Philip Cole, contracts manager of Perrin & Rowe, explains how its first dedicated showroom offers all customers a background into the company and its products.
UK-based luxury brassware supplier Perrin & Rowe has faced challenges over its four decades in business, particularly during tough economic times, when other suppliers cut costs and produced overseas.
However, that is now behind it as Perrin & Rowe has the backing of its parent company, Fortune Brands Home and Security. Contract manager of Perrin & Rowe Philip Cole comments: “At certain points over the last few years, a lot of people have told us we were absolutely nuts for still manufacturing in England, but we have always believed it is the right choice and the right way forward.
“We have always felt that by being in control of the processes of our manufacturing plants, it gave us the opportunity to create the best products available.
“So, although it has been tough at times, it has been a goal for us to do what we do, and do it properly. Now we are in a position where we are incredibly strong, both financially and from a resource point of view, and can benefit from all those years of hard work.”
It has meant the company has begun to finally realise its ambitions, opening a showroom in the UK to tell the story about its brand and products.
Based in London’s Design Centre at the Chelsea Harbour, it has been created to welcome all its customers from commercial architects and designers through to retailers and their clients.
Philip Cole adds: “We always felt the area offered a perfect opportunity, but also the Design Centre itself, with the calibre of brands already in it.”
This includes sister company Victoria + Albert Baths, although Cole points out this is co-incidental: “When we first viewed the showroom, back in June last year, the acquisition of Victoria + Albert was four or five months away from being announced, and certainly unbeknown to us. So when it was announced, and we were neighbours, it was pretty exciting for both of our companies.”
Created by Studio Karmini, which has previously worked on hotels and high-end residential properties, the brief for the showroom was to create a jewellery store aesthetic.
Cole explains why: “We always say Perrin & Row is a piece of jewellery. It’s not a mass-manufactured product. It’s man-made. It’s got a luxurious feel. With that, we wanted to keep that ethos in the showroom. So people feel like they are observing or touching pieces of jewellery.”
It sees the showroom feature a curved wall, with individual display cabinets to provide the look of an exclusive jewellery store. “From that, we wanted to show some vignettes to allow customers to feel as though they were in their own bathroom or kitchen.
“But we also wanted to play on the choice of colours and finishes we offer. Given the fact we own our own foundry in England, we have the opportunity to offer our own finishes.”
Measuring around 80sqm, the greatest challenge of designing the showroom was creating a space that showed its array of products without appearing cramped.
Cole explains: “We had to be very careful with the amount of product we showed and how it was displayed. What we didn’t want to do was clutter the showroom and have display board after display board, box after box, because I think it then becomes very samey and very much like most showrooms.”
He admits it was an obstacle the company had to overcome: “Our biggest challenge was definitely making sure we showed enough product in all of our finishes and styles, but also make the showroom feel open and light, which was something we worked very hard on,” admits Cole.
But far from being static, the company plans for the space to continually evolve, as Cole adds: “Perrin & Rowe has never been scared of pushing the envelope on new product or new design, or how the business is run, and it will be the same for this showroom.
“We have brassware designs that have been around for 15-20 years now, but we still tinker with them to see how we can improve them and that will be the same for the showroom. Initially, we will be working the space we’ve got and seeing how we run with it.”
But Perrin & Rowe already has plans for quarterly, seasonal window displays to attract attention from passing trade, and Cole continues: “At the moment we have our Spring/Summer display which is very floral and very colourful.
“We have a mini picnic set up with a freestanding bath, our beautiful Art Deco bath/shower mixer, grass and flowers. We really want people to walk past and see bathroom products aren’t boring, and the way to show them off is with colour and new and interesting displays.”
He continues: “We will continuously change our showroom and who knows what it will look like in the future? But at the moment, customers seem to really enjoy the experience, and for us it works incredibly well.”
Perrin & Rowe won’t be drawn into the cost of the showroom, but Cole simply says: “It was a sizeable investment.” However, he believes it will see a return through a growth of business, citing not just from its contract business, but even from customers overseas.
Cole explains: “The realisation of having our own showroom was never about an investment/return per se. It was always about telling the story to all of our customers – whether that’s retailers, designers, contractors, hoteliers – about Perrin & Rowe the brand and Perrin & Rowe products.
“It’s so they can learn it is UK manufactured and made by hand, with care and attention poured into each product. It was about making sure we back up all our current customers and clients, gain new customers and clients by telling the story and, in return, inevitably bring in more sales for the business.”
So are there plans in the pipeline to open more Perrin & Rowe showrooms? Joining with its sister companies – Shaws of Darwen, Riobel, Rohl and Moen – the company is creating a house of brands.
Cole continues: “As a corporation with these brands, we are looking to increase showrooms over the world. Perrin & Rowe has just this year launched a new showroom in Shanghai, and that opened at the same time as our London showroom. Perrin & Rowe has also opened a showroom in the Merchandise Mart in Chicago.”
While the company may be renewing its efforts in the hospitality sector to gain specification in hotels, Cole says it hasn’t been at the expense of its retail network. In fact, he points out the company has continued to invest in its retail network, employing ‘brand ambassadors’ to support its existing retailers and distributors, as well as gain new accounts.
He suggests the push on the hospitality side of the market is “to make it an equal share of the business.” And despite much of the Perrin & Rowe market being focused on export, supplying to more than 20 countries, Cole adds: “One thing we have done is to try and increase our UK market share, of which the showroom will form a major part to raise the profile and increase sales of the brand.”
Certainly, Perrin & Rowe is a on an upward trajectory. Having set out as a successful artisan engineering company, created by Bob Perrin & Greg Rowe, it transitioned through an MBO to now be part of the $5.3bn Fortune Brands business.
“We are certainly, as a company, in a fantastic position to move forward now. We are really excited about the future and what it holds.”
He concludes: “All it needed was someone like Fortune Brands to be able to offer extra resources for us to fully realise our dreams and aspirations. The showroom, at the Design Centre in Chelsea Harbour, is the first stepping stone for that.”
Perrin & Rowe recently unveiled its Hoxton range, while earlier this year it claimed to be the first manufacturer to offer a 3-in-1 Instant Hot Mixer with the added benefit of a side rinse.
Also, have a look at our recent reader profile covering The Brighton Bathroom Company and The Brighton Kitchen Company, we spoke to managing director Chris Burton.