The Showroom Ltd is a premium bathroom showroom in West London.
Well, when I first drafted this post I started with Happy New Year, but obviously January is almost over already! How did that happen? Sorry that I’ve been absent for so long but I was super busy through December and I didn’t have a moment to stop. I will share what I’ve been up to in another post because it’s very exciting and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
But for now, I wanted to update you on my brand ambassador activities with luxury bathroom brand Duravit. If you’ve been following this collaboration so far you will have read my introductory post about the company, accompanied me on a tour of the flagship showroom in Clerkenwell during Clerkenwell Design Week 2019, and got up close and personal in an interview with Danish designer Cecilie Manz who created the Luv Collection for Duravit.
At the end of last year, I was invited up to London to visit The Showroom, a premium bathroom showroom that specifies and designs bathrooms for consumer and commercial projects using Duravit products. I was introduced to the founder, Brian Witcomb, had a tour of The Showroom, and was able to discuss bathroom design trends, technology developments, and why they are so keen to use Duravit products in their own designs and projects.
I was able to interview Brian (pictured below) about his premium bathroom showroom business so that I could share all these discussions with you too.
Can you give me some background information about The Showroom?
We originally thought of the concept back in 2005. We wanted to create a department store for bathrooms. We had imagined a ‘House of Brands’ with the majority of displays in full bathroom settings allowing us to segregate new displays off while being finished and to create interest in the new displays before they were revealed.
The business was incorporated in 2006 and during this time we sourced business premises. We opened in June 2007, just as the recession started. Like all businesses, there are ups and downs but I can honestly say that opening a business within an economic decline tests your resolve and belief as a director.
What kind of projects do you mainly work on?
We work on all types of projects within the retail and contract markets, both domestic and internationally. Our projects include single bedroom apartments all the way through to luxury apartments, townhouses and country manor homes. Our contracts range from single dwellings to large scale multi-million-pound projects including hotels, commercial offices and large scale office blocks.
Who are your clients?
Our client base is extremely large. We concentrate on all potential consumers from retail, interior designers and contractors to architects and hoteliers.
Duravit SensoWash shower toilet in situ at The Showroom Ltd
How do you distinguish yourself from other similar businesses?
We believe we stand out because we spend an immense amount of time and money on internal customer sales training. Our sales staff customer experience programme really sets us apart. Whether a customer is spending £10 or £100k, we believe the customer should receive the same customer experience. We have developed our internal systems to make the consumer’s experience easy, not only for them, but for all the trades involved in the client’s purchase. For example, we offer a full detailed quotation, technical/picture files all the way through to the delivery notes and the products marked up to indicate the room/rooms the item in question is for. In the last two years, we have also opened Plumbing & Heating trade counters to service our client base so we can provide a full package for all of our consumer’s requirements.
The role of bathrooms in the home has changed significantly in recent years as we have seen a greater focus on wellness. How has this affected bathroom design and how has this been reflected in your business?
Creating an indulgent, restful bathing sanctuary is so much easier now and more affordable thanks to new technologies that allow manufacturers to design products that were once only available to the elite, due to the expense of manufacturing processes.
Gone are the days when the bathroom was simply a space to get clean. Now, it’s a place for rejuvenation and relaxation too. Wellness and mindfulness are increasingly being sought at home to balance out the stresses experienced in everyday life. Not everyone has the time to visit a spa, so bringing spa-like elements into your daily routine can really help.
What are your clients looking for when it comes to bathroom design?
They are looking for the whole package: experienced service, creativity, design, form and function.
You stock a large array of Duravit products. What inspired this product selection? What is it about Duravit that makes the brand so appealing?
Duravit has a broad selection of products in its portfolio. The price point is spot on. In today’s market, it’s imperative that the manufacturer understands its target market and Duravit get this right nine out of 10 times. Duravit also excels when it comes to design, creativity, function and form, and service.
Are there any particular design issues that Duravit products help you to solve?
Wherever space is particularly tight, toilets with a shorter projection are great problem solvers. Duravit offers both functional and attractive solutions wherever space is at a premium with versatile ceramic options and bathroom furniture that offers lots of storage space.
Popular products include space-saving solutions such as wall-hung sanitaryware, slim-line washbasins and short-projection furniture. In the bath sector, compact shower baths, small freestanding baths and space-saving ‘back-to-wall’ D shaped/skirted baths continue to gain market share.
In what scenarios are Duravit your go-to brand? When are you most likely to specify Duravit products?
Part of the reason why Duravit is a go-to brand for us is the sheer quantity we stock and due to this, we promote Duravit as much as possible to our walk-in retail clients. We also try to specify Duravit within our contracts department as much as possible. To be honest, I can’t think of any specific scenarios for Duravit not to be the go-to brand as they cater for all scenarios so well, and it is for this reason that the brand is so popular within our stores.
Which of your Duravit products are the best sellers and why do you think this is?
Me by Starck has been a huge success for The Showroom Ltd. Not only because it’s a relatively new product within the Duravit range, but the sheer product depth of the range and available sizes. Also, the add-on sales from furniture combinations like L-Cube and Brioso. Not to mention the clean lines and subtle design make this such a popular choice for our clientele.
Are you seeing an increase in technology in the bathroom, and which products assist with this trend?
With the rise of managed smart home services and offerings, the smart bathroom sector faces a new and direct form of competition. Digital showers, Bluetooth-enabled bathroom technology and heating controls have become the norm rather than the exception and, as a result, there is a lot more choice. Modern, digital and advanced technology, such as digital taps and sensors to control temperature and flow, motion sensor LED mirrors and Bluetooth entertainment systems, are becoming more widely used.
We’ve seen automatic faucets and toilets in public places for decades, but now they’re becoming popular in homes as well. Touchless operation eliminates or greatly reduces the likelihood of germ transmission in the bathroom. Touchless faucets are easy to use, and because they shut off automatically when the hands are retracted, they save water too.
The Bog-standard WC (excuse the pun!) has come a long way lately. After decades of basic flushes, the cutting-edge models on the market today feature all sorts of technological amenities. As mentioned above, touchless toilets are far more hygienic than conventional ones. And they eliminate the embarrassment of the “forgot-to-flush” syndrome, especially for families with kids and seniors. In addition to automatic flushing, some toilet motion sensors can be programmed to automatically raise or lower the lid, eliminating many a marital dispute. Motion-sensing equipment can be added inexpensively to any toilet. Bidet-style toilets have long been popular in Asia, and more recently in Europe. Many are embracing them as a more hygienic, eco-friendly toilet option.
What colour trends are you seeing with your clients?
More and more people are introducing different tones of greens, blues, and even purples into bathrooms. However, you can’t beat a modern timeless look—black, white, and marble—a soft grey palette overall. White, bright, and fresh—you can’t go wrong! In regards to brassware, there is an endless number of finishes to choose from. Unlacquered brass is becoming very big right now.
How do you adapt your business and showroom to keep up with the changing market?
As you can see, big changes are afoot in the bathroom design industry, with an emphasis on comfort and style, a move towards more expensive materials and the upturn in the new-build market.
The Showroom can provide a valuable human connection and increase loyalty and trust in a brand. We are very active on Instagram, Facebook and on our website. We are looking at ways to expand our marketing further to incorporate Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media platforms. Trying to adapt to an ever-changing market is the hardest challenge we face. However, we continue to adapt our products, services and marketing to accommodate our customer base.
Retail-wise people are using the internet more and more for information, designing their own bathrooms, and even purchasing via the internet. The future for independent retailers such as The Showroom Ltd has to be showrooms that inspire, manned by expert staff and offering a design service backed by excellent customer service. All this delivers added value to warrant an in-store purchase.
I would like to thank both Duravit and Brian for taking the time to show me around his premium bathroom showroom and give me these insights into the Duravit product portfolio and the latest bathroom design trends.