Marketing director EMEAA of Fortune Brands James Smith talks about introducing the Riobel brand and House of Rohl to the UK and across Europe.
North American bathroom portfolio House of Rohl has launched in the UK, introducing the Canadian brassware brand Riobel.
It brings together a newcomer brand with three well-known manufacturer brands Victoria+Albert, Perrin & Rowe and Shaws of Darwen.
House of Rohl was established by Louis Rohl and his father, who collected brands from around the world and put them together as a wholesaler, selling them in the States.
It was acquired by Fortune Brands which subsequently bought Victoria+Albert, Shaws and Perrin & Rowe.
Marketing director EMEAA of Fortune Brands James Smith explains bringing the House of Rohl to the UK has been a plan for the past two years: “We’ve been moving towards this place where we could start to sell the brands, along with some North American brands as a House of Rohl offer.
“What we’re doing is trying to replicate what is an extremely successful model in Europe and the UK.”
It sees the launch of a House of Rohl showroom in the Design Centre at Chelsea in London.
The Victoria+Albert and neighbouring Perrin & Rowe premises have been combined into a House of Rohl showroom, displaying its four brands with individual personalities, and showing how they work together in bathroom and kitchen settings.
James Smith continues: “The beauty of the House of Rohl concept is – we talk about being a curated range – but within that range the brands will remain differentiated. It is about selling a number of brands, it’s not about bringing those brands together either from a design or a style perspective.
“It’s about the beauty of the difference between the brands but how they can work together and do work together.”
He continues: “Some of the success we’ve seen in America is where we’ve been able to help designers and architects, to see how these brands can work together even though they are quite eclectic as a group.
“The A&D community isn’t looking for ‘out of the box’ solutions, anyway, they are looking to be able to mix and match and be creative.”
The Chelsea showroom will be designed not just as a showroom for the architecture and design community but also as a showcase for independent retailers to see how the displays could work in their showroom.
It features digital content shown on screens, including Louis Rohl explaining the genesis of the House of Rohl, and digital marketing collateral will be available to retailers for their websites and social media.
Smith adds: “We could offer them elements of what they see in Chelsea to have in their own store, with a screen and information telling the House of Rohl story. Once designers hear it and understand the story, I’ve found it’s something that does pique their interest.”
Shaws sinks are traditional fireclay designs, while Perrin & Rowe brassware is at the classic end of brassware design. Whereas Victoria+Albert freestanding baths span traditional to contemporary designs.
Plugging the gap for contemporary brassware, the UK will now see the introduction of Riobel from Quebec.
The brand was created by a family of three generations of plumbers, who created their own range of luxury brassware in the mid-century, and it features a temperature balancing value Riowise.
James Smith comments: “The design, architecture and feel of Quebec is a lot more European, so we see Riobel as European panache meets American aspiration. It’s a very successful brand in Canada.”
And he continues explaining the Riobel brand in the UK will feature 300SKUs across mixers, shower sets and accessories, adding: “We’ve got four bathroom collections and five kitchen collections. So we’re coming into the market quite strong, with quite a big offer and I think it’s going to work really well in the context of the House of Rohl.”
In America, the House of Rohl also includes the Rohl brassware brand and James Smith adds: “We may eventually look to roll that out into the marketplace, as well. But that’s way into the future, I think.”
Ideally, the company is seeking multi-brand showrooms, which can help tell the House of Rohl story. “But the idea of having whole showrooms is not where we are going”, explains Smith.
“We would love to get a corner of a showroom and be able to tell House of Rohl story, of course we would. There would be investment there to do that.” And he believes “there is something here for most luxury showrooms.”
He adds: “We are very much looking for people who would be willing to take more than one of our brands or at least tell the story, even if they only have one brand in situ. That’s definitely our Modus Operandi going forwards”.
But the company is not ruling out retailers who are selling single brands from the House of Rohl. “We will still support each brand individually, because we recognise that the House of Rohl won’t be for everyone. It might be because of other agreements retailers might have.
“Whatever the reason, we recognise some people will continue to be single brand retailers and we’ll support those single brands.
“You’ll see advertising which is brand- led but talking about being a distinctive member of being the House of Rohl and leading people back into that House of Rohl story.”
Smith is under no illusion that the biggest challenge is launching the House of Rohl, combining the three established brands, and Riobel brassware brand into the UK at the same time.
“But I think it’s achievable and we’re working from a US model that shows it’s achievable”, he adds.
But Smith also points out the House of Rohl will be nuanced for each individual country: “You can’t roll out an American concept across the world and not amend it”, and says marketing will be created specifically for the UK market.
So what will success look like for the House of Rohl? Smith says it will be acceptance of the concept in the architecture and design community: “I think if that can happen over the next 12-24 months in the UK, then I think that would be a really good start and we would be able to say we’ve been successful at that point.”