Kudos | “We want to be UK’s biggest enclosure and tray manufacturer”

Directors of shower enclosure and tray manufacturer Kudos explain how its acquisition by SanSwiss will support investment into British manufacturing.

23 Aug, 23

The directors of shower enclosure and tray manufacturer Kudos explain how its acquisition by SanSwiss will support investment into British manufacturing

Kudos | “We want to be the biggest shower enclosure and tray manufacturer”

Pictured left to right: Head of operations Kei Hitchcox, managing director Mark Hill and sales and marketing director Nick Graville


When British bathroom manufacturers are bought by larger, global players, it can often signal the end of production in the country. But that’s certainly not the case for Cumbrian-based Kudos Showers.

Although it has recently been acquired by shower surround manufacturer SanSwiss Group, sales and marketing director Nick Graville says its new owner has a long-term view of the business.

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Part of the Ronal group, SanSwiss has six business units, including two production plants, and is present in over 15 countries.

Nick Graville points out: “The Ronal Group sees the UK market as a big opportunity. We are experts in what we do, here, and we have a good, core business.”

Acquisition decision

Established by Bruce Ledwith in 1999, who took a step back from the business, Kudos has a senior management team led by managing director Mark Hill.

Kudos | “We want to be the biggest enclosure and tray manufacturer”

Cumbrian-based Kudos was established in 1999 and manufactures shower surrounds and trays



Explaining why the company looked to an acquisition now, he explains: “We just felt the time was right for the senior management team and the time was right for the business.

“But it was very important that we found the right company. We were never going to choose private equity.”

Hill admits:“It was strange when we saw the initial interest from Ronal because when you research it, we found it was an alloy wheel company.

“Then we saw it owned SansSwiss for the past 25 years and its target is to really grow that area of the business through acquisition and organic growth.”

In fact, Hill says the family-owned SanSwiss company, which manufactures framed, unframed and partially framed enclosures, in standard or custom sizes, shares the same values as Kudos.

These he points out as product design, quality and service. Mark Hill adds: “The acquisition gives security that Kudos will continue grow.

Growing capacity

Kudos has been on a growth trajectory, investing around £3.5million in the past three years alone. It has seen opening of a second showroom and 60,000sqft finished goods warehouse in Sandbach, Cheshire. This has created space for additional capacity at its Cumbrian factory.

Kudos | “We want to be the biggest enclosure and tray manufacturer” 1

Housing its finished stock in a central location, Kudos opened a warehouse and trade showroom in Sandbach, Cheshire


Head of operations Kei Hitchcox comments: “When I joined the business a decade ago, the flat pack line was 15 people strong. It used to produce 800 units a week.

“With our semi-automatic fast lines, we can produce up to 3000 units a week with only six people. Every 30 seconds we can pack a product.”

He continues: “When the business was started the site measured 5,813sqft. The entire site is now 75,000sqft and 60,000sqft in Sandbach, currently.”

He moots the company plans for further growth, which is clarified by Mark Hill: “We’re looking to expand that by another 19,000 sqft of warehousing.

“We are just finalising build details on that. We have invested heavily, in our manufacturing facility, which gives us a capacity to grow and easily double the business.

“But if you sell more, you need more stock and that’s why we’re investing in the warehouse extension at Sandbach.”

And the company is also investing in its resin shower tray capacity, having won more tenders.

Mark Hill explains: “Over the last three or four years we’ve probably grown 25%. There’s two reasons for that – we have the trays and the service.

“There’s been a lot of uncertainty over supply in the market, so we have taken a lot of market share and it’s an area we continue to grow.

“We’re going to make further investments in the shower tray facility.” Kie Hitchcox expands: “We will be tripling our tray manufacturing by the end of the year.”

UK stockholding

Experiencing double digit growth, it’s perhaps no surprise the company has continued to invest.


Kudos | “We want to be the biggest enclosure and tray manufacturer” 2

Forming part of the £3.5m investment, over the past three years, Kudos installed a second shower tray line and plans to triple capacity


Kie Hitchcox says the company holds 3,500 SKUs, including seals manufactured at a facility in South Africa.

The company has stock holding of three months and spare parts for its enclosures for 10 years, which are available from a third party storage and dispatch.

Mark Hill adds: “At Sandbach we try and hold around eight to 10 weeks of finished good stocks and our distributors who hold similar mass. It’s very important for us as a business to have plenty of stock.”

With such a focus on stock availability Kudos has also amended its hybrid model of direct and distributor sales to improve logistics.

The shower enclosure manufacturer now sells solely through distribution partners including Barwicks, Claygate, Dell, Formula Bathrooms and, MD Ireland in Ireland.

Premium products

Yet Kudos hasn’t just focused on growing the volume of product sales, but also looked to broaden the choice for bathroom retailers too.

Kudos | “We want to be the biggest enclosure and tray manufacturer” 3

Adding to its Pinnacle8 enclosures are sliding door models designed without the need for a bottom rail, providing a level access



It has bolstered its existing Pinnacle 8 with level access enclosures, and added a Red Dot award-winning inward/outward opening door to its Ultimate 10 range.

But it hasn’t stopped there, as the company also plans to introduce a Pinnacle level access quad and auxiliary products to its Ultimate range, such as inwall channels.

In fact, the company’s product launches have been so prolific Nick Graville says the most frequent comment from retailers is “I didn’t know you did that?”

Both the Pinnacle 8 and Ultimate 10 are part of its Premium collection which is only available to displaying retailers and not online.

Mark Hill continues: “We wanted to support bricks and mortar retailers, so to be a Premium Collection retailer, part of the trading criteria is they don’t sell online and it’s gone down really well, as you would expect.”

And Kudos also prides itself on its after-care service, not only with its spare parts but also a 10-strong team of retail support managers who work alongside retailers to support them with display installation, product training and technical support if required.

Contract moves

Now the company is planning to further grow sales, by adding to its retail sales with an expanded offer for the merchant and contract sector.

It will see the company bring price conscious models from SanSwiss but branded as Kudos.

Nick Graville gives an overview that there are “44 SKUs in the range, which offer 1,526 combinations”, while Mark Hill adds: “I think it’s an important message that the product we’re introducing is the same high end, product that you would expect from Kudos.”

Speaking about why the company is now targeting the contract sector, Mark Hill continues: “We are quite dominant in the retail market and are doing a lot around new product development, which will grow that business and take further market share.

“The acquisition now gives us the ability to more very, very quickly into merchant and developer markets.”

Kudos plans to support this with a dedicated sales team featuring national accounts support, area support and contract specialists.

However, Kudos doesn’t believe it will just be one-way traffic, as Mark Hill adds: “There’s products we’ve got, that they may be interested in selling into Europe.”

Certainly, expanding into the merchant and contract sector will provide volume growth, and move Kudos closer to its ultimate goal.

Mark Hill clearly states: “We want to be the largest shower enclosure and tray business in the UK.”

In value terms the company believes it is currently the fourth largest in the UK, but will be able to claim the number one slot within the next five years.

Sustainability drive

Of course, as with the entire bathroom industry sustainability is a focus for the company going forwards, explains Kie Hitchcox.

Kudos | “We want to be the biggest enclosure and tray manufacturer” 5

Connect2 trays features an offset dual waste outlet to avoid standard joist spans and features a slate effect, with moulds from real life natural stone in the local area


Kudos has already achieved ISO 9001 and now has an eye on ISO 14001. It has invested in a packaging machine which reduces cardboard use by 30% and by creating bespoke packaging also minimises polystyrene padding by 65%.

Now the company is looking to reduce single use plastics, as Kie Hitchcox says: “At the moment, the majority of our product is packaged in a plastic bag.

“We are going to move to banding all of our products with a bespoke machine from Japan. We currently use around 42 tonne of plastic a year and this will reduce to less than one tonne a year.”

The banding machine will also help the company reduce its overall energy consumption using 0.3 kilowatts, rather than 60 kilowatts per hour.

Optimistic outlook

While the overall bathroom market may have slowed year-on-year, following the pandemic, Kudos is buoyant about sales, not only in contract but also through its retail channel.

Kudos | “We want to be the biggest enclosure and tray manufacturer” 4

The Ultimate10 shower enclosure range, comes with a Red Dot Award-winning double action hinge, enabling the pivot door to open both inwards and outward


Nick Graville says this quieter time has given retailers the opportunity to review their business and showroom, which they may not have been able to do for the past three years.

However, he adds: “I think people feel it is slower than it really is because they have forgotten what it used to be like. Supply and fit retailers are still booked up months in advance. So I think there’s a lot positivity out there.”

And Mark Hill is equally optimistic about the future despite the challenging economy, stating the company is readying itself for sales growth next year. “We’re still busy. We’re still doing really well.”.