Where does Caesarstone UK’s new MD plan to take the business?

Caesarstone UK is entering a chapter of fresh perspectives thanks to the appointment of a new MD, Edward Smith. He speaks to Rebecca Nottingham about how his vision, leadership, and strategies will not only help grow the brand but also increase its support for independent retailers

On a global level, the surfaces industry is facing some pretty big issues at the moment, such as the ban on engineered stone in Australia and concerns that other countries may follow suit. This is something that Caesarstone has been robust in its defence of. However, according to Edward Smith, the new MD of Caesarstone UK, things are looking positive for the brand here.

With broad experience, ranging from an environmental biology degree and a 30-year career in the construction and building supplies sector, which includes experience of running kitchen showrooms at branch level, he brings with him valuable understanding of cross-functionality and how the entire product supply chain works.

Q: You only became MD of Caesarstone UK in September 2023, how are you settling in? How’s the business faring currently?

A: I’ve enjoyed watching Caesarstone’s extraordinary growth since it launched in the UK in 2017 and I’m ready to take it to the next stage. In the UK, there are lots of players in the market now so there’s lots of products for consumers to choose from. For us, it’s about making sure consumers have the data in front of them in order to make the right decisions.

Innovation and leading from the front are at the heart of the Caesarstone brand and we have some fantastic new products coming through this year. We’re also investing in staff and processes so that we can service and support our retailers in the right way. Ireland is still a very fresh market for us so there’s lots of opportunities there, which is really exciting.

Q: What were your priorities when you first walked through the door of Caesarstone?

A: Initially it was to understand colleagues and understand what the business means to our customers – fabricators and retailers. Then it was about working out how we [Caesarstone UK] can add value to those businesses? How do we take this business to the next level?

Caesarstone is, without question, a brand offering a premium product – that’s one of the key reasons I joined the business. But my question was how do we make sure that we’re offering a premium service to retailers and fabricators? And to do that, you’ve got to understand your customer. Work out what drives them, what’s important to them. That’s the kicker. If you can do that, then you will grow. Both businesses will grow at the same time. So that was the initial priority, to be honest. Once you have that information, then it’s about working out how we take the business forward strategically? Where are the opportunities?

Q: What are your aims and objectives for the brand and your strategy to achieve them?

A: No question – strong growth. We’re not number one in the market currently. Although we don’t necessarily need to be number one by volume, we certainly do need to be the number one household name for engineered surfaces. To achieve that, it’s all about going back to making sure that we offer premium products but also that premium service. And I think there’s more that can be done there, and we are very much looking at working on being front and centre so that our products help sell more kitchens – that’s the bottom line. We’re strengthening our partnerships so that we can help create business for our customers – retailers and fabricators.

Q: What important lessons have helped shape your career?

A: One of the key lessons I’ve learnt is that all roles within a business are crucial. Everyone and every part of a business has a key role to play, otherwise it will easily fall down. One of my mantras is collaboration. It’s all about the power of working together as a team. If you have a team around you, make sure you use them. I’ve also learnt that simple works. The second you bring in complicated processes, things break down. So, keep structure, processes, everything, as simple as possible.

I learnt quite quickly that, certainly from a supplier perspective, it’s essential that you work out what’s important to your customer. Understand what makes a difference to them and what will make their day easier, and therefore more successful. Because if they’re more successful, you are. Another critical lesson – learn from your mistakes.


Q: What do you think your skill set specifically brings to Caesarstone?

A: I think a significant element is that I bring a new perspective. However, I also have a different view of the industry, having run kitchen showrooms within my branch network for 15 years. Understanding the supplier relationships from that angle is very helpful in my new role, given the importance of this channel to Caesarstone. I’ve run other businesses, and built businesses within businesses, so I’ve seen lots of change and different approaches. I have skills in project management, change management, strategy, collaboration, bringing teams together – and these are all essential for developing a business and taking it to the next level.

Q: Retailers say sustainability isn’t a priority for most consumers. How do we remedy that?

A: I do think consumers are interested, but they have their own challenges. Economics play a part in this and consumers are currently having to manage in a tough financial environment. However, I don’t necessarily think we’re giving them choices. Given a choice, most people tend to make the right decision. The problem is that it’s taking businesses a long time to get to that understanding.

Q: What’s the answer then?

A: It’s about educating retailers about sustainability but also how that differs from product to product. Understanding what sustainable credentials and certification really mean and learning about the chain of custody of a product. And, recognising that we are all on a journey. I’d like to see brands working together on this, I’ve seen it happen in other industries and think it’s the only way.

Obviously with my background in environmental biology, I wanted to work with a stone brand that has a legitimate ESG strategy and is very much on the journey to understanding its part in it and making those changes that make a difference.

Q: What are your predictions for the KBB market in 2024?

A: There is no question that last year was challenging. And the first quarter of this year is likely to be challenging too. But sentiment is improving as people understand that this is the new normal. We are unlikely to see a vast change in the price of things and people still have cash, they’re just being careful about how they spend it. I’m naturally a glass half full person, so I’m optimistic and think 2024 will be OK. My advice is to be careful at the start of the year. But there’s no reason not to be bullish.

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