Making Ripples

10 Nov, 14

Former kitchen designer Becky Washer has crossed the divide to manage a bathroom showroom

In the kitchen and bathroom industry, there are those who work in the kitchen industry and those who work in bathrooms and rarely the two collide. Not so in the case of Becky Washer who has a background predominately in kitchen design and has just taken on the role of showroom manager at Ripples in Hassocks. East Sussex. 

Changing times ahead

But why the change? Becky explains having worked for a family company, she wanted to look for a business with similar values in design and customer service. She explains: “Although Ripples is a franchise – it’s still very much a family-run business. There’s nothing quite like a family-run business because they will put their heart and soul into it. Customer service is key – making every customer feel welcomed and positive as they walk out – and doing as much for the customer as possible is really important to me. I didn’t want to be just churning out design and quotes.”

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Showroom support

She has been supported in the transition of taking over the showroom by franchise owner Colin Payne,  as well as suppliers’ reps and staff at the head office at Ripples. In fact Becky exclaims the support has been “amazing!” She explains: “Ripples have offered me more training in a month than I’ve had in my whole life. I had two days training at the head office and that was intensive, talking us through where they’ve come from, what they expect from us, the values they want to uphold and everything you could possibly imagine from the customer walking through the door to placing an order and making sure the showroom is looking good.”

Enhancing the environment

And Becky is already looking at enhancing her showroom, following a leak and ceiling repair, she is hoping to update it by Christmas. Although she explains the showroom is of a high standard, Becky wants to add her own stamp by injecting colour and curves: “My first thought walking in here was everything looks great but everything is neutral and I want to introduce some colour because I think people are scared of using colour unless they see it. I definitely want to start using some colour, especially in the front window.” And she adds: “Because I’ve come from the kitchen industry curved units are probably 90% of what I used to do and it’s what a lot of people strove for, so getting curves into the showroom is also something I’m really keen to do.”

Among her inspirations to update the showroom, has been the Bath head office showroom, which has been created by Hansgrohe.  Becky explains why she found it so impressive. “it’s just got the complete ‘wow factor’. What they’ve done is design each display exactly the same as what it looks like in the brochure. These companies invest so much money in getting their brochures to look right and I think if we can take even a little bit of that and show it can be achieved. I definitely want to look along those lines.”

Meeting customer needs

Most industry pundits would suggest that the choices in the showroom should reflect the tastes of consumers. However, Ripples Hassocks business spreads far beyond the 10-20 mile radius typically associated with a showroom. The area covered by the business spreads 80 miles along the South Coast. So how will Becky meet the aims of this diverse area in her showroom? She says: “I think the showroom has to be the best of what you can do. You are not going to cover everyone’s taste but even if they can take one little inspiring idea from the showroom , then it’s doing its job.” And she advises showroom owners  “There’s no reason why you can’t make run of the mill look amazing and  that also shows the customers what can be achieved, even with limited budgets.”

Raising Ripples profile

And she is already looking to boost sales by increasing traffic. As we speak, she is currently organising a Macmillan coffee morning and hopes to raise £500 for the charity, as the funds raised will be matched by Colin, as well as raise the profile of the business in the local area. “We will try and run a promotion or event three times a year, as it’s another reason to encourage people to come into the showroom. Also being in a small village, like this, it’s important to give something back. Quite often, with a showroom like this, people are intimidated from coming in because it is quite glossy and high-end and I think it gives people an opportunity to come in and speak to us and realise we are really down to earth.”

Her plan is not only to boost footfall but also improve conversion of those who do come through the door. Becky explains: “We just want to get the sales up and get numbers through the door. Sales are alright at the moment but they could be better. I think the housing market is more fluid now – everything seems to be moving quicker. Hopefully people are moving and inheriting things they don’t like, and it will carry on snowballing and we’ll get busier and busier.”

She continues: “Our conversion rate is very good (50-70%), so we definitely do want more numbers through the door. What we do is very good but you can always get better. We can always try and convert more people coming in.”

Stretching sales potential

But it’s not simply through her planned marketing efforts which she plans to drive sales, Ripples in Hassocks has also looked to take on specific product to draw attention from consumers and the trade, stretching the market the business can cover. To encourage higher spend, Becky is looking at taking on quartz panelling by Trend GB, which replaces tiles and allows designers to create curved walls, and it will be exclusive to the company. “. If somebody can’t get it anywhere else then people are willing to pay a premium for it”, says Becky.

However, Ripples Hassocks is also looking to capitalise on budgets than might not meet its current level. Becky adds: “We have just taken on a new product called Bagnodesign which covers a slightly lower level, which we can offer for smaller budgets. We are really keen to get into architects and Bagno do a lot with projects at the moment and are really keen to try and get into that sort of market as well.” She continues, stating: “We already send off to all the planning permissions once a month to try and bring in that side of business.”

With her trade background, Becky is only too familiar of the barriers to business when dealing with trade sales, pointing out the need to understand logistics, added security measures and profit margins. “We were discussing it at head office the other day and one of the guys there said he would have an order come in for a trademan. He would book the delivery and when it came in, he would Google the delivery address and it would be just a single track road. People were ordering, ringing up and asking for deliveries in random places and when you turned up somebody would clear your van and run off with it.”

She adds: “If you’re getting into big numbers, you also have to be aware of the logistics of delivering 15 baths, getting them into position and the labour you need to do that. Everything has different lead times and you have to know how that works then for the trade and also our margins – if we’re buying it in and selling it on, everybody has to make the right amount to make it worthwhile doing.  So it’s getting the margins right from the suppliers and getting the right suppliers to be able to make money doing it and make it worthwhile doing.

Potential future franchise

Certainly, Becky has plenty of plans for the business but what are her benchmarks for success? “To get millions and millions of pounds worth of sales”, she laughs. But she points to a more considered approach, stating: “I just want to get this showroom achieving the great things I think it can.” So are we meeting a future Franchisee? “That’s a long way off. I just have to concentrate on the targets I want to meet here”, she smiles.