Matki: Decades of detail

Matki MD Nicholas Cunild

MD Nicholas Cunild (pictured right) shares how consistent marketing has enabled British shower enclosure specialist Matki to build strong relationships with retailers and carve out a niche in the market over the past 52 years

One of the overriding messages from MD Nicholas Cunild is that Matki considers supporting its retailers as a top priority. 

A key element of that support is not only understanding how important brand building is for driving footfall into retail showrooms, but the essential part is also backing that understanding up with consistent targeted marketing.  

“The thing with Matki is that, even when we hit a tricky period, we still have our sales team out on the road supporting retailers, our design team is always working on new products and our advertising stays consistent,” he explains. “We understand how impor­tant it is for retailers that we build brand awareness in a bid to increase footfall into showrooms. That’s always been key to us, and we always continue with that marketing strategy through good years or bad.

“The business has been through fantastic years, and very difficult years, but the things we hold dearest to us – design, innovation, customer service and brand – are our future and we never cut investment there.”

The company was founded in 1971 by a group of directors including Per Mathiesen – the ‘Mat’ in Matki – who, despite now being in his 90s, remains on the board and is the company’s majority shareholder. 

Cunild credits it as one of the first brands to introduce shower enclosures to the UK market, originally bringing in product from the US. By the 1980s, manufacturing had moved to the UK and this was really the beginning, Cunild says, of the premium Matki brand the market recognises today. By the early 2000s, the enclosure market had become extremely competitive, and the board had to make a decision about its direction.    

UK manufacture

Today, Matki designs and manu­factures enclosures at its HQ in Yate, near Bristol. It also has a shower tray production facility in Redruth, Cornwall, with Swadling Brassware made at Waterlooville, Hampshire. 

“Before the volume producers arrived en masse, we were one of the only shower enclosure brands in the UK,” explains Cunild. “What that influx of competition did for us was help us to carve out our niche in the premium sector. We realised we wouldn’t survive as a business churning out boxes and competing on price. So, we’ve stayed true to our manufacturing capa­bilities and focused on our quality and innovation.

“We thought, if we’re any use to anyone it’s through staying true to our values and being able to deliver something to our customers that’s different from what others can bring.” 

Cunild has been around the Matki business for years, but didn’t take on any official roles until around 2008. 

“My father [Francis Cunild] started out as the brand’s first salesman,” he explains. “He eventually became MD and as a result I basically grew up around Matki. I went to university to study international politics and pursued a career in that area, but I came back to the business in 2008 in a sales role. That’s when I really got a passion for the business – the product design, the marketing, the customers and how the business all came together. I became business develop­ment manager in 2011 and eventually took over as MD in 2015 when my father retired.” 

Cunild began to put his own stamp on the business in 2018 when, after identifying a gap in its portfolio and the market, he launched the brand’s luxury Classica enclosures. 

“I knew that if I wanted to grow the company, I had to do something different from what we were already doing,” he explains. “Aiming at the very top end was one clear way to do it. 

Luxury focus

“Our Classica enclosures are built exclusively from high-quality brass, and it completed our portfolio. We now have that upper-middle to luxury focus.

“The other way to grow a business is through diversification. We already had Swadling, but I felt we hadn’t got the full potential out of it. It’s a portfolio of unique brassware designs, manu­factured from high-quality materials and we continue to invest in the brand to get the product right. Our plan to launch it in the US is well under way. We hope to be selling there next year.”

Part of the investment and development in the Swadling factory also allowed Matki to introduce a range of metallic finishes for all frames, brackets, handles and hinges in its premium EauZone range. He also called for a major revamp of the EauZone portfolio. 

“Everything we do is customer-led,” he says. “Our production team and facilities will cope with what they have to cope with. We have the expertise, we’re able to push the boundaries of design. 

The new Matki EauZone Arch Wet Room Panel. All frames and fittings are made of brass and are available in 11 different finishes 

The revamp of EauZone was to make it clearly the best in its field using superior com­­ponents and materials.” 

Change is healthy but it often means taking risks and can come at a cost. So, what did Cunild’s developments do for the company’s bottom line?

“If you’re going to move a business forward, there has to be an element of risk,” he says. “As a rock climber, I understand that you have to calculate risks and be as sure as you can that they’re the right thing to do, but what the risks can’t do is hold you back from trying. The lovely thing for Matki is that we have the established brand, we have the retail and consumer following, we have the successful product lines, and we have the ability, expertise and courage to continue to innovate in order to meet the needs of our retailers and their customers.”

It would seem that the risks have also paid off financially. 

Prior to his decision to invest and develop it, the Swadling Brassware brand was generating around £300,000 worth of sales. Currently, that side of the business is generating between £1.5 and £2 million a year. With the launch of Classica, Cunild has also significantly increased the brand’s earning potential.


“The company has grown over the past few years – though perhaps not as much as I’d have liked,” he says. “When I took over as MD in 2015, we were generating around £11.5m and last year we hit £13m. 

“When you look at the way the market has changed and the pressures from competition, we’re still here after 52 years, we’re still profitable and we’re still delivering for retailers, so I’m proud of what we’ve achieved. 

“Swadling is doing really well now but it’s not where I want it to be yet,” he says, “Our plan to take it to the US, is one way I see that growth being generated, but there is still growth to be had in the UK as well.  

“Classica performed really well in the contracts market last year and, while I understand that won’t happen every year I know it has lots of potential.”

Aside from the plan to launch its brassware brand in the US, what’s next for Cunild and the Matki business? 

“One of my main aims is to solidify our position in the high-end shower enclosure market,” he says. 

“We have a strong brand and a strong product offering in enclosures, brassware and trays, but I want to make sure that the entire portfolio is aligned, making us an obvious choice for retailers and consumers who want to deal with one brand.”  

Cunild rounds off the interview with a candid, but encouraging, synopsis of the market and some advice for retailers on how to make the most of any oppor­tunities in a challenging economy. 

“It’s been heavy going for the past five years or so – starting with Brexit. There were bright points in demand spikes during Covid years and a strong 2022 but everyone’s had a lot of challenges to deal with. Our sector will benefit from an injection into the housing market and maybe, with a new government, we’ll get that boost. 

“We saw the ingenuity of retailers during Covid, so I have no doubt that a lot of retailers will survive. Some of the most successful independents are the ones where their individuality shines through. Focus on your USPs, so you can carve out your own niche. The courageous ones – who can see an opportunity and grab it – are the retailers most likely to succeed.”

EauZone hinged door panel with inline panel for recess
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