Action Bathrooms | How VR CAD and luxury projects led to studio launch

Owners of a Staffordshire-based plumbing firm Beth Colley and Andy Galletely on why VR CAD helped spur the opening of a luxury bathroom showroom

30 May, 24

Owners of a Staffordshire-based plumbing firm Beth Colley and Andy Galletely explain why they took the step to open a luxury design studio – Action Bathrooms – and the role Virtual Reality (VR) CAD played in that decision

Action Bathrooms | Spring into Action

When owners of Staffordshire-based plumbing and heating company Action Heat – Beth Colley and Andy Galletely – noticed a growth in bathroom design and installation projects, they decided to open a luxury design studio.

Now celebrating its first year of trading, Beth explains why they started with creating a separate brand for the retail business – Action Bathrooms – based in Blythe Bridge, Stoke-on-Trent.

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“We felt that, because of the calibre of bathrooms we were designing, supplying and fitting, it needed its own identity but still in keeping with Action Heat Group”, says Beth.

Andy adds: “We wanted consumers to immediately understand we design mid-to-high-end bathrooms.”

Creating design space

Having made the decision to acquire a showroom, Beth explains the whole process was rapid: “We looked at premises the next day, and by the end of the week we had the keys. It has been very fast paced.”

They chose the location, as Andy grew up in the locality, and it is well positioned to serve neighbouring rural areas with oil and LPG sales through Action Heat, while offering an affluent client base – in a 30mile radius – for Action Bathrooms.

Sited above a row of shops, the space used to be a dance studio with bright pink walls.

Now it has been transformed into an industrial-style bathroom showroom complete with bar and 4D Theatre.

“The hardest part of the design was making each section stand out but flow around the space”, says Beth, until she muses: “We were up until 2:00am painting the beams. We were going to put in a false ceiling but then thought we could make a feature out of them”.

Of course, as with all the best laid plans, there were unaccounted for issues during the move.

“We were held up because the roof was leaking and due to heavy snow in December last year, we had to wait for it to be fixed before we could fit it out”, says Beth.

While Andy explains the transfer to new premises cost more than the original budget.

Its telecommunications provider lost the company phone number requiring new signwriting for vans and premises and new uniform logos. as well as additional expenses to achieve their desired standard in the studio space.

“We probably spent 50% more to get it to the standard we wanted”, says Andy.

Choosing quality brands

The focus on quality is reflected in the choice of suppliers and the value of its projects, as Andy explains: “Most bathrooms start from £10,000 upwards for a full remodel”.

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He says for each refit, they go back to brick and renew all the pipework, and also highlights the choice of premium brands offered by Action Bathrooms.

Among its suppliers, it numbers House of Piccadilly, Aqualisa, Elisa, Thomas Crapper, Calypso, Armera and Ashton & Bentley baths “one is installed in Tyson Fury’s house”, says Andy.

They also point to reps as being useful to introduce brands to the business, such as Bubblespa and TED (thirty-eight degrees).

“Without having that relationship with our reps we wouldn’t know about these new products”, adds Beth.

Choosing brands not only on the product design and ability to colour match across brassware ranges – “as it’s those details that make the difference,” explains Beth – they have selected suppliers who offer 10-30 years’ warranties.

“We want them to match the level of service we offer at Action Bathrooms”, she adds.

VR design consultation

The customer service starts with a design consultation in the appointment-only studio, with Beth creating a styleboard before offering a 4D CAD by Virtual Worlds experience.

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“We’d seen Virtual Reality (VR) on TV programme “Your Home Made Perfect” and “Grand Designs” and thought it offers consumers something different”, says Beth. Action Bathrooms reports it is the only business offering VR in a 40-mile radius, “but we think it will become standard”, Beth adds.

They explain VR allows consumers to experience their bathroom prior to purchase, ensuring the design meets their needs – functionally and aesthetically – and says it helps seal the deal.

“You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it. You wouldn’t buy a house without visiting it. So we can show you the bathroom before you’re had anything done.

“We’ve had people who are adamant they want the design a certain way, go on virtual reality and say ‘Actually I really don’t want that tile.’

“We’ve eliminated any risk before they’ve had anything done”, says Andy explaining the practicalities.

And Beth says it all adds to the buying experience: “There are companies out there that do 2D drawings, that’s like a postcard, but the virtual reality is like stepping into a holiday – you’re experiencing the bathroom.”

Customer care

It is just one example of how the business thinks differently to local competitors, as alongside 4D CAD, Action Bathrooms offers out-of-hours appointments.

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“We’re a family-run business and we understand that family life isn’t always 9-5, Monday to Friday. So we will, quite often, do after work or weekend appointments, to fit around people”, explains Beth.

“We feel that allows people to choose their bathroom in a relaxed environment.”

The same level of service is carried throughout the project, making sure the installation is tidied each night, and Beth will personally inspect the bathroom before sign off.

When the process is complete Action Bathrooms presents the customers with a gift from the team. “People compare us to companies in London because we like to give that level of service. It’s a personal touch at the end of the job”, Andy says.

So has there been a business that has inspired them to offer this level of service? “I don’t think we saw anyone with that model and thought that’s what we want to do. We saw people not doing that and thought that’s what we would like to do”, explains Beth.

Stating customer reviews offer them both the greatest satisfaction, Beth highlights one of the latest comments was they were “professional miracle makers”.

However, Andy and Beth are keen to continually improve and enhance their business. “It’s still new to us”, says Andy, as Beth concludes: “Every day we’re learning different and better ways to do things. We’ll always develop the business. We’re not planning to stay still.”