MD of Classic Marble Christopher Hackett explains how pizzas, aerospace technology and Ulster University research led to the creation of its patented Senstec anti-slip shower tray
Having two initial ideas for businesses, it was the bank’s refusal to back a pizza company in 1983, which saw father of MD Christopher Hackett establish Classic Marble, a firm making artificial marble products.
However, just six months later, when asked to make a shower tray, the business changed tack.
It kept the name, but for the past 40 years Classic Marble has manufactured shower trays and waterproofing products for bathroom showrooms and merchants.
However, its journey didn’t stop there, and having spotted a niche in the market, Classic Marble set out to create a “world-leading, anti-slip shower tray” and launched Senstec.
Researching the market
Christopher Hackett explains an influx of mass-produced shower trays from the Far East had made shower trays a commodity product.
But noticing a growth in enquiries for “anti-slip”, he set about creating an added-value shower tray which would increase margins for his company and for retailers too.
He wanted to create a “world-leading, anti-slip shower tray” because “there were other anti-slip shower trays out on the market, which helped us on our journey to be honest.”
First of all, Hackett had to unearth the requirements of an anti-slip shower tray and found there was limited legislation.
He also researched all existing models, and found they featured anti-slip sprayed on to a shower tray.
However, the coating was only guaranteed for five years, would wear off, and provided a rough texture underfoot which would also make it difficult to clean.
Hackett wanted to solve all these issues with a shower tray which also met the British Standard Pendulum Test and German ramp test for tiles. On top of all this, he wanted it to be verified by a third party.
Hackett comments: “We knew it couldn’t be a coating, so the only other option was to make anti-slip an integral part of the tray. We’re not engineers, we’re craftsmen and we didn’t have the tools. So, we sent the design to a local aerospace engineering company.”
Verified anti-slip tray
It took 42 prototypes to perfect the shower tray sample for Senstec, with its subtlety dimpled surface.
This was then tested by UKAS laboratory testing which confirmed its anti-slip surface.
And, together with the Podiatry department of Ulster University, Classic Marble undertook a user experience study, where 88% of consumers reported a high degree of comfort when standing and moving on the shower tray, and 94% found the experience therapeutic for the feet.
In fact, it was how the brand name evolved – with Sensual Technology becoming the portmanteau Senstec.
Such has been its success, the Senstec shower tray has already been awarded a US Patent, UK Patent and a European Patent is pending.
Plus, it has also been specified for a refurbishment of the 5-star Dromoland Castle Hotel in County Clare.
The Senstec collection now spans 40 standard models, but each is customisable, as Hackett explains: “Let’s just take the example of a 1000mm x 1000mm, a showroom could ring up and say I want 990 x 1000mm.
“We have a specialist saw and can trim up to 25mm off each side – so the possibilities are endless.”
And he exclaims the gel coat trays, which come in white as standard, are also available to showrooms in any colour: “We can do one offs and that’s a big thing for the showrooms. Retailers don’t need to stock them.”
Standard white trays are delivered in 48 hours, while the lead time for coloured trays is seven days.
Now Classic Marble is on a mission to educate the market on anti-slip shower trays and the lack of definition in the existing standard.
The company has already provided content for the CPD core curriculum for both the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland and the courses are run by Christopher Hackett: “I love doing them because I know the subject matter inside out. Lockdown has had an impact because I used to go to architects over lunchtimes and that stopped.
“But we have rolled the CPD out online and one of our next phases is to go to architects and get them to choose a time of their own to complete the course.”
In addition, to raise consumer awareness, the company has also worked with social media influencer Zoe Buxton (a_littlebitoflife) who has a rare bone disesase called FIbrodysplasia Ossificans Progressive, where if she injures itself her muscle turns to bone.
Having had multiple accidents, her mobility is greatly reduced and she has been extolling the virtue of safety in the bathroom with the Senstec shower tray.
With 12 showrooms in the UK and 30 in Northern Ireland and Eire, Christopher Hackett has set his sights on growing his retail network.
He comments: “We would like 50 showrooms in the UK and we hope to achieve that by the end of this year. If we had 100-150 after two years that would be amazing – but I think it will grow even more than that.”
He is seeking retailers who understand the need for an anti-slip shower tray and who will be prepared to put a model on display and study the company’s online CPD for a maximum discount.
Hackett explains: “It will give them the carrot to go through the training and also the knowledge about anti-slip. A rising tide lifts all boats.”
He believes his biggest challenge will be the mindset of salespeople in showrooms, who have specified cheaper shower trays “and those people not being embarrassed to sell a high-quality shower tray. That is the biggest challenge that we see.”
However, he plans for Senstec to mirror the success of its Classi brand waterproofing products, where Hackett says the company is still the market leader.
In fact, he wants Senstec to become the generically recognised name for anti-slip shower trays, explaining: “I want Senstec to be the “Hoover” of anti-slip shower trays, as is our other product Classi Seal for waterproofing.”
After all, he exclaims: “You don’t get a UK patent and a US Patent for something that isn’t extraordinary or very special or unique.”