‘We’re proud to be a family business’
One of eight family members in the Victor Paris Bathrooms business, sales director Mark Derighetti joined the business straight from school and has seen its retail empire expand and diversify. Chris Frankland went to meet him…
Luxury bathroom specialist Victor Paris Bathrooms in Scotland is a third-generation, family-run business with branches in Edinburgh and Dundee, two more mid-market BuyRite showrooms in West Lothian and Broxburn plus the Edinburgh Bathroom Company
The business was founded by Mark Derighetti’s late grandfather Victor in 1975. He had five sons, all of whom joined the business – Vincent, Stephen and Mark Snr have retired, but Paul and Gavin remain as directors. Including Mark, there are now eight members of the Derighetti family active in various roles within the business. All in all Victor Paris employs a total of 50 people.
Victor Paris has steadily expanded its showroom and in the 1990s set up its own distribution company Europa Distribution.
Its Edinburgh flagship showroom has 150 displays with a mix of luxury and high-end products, a spa area with working steam room, a 4D theatre, a brassware studio and a new Future Living area dedicated to multigenerational bathrooms.
Q: When and how did you come to join Victor Paris Bathrooms?
A: I was 16, straight out of school. It was a Sunday night and I got a phone call from my grandfather to say ‘you’re starting work in the morning’. He said ‘we’re gonna get you on sites and give you a trainee apprenticeship’.
I started off as a trainee tiler. I did a little bit of work on sites, but mostly inside the showrooms. I did that for about 18 months. I was the first one of the cousins in the business. My other friends were going back to school or starting apprenticeships, but it was time for me to learn the family business.
Q: What made your grandfather open a bathroom showroom?
A: I suppose when he started it was probably just to put food on the table with five sons at home.
He had a background as a gas engineer and his brother-in-law was a plumber, and they had this vision of running a showroom and selling bathrooms. He took on some plumbers and joiners and started an installation business.
Q: What lessons did you learn from him and your father?
A: And from my uncles as well. When you come to work in a family business, everybody thinks you’re going to be given something for nothing. So they always taught me that you need to work harder than everybody else to gain their respect. So probably it’s that work ethic more than anything.
Different uncles have shown me different things. My dad worked in the warehouse – he showed me the logistics side. My uncle Paul’s a shrewd businessman. Gavin, when it comes to designs, is by far the best I’ve ever known. We’re proud to be a family business.
Q: So what sets Victor Paris apart from its competitors?
A: On behalf of our clients, we’re always looking to bring in the latest products, designs, colours, quality. Our philosophy in mid-end and the high-end is the same – it’s what makes us different. It has been passed down to me from my grandfather who was one of the first to bring colour into UK bathrooms.
We try to get an edge in what we do in the showrooms – how we mix and match bathrooms together, helping customers pick the most on-trend bathroom within their budget. You can see that from looking at all the brassware finishes and the level of detail and commitment that needs to be put behind that. We’re not a one-trick pony. We know how to piece bathrooms together from the endless products out there.
We vet brands in terms of quality, where they are from, stock profile, good aftercare, spare parts, whether they have a technical department, a rep on the road… It’s not just, oh that’s a nice tap and it’s that price. We only bring it in if it’s right for us.
Q: In the Nineties you started a buying group that became Europa Distribution. Why was that?
A: As the company grew, we decided that we needed to have a warehouse. That would bring in all the products, store them and deliver them on behalf of Victor Paris.
We also wanted to start importing our own tiles from Italy and Spain and we called that part of the business Paris Ceramics. We then merged Paris Ceramics into Europa Distribution, which supplies all of our showrooms.
Q: Victor Paris is known as a luxury retailer, but it also runs the mid-market BuyRite Bathrooms. How did that come about?
A: My grandfather believed there was still a market for not-so-expensive products, so he decided to start BuyRite Bathrooms.
Our philosophy in mid-end and the high-end is the same – it’s just what makes us different from anybody
When the credit crunch came in 2007, there was a lot of pressure on us to sell cheaper products, but my uncles and my grandfather decided to keep Victor Paris exactly where it was – so they set up another company. Victor had already started BuyRite Bathrooms, so they decided to have two separate channels, with Victor Paris known for quality and design and BuyRite initially at the bottom end of the market, although it’s more mid-market now.
Q: So why did you then start the Edinburgh Bathroom Company?
A: We had BuyRite in West Lothian and Victor Paris in central Edinburgh, but we didn’t have anything serving East Lothian or Leith. So we rented some premises and we called it BuyRite. But it was in an affluent area and we found the people that were coming through the door were more of a Victor Paris calibre. But the store wasn’t big enough for a Victor Paris, so we decided to call it Edinburgh Bathroom Company. That opened nine years ago.
Q: So the company has grown steadily over the years…
A: The main development has been within the showrooms – that’s where the investment goes. At Victor Paris Edinburgh, we’re always trying to think about how we can be innovative and what the next stage is for us. It’s the same for Dundee.
BuyRite just went through a massive overhaul with 30 displays of new products, with colourful bathrooms and brassware. And the Edinburgh Bathroom Company gets the same investment.
Q: In Victor Paris Edinburgh you have added a ‘mobility’ studio…
A: We decided to call it our Future Living area, because we want to cater for more than just a ‘mobility’ market. We have done a lot of work on access from the car park through a new entrance with a ramp and full wheelchair access. As soon as you come up into the showroom, everything is level.
We have also taken on a specialist consultant who knows all about that market. He had his own mobility company within Edinburgh which he sold out about five years ago. We now have seven settings with a consultation area.
Q: I understand further investment is going into a new spa area?
A: We are due to redevelop it this year. One of the steam rooms has got a discontinued tile and an old generator. So we’re in the process of sourcing products for that. We’ve also added some products from the Tom Dixon collection. We have a working Effegibi sauna and a full working steam room. It’s a massively growing sector for us.
Q: You also enhanced the showroom with a 4D theatre?
A: I thought it was a bit of a gimmick at the beginning, until I watched some of the designers doing a render in 3D and present it in 4D.
I saw the reaction it got. It’s been fantastic for us. It’s helped us push a couple of orders over the line and I think there’s been a couple of add-on sales as well.
I remember one designer had been told to take all the accessories out because they were coming to over £800. But the designer left them in just for demonstration purposes and after seeing the bathroom in 4D the client said to include the accessories. It has brought more value to the showroom.
Q: Why was the showroom called Victor Paris?
A: Legend has it that Victor had always said to his wife Betty that if he ever made it big, he’d take her to Paris. And he came home one night and said, ‘right, that’s it, I’ve done it. I’m taking you to Paris’.
Mark Derighetti joined his grandfather’s business straight from school in 1999, aged 16. During his apprenticeship, he worked in various roles within Victor Paris, including in the warehouse and on the vans to learn about the company’s logistics. He also went out on numerous site visits, helped with deliveries and trained as a tiler.
In 2013, he took on the role of sales director and he oversees both retail and contract sales. He runs the Edinburgh showroom and also works on bathroom designs with his sister Zara and works closely with sales
and design manager Ross Penman.
And they got in his car and they came up here [Edinburgh]. The shop had Victor Paris above it and he said, ‘I can’t take you to Paris at the moment, but I’m going to call my showroom Victor Paris’. His name was actually Vincent, but his nickname was Victor. That’s why it was called Victor Paris.
Q: And so what’s next for Victor Paris? Another Glasgow store?
A: Yes, definitely. I think if the right location comes up. Dundee has got a big revamp booked for this year. We’ve got a spa area that is due to get done and that’s not cheap. I’ve got big plans in Victor Paris Edinburgh. I want to revamp our front windows, which are a little bit tired.
We’re also talking about some cosmetic work on the outside of the showroom. Some people say the red brick is historical, some people say it’s old-fashioned, so we’re debating whether we can do some kind of cladding or paint it.