edmond joined the company seven years ago as national sales manager, as he explains: “There had been a long-standing succession plan and I was brought in to be sales director or potentially MD. I had a background in lighting and then moved into the KBB business as national sales manager having worked in sales for 20 years. I moved internally after five years to gain a better understanding of the business. It was a natural progression for me when the MD position became vacant. We also brought Natalie in as national sales manager.” Paley worked previously for Coram and Bathroom Brands.
She reveals their plans for Sycamore’s 25th anniversary: “We will be having an open day in Garforth and will open the showroom for customers to have a look around. We will also offer display promotions that will run through to the end of August.”
Edmond adds: “It is a significant milestone for any company to still be in business after 25 years. It comes back to the core people we have working here. There are plenty of companies that come and go after just a couple of years and if we are putting a five-year warranty on our products, people can be sure we will still be here.”
Sycamore’s push into bathrooms was high on the agenda when Edmond took over as MD. He tells me: “We have made massive strides into the bathroom industry and have made a significant investment. There is only so much KBB lighting out there and we realised we could be pushing forward with bathroom mirrors and cabinets. We were already speaking to most of these retailers on a day-to-day basis, but weren’t selling [bathroom products] to them.”
Independent studios are a key part of the company’s push into bathrooms, as Paley explains: “Our strategy is to focus on the independent bathroom retailer, educating the designers, being innovative with our products and always trying to think of the next thing rather than following trends.”
Sycamore knows how important it is to help customers visualise what a lighting scheme will look like in their home. “It has been key to make sure we are on the Virtual Worlds design platform and to partner with Easy Quote and TruBlue,” says Paley. “One of the biggest hurdles for designers is being able to show customers how it will look in their own space. These platforms help to show customers how it will look and feel and have taken it to the next level.”
Edmond tells me that SycamoreLED has seen double-digit growth in the past year and one particularly strong area has been smart-tech products, which saw triple-digit growth. “It has been a huge focus for us, where we weren’t focusing on before,” says Edmond.
Commenting on how the lighting market has changed, Edmond adds: “Everything has moved to LED strips and everybody is obsessed with mobile phones and technology, so now smart controls bring a huge advantage.”
Taken as read these days are touch controls to turn mirrors and other lighting on and off and change the colour temperature to achieve the desired mood, but Sycamore has pushed the tech boundaries in its mirrors and cabinets with the inclusion of wireless chargers and built-in Bluetooth speakers.
Edmond elaborates: “Most people are unlikely to put an Amazon Alexa or a Sonos speaker in their bathroom, so where do you put them? It will usually be in some kind of mirror cabinet. Can we put speakers into it? Yes, we can. Can we put a QI wireless charger into it and a wireless charger for a toothbrush? Yes, we can.”
Edmond and Paley are both keen to reveal details of an exciting new product SycamoreLED will be launching in the near future.
“We are launching a mirror cabinet that has a tablet built in,” explains Edmond. “This will connect to the internet or let users listen to Spotify. You can control it from the mirror/screen. It will also link to special scales that will check your BMI and weight and show all the metrics on the screen. That will be a big launch for us this year.”
While there have been big strides with tech in the bathroom, kitchens have also seen their fair share, and kitchen lighting still represents around 80% of Sycamore’s sales.
Edmond explains: “A lot of the technology is transferable between the bathroom and kitchen, and bedrooms, so we have all the smart control, voice control, wi-fi control and colour tuning options. In the kitchen, we also offer motorised pop-up power docks for islands that have a QI charger built in, USB connections, and Bluetooth speakers. Apart from appliances, we are trying to offer most of the electrical items within the kitchen and the bathroom. We even have a range of extractor fans.”
Another product that Edmond says is causing quite a stir is the new Kinetic wireless switch. It looks like a standard wall plate but is totally wireless and sends a signal to control other lighting in the room.
Edmond also reveals that, fuelled by extractor hobs freeing up space above kitchen islands, the market for pendant lighting has grown significantly and Sycamore has doubled its product offering in that area.
Other bathroom products coming shortly from SycamoreLED include pill-shaped and strap-shaped mirrors, new cabinets and bigger and wider, more featured mirrors. There are also new wall-mounted or stand-mounted mirrors for the bedroom.
More designers are waking up to the creative possibilities with lighting and the fact it is an easy add-on sale, but for those lacking confidence, SycamoreLED will provide any training and support they need.
Paley says: “There may be an element of the unknown. But the more you familiarise yourself with it, the more training you have with the product, the more confident you are.”
Edmond agrees: “We offer huge support and if a designer either doesn’t want to do it, or isn’t confident, they can send their design to us and we will design the lighting for them.”
He tells kbbreview of one designer who had just finished doing 37 different kitchens for a contract job. He sent the details to Sycamore and they designed 37 different lighting schemes for them.
Support also comes from area sales managers who can provide one-to-one training during their showroom visits. They can also advise on lighting for the showroom displays.
Displaying lighting is key, says Edmond, and he advises using displays to show as many different types of lighting as possible.
SycamoreLED designs its products in-house and sources most of them from the Far East. It works closely with suppliers, liaises with them over new technologies and uses shows such as the recent ISH to monitor and stay ahead of the market trends.
It also listens to its retailers, as Paley confirms: “We really listen to our retailers. If they tell us what they would like, or if they think there is a gap for a new product, we will work with them to make sure we fill any gaps. That retail feedback is really important to us.”
Going forward, the push into bathrooms will continue. Edmond says: “Our massive focus is on bathrooms. We have been focusing on that and we have just doubled our square-footage. But we also want to make sure that we are not missing any opportunities on the kitchen side.”
And retailers are key, as Paley adds: “Everything we have put into place so far is going to grow and develop further. Forging those partnerships with retailers moving forward is key.