Co-owner and sales director of wall coverings specialist Optidek Anthony Barker explains how evolving its business with exclusive partnerships is developing sales opportunities
Having evolved from a background in glass splashbacks and wall coverings, Bath-based manufacturer Optidek has extended its portfolio to include exclusive ranges.
It has seen the addition of antiqued mirror, bespoke glass art panels from Red Dog Glass Design and Dekton Slim, an ultra-compact stone which can be used for wall or furniture cladding.
Most recently, however, Optidek has partnered with Italian porcelain brand Florim to exclusively offer the Magnum Collection to UK designers.
Recognising the interiors trend for marble, but with growing trade interest in sustainability, wall coverings specialist Optidek has teamed with B-Corp certified Florim to offer four marble effects in a choice of matt and polished surfaces.
“We are getting more designers asking about the sustainability credentials of our products”, exclaims co-owner and sales director of Optidek Anthony Barker.
As a former kitchen showroom manager, Anthony Barker was already aware of the Florim brand and was introduced to the company by a fabricator.
He chose the specific decors to help Optidek reduce wastage, as they are the only panels offered by Florim in a smaller 2400 x 800mm size.
Barker explains the average distance between worktop and units is between 400-500mm high and between hob and extractor is 750mm high, adding: “So we can cut a job from one slab of Florim reducing waste and cost.”
And he said Optidek was also seeking to reduce lead times, as sometimes its bespoke range of splashbacks can take up to a month from order through to fabrication and installation.
“What we wanted to do was bring in a range in where we could buy some stock.”
It means once an order has been placed by a kitchen or bathroom retailer and Optidek has measured the space for templating, it can be fitted the following week.
Lessening lead times
Such has been the sales success of Florim, Optidek is already expanding the range, with an additional eight designs.
The new slabs are only available in 1.2m and so it is investing £150,000 to transform a barn at its former dairy HQ into a warehouse.
“We will have the ability to use half a sheet and the other half we can store for our next customer”, explains Barker.
With this ability to hold stock, a reduction in lead times has also been considered for its top-end Artisan Collection of fabric and wallpaper-backed glass.
Although explained at point of sale, the lead time for these panels can be up to six weeks. Barker continues: “We feel we can do better on that. That’s from us and not from clients saying we won’t be able to sell it. We sell a lot of it. It’s just us wanting to turn it around a lot quicker.
“At the moment, we send Italy a plan of your kitchen and then they toughen the panels, add the fabric to the back and that’s why they take so long. So, we’re going to talk about having a range of Artisan untoughened glass.”
It would mean designers wouldn’t be able to use the untoughened glass versions behind gas hobs but Barker adds: “Increasingly we are moving towards induction anyway.”
And he points out it would offer a “huge” price differential, broadening the market for what is a premium product.
Customer service standards
It is this level of customer service, thinking how can things be done better, which sets Optidek apart, together with its field sales team and fitting teams, which enabling the company to offer a 10-year guarantee.
And it has helped Optidek achieve a turnover of £2.1million, within the first year’s trading results for Optidek.
“What we do is excellent, and I say that with my hand on my heart because we go that extra mile with the service and we care”, Barker says.
He adds the same attention to detail is paid to its product with rakes featuring on its splashbacks, if needed, minimising the need for silicone sealant to fill the gap.
He also points out the company uses high quality materials such as paint from UK-based Avko, which is guaranteed against delamination and mould. “It’s twice as expensive as imported paints. We don’t entertain anything else. Everything we use in the production of our product is first-class.”
Widening sales opportunities
But Barker is keen to emphasise “we’re not just a splashback company”, as the materials can also be used for wall covering.
“I still think there’s an element of retailers, which see us as a splashback company to be honest – even where we’ve put displays in of wall cladding,”
He says retailers can believe the material is expensive: “But is it? Using it as cladding includes sqm of material and our template and fit service, instead of a client buying tiles, adhesive and grout and employing a tiler. It’s about improving education and training for retailers, really. Then, I think we will start to see more of an increase in the wall cladding”, says Barker.
However, he concedes: “‘We’re not going to be all things to everybody. And that’s alright.”
Now, Optidek is also offering Florim, measuring 6mm, as worktops.
The marble-effect porcelain is bonded to Kerdi board with a strip on the front edge to give the impression of 50mm depth.
It reduces the weight of worktops and, according to Barker, is half the cost of a quartz.
Although this worktop construction means a designer must use an overmount hob and sink, Barker adds: “This offers huge opportunities in new build properties and developments”, adding: “In Europe, it’s quite common for them to use 6mm porcelain as a worksurface. It’s not common in the UK, so we feel we are ahead of the curve.”
With the majority of its sales in the kitchen – around 70% – could the marble-effects of Florim also open opportunities for sales in the bathroom?
“Now with this great range, we can do more wall cladding in bathrooms.”
He adds: “We’ve done a couple of projects with Dekton for wall cladding and where all the furniture is clad as well. I want to do more of that.”
With these design potentials could Florim in fact take over from glass sales for Optidek?
Positioned at the entry point of the Optidek portfolio, Barker says: “I think it could become a substantial part of the business, certainly grow and maybe become more than half of turnover.”
What is for certain, is Barker believes the company will be up on last year’s sales – although won’t be drawn on percentages.
He concludes: “We are hoping to be up at the end of the year, just on our bread and butter sales alone with splashbacks and wall panels, and then we’ve got the commercial business and the new opportunities with Florim.”