Speak Easy

06 Nov, 13

MD Martin Mongan explains how Hansgrohe is honing communication with retailers

Q: As managing director of Hansgrohe UK, what have you been tasked with doing?

MM: Continuing to build on the foundations and to see where we are and where we need to be. Two thirds of our business is retail. But that type of retailer is changing. Twenty five years ago, I know as a retailer, we weren’t particularly a professional industry. And there’s certain parts of it still operate the same way we did 25 years ago [laughs]. But then you’ve got people at the other end of the scale, like CP Hart and John Lewis, and you’re having to deal with them differently. There is a new level of professionalism coming in and we have to step up to that.

Q: Do you believe retail is more fragmented then?

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A: We have this catch-all phrase ‘retail’. But within that, you’ve got lots of segments and it’s understanding them and how to tailor the way we offer our products and service. There’s some customers who love design and there’s others who just want to sell product. We’ve got to be able make sure we speak to them in different ways. We’ve still have a good chunk of our project business through the retail channels. So how do we speak to the two different parts of those businesses? We are looking how our brands are relevant to the different customer segments, with a view to saying ‘Okay, we have a new view of Axor, we have a new view of Hansgrohe, and the type of customers we should have for each brand.’

Q: Does that mean some customers may not be able to access particular brands?

A: We are looking at putting the exclusivity and aspiration back into Axor. I think we lost that a little bit over the last few years. Just because somebody spends a lot of money with us on Hansgrohe doesn’t mean they can sell Axor. We’ve got some really good customers who spend a lot of money with us but 95% of that money is on the Hansgrohe brand, so why do they have Axor? It’s not doing either of us any good. There’s no bigger investment, as a retailer, in your showroom than your displays. It has to work for them. We’ve had Axor VIP status and then we’ve had other Hansgrohe retailers and they should be on the same pedestal as Axor retailers.

Q: Are you looking at improving showroom support, perhaps with ‘store in store’ concepts?

A: It will depend on the retailer because some are strong brands in their own right because they’ve been retailing in the area for 25 years. So you have to accept sometimes, locally, their brand is stronger than yours. It will be what suits the showroom the best. But the big push for us is to have working water. I know where we have working water [displays], our sales go through the roof, so it’s a massive encouragement for us to do it. It will be a big investment, and one that we will hope to share with the retailer, because it will enhance their showroom as well.

Q: What do you think about the quality of showrooms, nationally?

A: There’s hidden gems everywhere. I went to a company called Stonehaus, based just outside of Knutsford, and that is one of the most beautiful showrooms I’ve ever been in. The attention to detail and the way products are delivered, is absolutely exquisite. Equally, there are pretty poor showrooms who don’t really know what they are or who they want to be. Consumer expectations are growing all the time, with online shopping experiences, and as an industry we have to step up to that.

Q: But Hansgrohe has created an online policy restricting sales…

A: The internet is still a huge opportunity but it has to be an opportunity that’s fair for all and doesn’t polarise the industry into the haves and have nots. It has to work to the rules you would expect from the people who have bricks and mortar showrooms. And that, for us, is about the end-consumer and their experience. It’s about the service, it’s about the advice, it’s about everything that makes that whole buying decision easy to make. The only place you can be on brand 365 days a year 24/7 is online. So, for us, it’s the perfect scenario for people to see our products but it’s got to be done in the right way.

No manufacturer will sell products in 10 years’ time if there aren’t any showrooms. We’ll sell hoses, hand showers, replacement parts, basin mixers but are we going to sell a £7,000 shower? Absolutely no chance, so we have to protect that route to market. I saw some numbers the other day which reported 4% of sales in the bathroom industry sales go online – so it’s not the huge problem everyone foresees.

The full article appeared in Kitchens & Bathrooms News