Roman | British benefits

MD of Roman David Osborne explains why there are reasons to be cheerful and being made in Britain is one of them

02 Oct, 20

Managing director of Roman David Osborne explains why there are reasons to be cheerful and being made in Britain is one of them

Roman | British benefits


I very much hope that none of us experience another year like 2020 in our working lives.

What a year – from watching Wuhan with incredulity to rapidly then finding ourselves in lockdown with a mothballed economy.

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Anyway, that is hopefully consigned to history and we need to look forward and focus on the positives now out there.

At Roman we were hitting record numbers in March, so it was more than frustrating to see the market effectively close.

We actually only ceased manufacturing for three weeks and then we saw a phased return of our workforce during May and early June.

Bizarrely, after what has happened to the UK, we once again found ourselves breaking records in July – and the demand continues to grow.

Re-alignment in market

We are clearly seeing some re-alignment in our marketplace and we could, perhaps optimistically, summarise that if you were weak going into lockdown you will find things very difficult.

If you were strong going into lockdown you will see exciting opportunities opening up.

Whilst that may be over simplistic, it is essentially true.

We couldn’t wait to get our sales team back out into the marketplace and pick up where we left off – in all channels.

Many showrooms have echoed this and independents, in particular, have adapted to new working practices and appointment-based sales seamlessly and have been open and sensible with sales team interaction.

British manufacturing benefits

As a British manufacturer we are certainly experiencing benefits of being Made in Britain – also an organisation that we are very active within.

We have been adapting our offer over the last 10 years to play to our strengths and this is a key factor in our current positivity.

Clearly, the vast majority of our competition now comes from China. Whilst we would like to think there is an element of national pride or an “economic greater good” in buying a British made product, we aren’t sure that is a key factor in itself.

The absence of origin marking on construction products means many products are marketed as “designed in Britain” which, to most consumers, means “Made in China” so we discount this – and it is beyond our influence regardless. In our view it is much more commercially driven.

Manufacturing in Britain (despite what the news might tell you) is in a very good place, if you embrace the benefits.

Clearly Chinese imports dominate commodity products in the bathroom market – and amazingly such products are still being undercut.

Low cost of course has its place, but many retailers are now looking at what really constitutes value – real retained margins against crazy discounts from inflated RRPs; meaningful guarantees and service back up; and, of course, product quality, exclusivity and differentiation.

Manufacturing in Britain allows great flexibility, but this is much more than offering a bespoke service.

At the higher end of the market we are now constantly increasing our options for metal colours and niche ranges as fast and nimble is what designers crave.

Our successes with the major hotel groups in the UK and internationally now drives our product development.

We are no longer trying to spot trends – we are collaborating to create them and then filtering them down into retail when we can.

[Roman recently introduced Fluted Glass enclosures for retailers, inspired by the high-end hotel sector].

Like many companies in lockdown, one of our primary concerns coming out was liquidity in the overall market.

The furlough and loan schemes seem to have significantly lessened our concerns and it is great to see so many customers now trading strongly. Long may that continue!