Ribble Valley Bathrooms | Becoming a NorthWest destination showroom

Co-founded by sisters Sophie and Abbie Schofield we discover their ambition is for Ribble Valley Bathrooms to become a destination showroom in the Northwest

19 Jan, 24

Co-founded and run by sisters Sophie and Abbie Schofield, Ribble Valley Bathrooms is celebrating its fifth anniversary. We find out what has driven their success and discover their ambition is to become a destination showroom in the Northwest

Ribble Valley Bathrooms | Becoming a destination showroom for NorthWest

Co-founders of Ribble Valley Bathrooms Abbie and Sophie Schofield


Having spotted a gap in the market for interior design-led bathrooms, sisters Sophie and Abbie Schofield acquired a 3,000sqft unit in 2018 and by early 2019 had transformed it into a showroom.

During 2020, the home improvement boom during the pandemic was a business boost.

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So how are they finding it now in an equally challenging climate, as the company celebrates its fifth anniversary?

“We’re busy”, exclaims co-founder Sophie Schofield, who adds it’s difficult to make a comparison to previous years: “We only had a year’s trading and then it was Covid.

“It really launched the business and helped us make a name for ourselves, but we’ve never really had a normal year’s trading.”

It could be said bathrooms is in their DNA, as the sisters followed their plumber father into the industry.

Offering a full turnkey solution of design, supply and fit, they use the services of his company – Schofields Construction, with its three teams of bathroom fitters – as their subcontracted installers.

“We wanted to do something that was related to the family business, because that was quite important to us. We’ve always had an interest in interior design”, says Abbie.

Explaining they were able to tap into their father’s industry expertise, Sophie adds: “Thankfully we’ve learned a lot. It’s been a quick learning curve.”

Choosing suppliers

Targeting the mid to high-end of the market, they chose brands for their showroom which had consumer recognition, but offered exclusivity.

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“There were certain brands which we knew had a pull factor, like Duravit and Keuco. We then found Catalano. We love that brand because it is Italian, and not so many people have it locally”, Sophie comments.

They actively avoided brands which were heavily discounted online. “It’s ruining the industry and it’s taking the value out of the product and what we offer”, Sophie exclaimed, supported by Abbie who said: “If it wasn’t for showrooms, where people come in and touch the quality, those brands wouldn’t be able to sell online.”

Interestingly, the sisters took on traditional bathroom brand Thomas Crapper, following specification of a customer’s project for an old hall.

Abbie explains: “Our client wanted bathrooms with high level cisterns and I introduced the concept of Thomas Crapper personalised cisterns with the house name on it.

“She loved the idea. I sold it and then thought, ‘right, we need to get Thomas Crapper’.”

They wanted the brand from opening the business, but Thomas Crapper already had a retailer 10 miles away.

“Where we are based, we have a lot of barn conversions, halls, period properties and wanted that traditional, exclusive brand which Thomas Crapper obviously is”, explains Sophie.

When they encouraged managing director of Thomas Crapper Paul Dwyer to visit the showroom, he agreed to set up an account.

Abbie laughs: “I said it’s in your interest, anyway, because I’ve already sold three high level, personalised cisterns.”

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They believe the most important thing  in choosing suppliers is a partnership.

“We want brands that work for us and we work for them. Because things can go wrong and it’s a two-way street when you need their help.”

Collaborative customer service

This collaborative relationship carries through to its customer service. “Communication is king”, declares Sophie, adding: “I had an appointment last week where a customer sent me a couple of Pinterest boards with images that she liked.

“When I presented the bathroom designs to her, the choices were a little bolder, however she loved it and understood I was working from her theme.

“It’s a collaborative process and it’s nice when you manage to give them a pleasant surprise.”

Abbie agrees: “It’s trust-based. Once they’ve chosen their bathroom and approved their design, they know in four to six month’s time, they’re going to have a brand new bathroom, as per the design.”

Spreading reputation

Such has been the company’s success, in the first year RVB had already been shortlisted as a New Retailer of the Year.

“It was nice encouragement to see we had put an impression on the industry”, says Abbie.

Ribble Valley Bathrooms | Becoming a NorthWest destination showroom

But she admits they often find it difficult to take time to measure their success. “We’re often so busy that we don’t take a step back and look at the business.”

However, Sophie adds: “Nothing gives us a better feeling than a really good review or if someone comes into the showroom and says ‘you did my friend’s bathroom and they recommended you’, then that’s a great measure of success.”

Covering a 30mile radius for design, supply and fit, their reputation and activity on Instagram has seen them gain clients from further afield.

“I’ve just completed a full house project in Hertfordshire. Our clients came to the showroom to visit us and then we worked remotely.

“That means success to me -that people are willing to travel to us from further afield and want to use our services.”

Growth opportunities 

In fact, the pair have recently taken on a member of staff with the appointment of a sales design consultant to cater for the growth of the business.

Currently working six-days a week in the showroom, Sophie exclaims the sisters would like more work flexibility: “It’s probably our biggest challenge because the way we’ve set up the business is very much you deal with Abbie, Sophie, or now you’ll deal with Jess.

“That’s the biggest challenge, for sure, is finding the right people to get in.”

And adding to the growth of the team, Ribble Valley Bathroom is seeking additional fitters to serve more clients, as she continues: “We want to develop more relationships with fitters because we’re booked up four to six months in advance at the moment for design, supply and install.”

With the majority of its sales rooted in retail, they also want to extend the design and supply services to interior designers and the lucrative house build market through developers, says Abbie.

“I think the challenge with developers is for them to see the value in a retailer or in a design service, that bathrooms are really well thought out spaces. I think the industry is trying to overcome in relation to architects and developers”, adds Sophie.

Certainly the sisters have big plans for Ribble Valley Bathrooms, as Sophie concludes: “I would like to recognised in the Northwest, as somewhere to go if you want a beautiful, mid to high-end bathroom. I’d like us to be a recognised brand for that service.”