Ore inspiring

29 Jul, 14

Retailer Stonehaus Bathrooms has been called a hidden gem. Charlotte Blackburn finds out why

An industrial estate may not seem the most prestigious location for an upscale bathroom showroom but when it has been specified by MD of Hansgrohe, Martin Mongan as ‘a hidden gem’ and ‘outstanding’, you know it must offer something special. And Stonehaus Bathrooms in Knutsford, Cheshire, certainly does. Established by Mark Towey, and offering mid to high-end bathrooms, it is located away away from the high street. In fact, Mark goes so far as to say a high street showroom for the mid to high-end of the market is unnecessary: “The whole thing about being on the high street has had its day for this end of the market. To be on the high street is a waste of money.”

Consumers will travel

He believes consumers who are prepared to spend a lot of money on their bathroom will have done their research on the internet and so are prepared to travel away from the high street to the “right” showroom. He continues: “If you’re building a house worth £3million, you’re not just going to walk in and see a bathroom shop on the main road. You are going to be guided by your architect. We did a couple of jobs in Lancaster, last year, and the customer said ‘there isn’t a good showroom near us’.”

Showrooms could do better

And what consumers are treated to inside is a pristine, appointment-only showroom, which Mark believes acts as an advert for the business, showcasing what the business can offer in terms of design and finish. He comments: ““I think the moment you walk through the door anywhere, you know whether you are going to buy from it {the company] or not. As soon as you walk through the door you know if it is the right place or not.” He says from what he has heard across the industry, there is still a need for an improvement in showroom design and maintenance.

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Installers weak link

While Stonehaus Bathrooms has been relatively recession proof, among the challenges the company does face, like other showrooms in the industry, is if it is only supplying product and not managing installation. “Plumbers can be difficult sometimes. If we are dealing with installers on a new build and we’re not involved in the installation that is always very trying to say the least.” He cites a lack of skills in the installation trade and suggests the industry needs to ensure installers are trained to fit products properly, to give the best finish and user experience.

Mark states simply: “Training in the industry has been overlooked for quite a while and I think manufacturers need to put some money, time and effort behind it because the installer is the weak link between the showroom and the client. Some manufacturers, Hansgrohe etc, have put some thought into it and it seems to be progressing but it does need a strong looking at.” And this could be of growing importance in a market, which he suggests is picking up a pace. In fact, Mark concludes: “ It is phenomenal at the moment and there are a lot [of projects] queuing up.”

The full article appears in the September issue of Kitchens & Bathrooms News