Fashion forward

04 Jun, 14

Abacus Direct has re-introduced the Ben de Lisi bathroom collection

Having started life 25 years’ ago as an electrical and plumbing merchant, working alongside architects, Abacus Direct moved into manufacturing in the mid to late 90s. The company was working in the boom period of newbuild city apartments and recognising the growing demand for wall-hung sanitaryware manufactured  UK installation frames, Easi Plan, followed by towel warmers and wetrooms. It was also around this time (2001), managing director Ian Pattison met and started working alongside designer Ben de Lisi who was creating the interiors for The Edge development in Manchester. The two created a bathroom collection, in 2005, before being hit by the worst recession in history. Now Abacus Direct believes the time is right for the Ben de Lisi bathroom collection.

Building bathroom brand

The first point of difference is rather than just supplying product, Abacus Direct plans to design and execute Ben de Lisi roomsets in each showroom, even down to the tile detailing “so it becomes a Ben de Lisi roomset, as  he designed it”, says Pattinson. He continues: “We have [ a choice of] about 9-10 standard layout of rooms which are typical of bathrooms and ensuites”, adding: “One of the things that we are going to try and do is be quite hands-on in fitting. We go on first fix and second fix. We even teach [dealers] how to tile it.”

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Even through independent bathroom retailers pride themselves on design, Pattinson exclaims a lot of showrooms, in London for example, can be guilty of cluttering the space.  “Because they are struggling for space, they just literally cram products in. So when you walk in, you can’t get that feeling of a room and you can’t actually say I can visualise my room like this.” He adds showroom can also feature displays which aren’t realistic in size. “Quite often, you then get the opposite, where you get a ridiculous large space, with a huge bath in it and a massive screen.To me, where we’re trying to focus is realistic-sized rooms finished to a high-standard.”

Avoiding online discounts

And unlike many bathroom brands, Abacus Direct has embraced the internet and looked at how the internet can be used to retail showrooms’ advantage. It owns the Ben de Lisi Bathroom Collection internet site which can trade directly with consumers. However the sale will be presented to retailers postcode protected areas. But Pattinson denies it is an excuse for running with the hares and the hounds stating:  “We want to force consumers back into the showrooms. It’s a technical product – with the frame systems that go with it – so people have to understand it and we want to give [dealers] a product that gives them a good degree of exclusivity.”

No-brainer bathroom offer

But Abacus Direct has launched the Ben de Lisi Colletion before, so how can the company dispel retailer fears the Ben de Lisi brand won’t go to ground again? Pattinson says : “We decided to put it on hold and that was purely down to the economic circumstances at the time. Ben de Lisi couldn’t be the main focus of our sales force because we had to go and sell core products.” He says the take-up already supports his believe the Ben de Lisi offer will be advantageous for retailers. He concludes: “This probably sounds way too arrogant, we think it’s such a good offer, it becomes a little bit of no-brainer for somebody who wants to change things in their showroom.”