‘We knew we could be faster, better, more efficient’

Coram UK embarked on a complex company restructure last February. Almost 12 months on, managing director John Blackburn explains the reasons for the changes and what it means moving forward

Q & A

Q: Tell us about the restructure and what it means to the Coram UK business? A: For clarity, Coram UK – home to the brands Coram Showers and Impey – is part of Dutch group Coram Sanitary BV. The decision to restructure the UK business was part of a strategy to create more harmony across all divisions of the Coram Group – throughout Europe. As part of that, because the group

were already sourcing shower enclosures from partners in Europe and the Far East for other parts of the business, we made the difficult decision to end production of enclosures at our Bridgnorth facility. In addition, since the acquisition

of the Impey business, we were effectively still running two businesses – one in Somerset [Impey] and one in Shropshire [Coram]. So, a key element of the restructure of Coram UK was to merge the two businesses to create one customer- facing HQ in Ilton, Somerset. We have also outsourced warehousing and packing operations to a third- party warehousing expert

Q: What factors were behind the decision to undergo such a major reorganisation? A: Coram UK is a fantastic business with lots of opportunities in the bathroom market, but the model wasn’t quite right, which made it difficult for us to get the growth we deserved. We have done a lot of great things with the business over the years, but we knew we could be faster, better and more efficient and that was the aim of the change. To create a great business, we had to make some significant changes, so we came up with a five-year strategy. We still have the same brand values in terms of a portfolio of high-quality, well-engineered, technically advanced innovations, but now the business is free to grow. The changes mean we can be more flexible – because we don’t have a huge manufacturing facility to feed – and we can be more


agile in getting products into the market quickly – something we’ve struggled to do in the past.

Q: So the changes were part of a long-term plan set out by the parent company in Europe rather than a reaction to negative results in the UK? A: Yes, it’s really important to emphasise that the changes were not a knee-jerk reaction to negative trading, but strategic organisational changes made to set the business up for the future.

In fact, as a bathroom company,

we have always delivered a very strong return on sales. However, in terms of

profitability, the shower

enclosure-manufacturing element of the UK business was not performing as well as it should.

Q: Does Coram do any manufacturing in the UK now? A: The core Impey products, including the AquaDec floor formers and the half-height doors, are still made at our Bridgnorth site. We have 45 people based there, including our technical development team who are constantly working on new products. We now have an excellent and

more efficient manufacturing process – it is still a significant part of our business in the UK and we forecast that 50% of our sales will still be generated through our own manufacturing.

Q: What did the closure of shower enclosure production and con - solidation of the business mean for personnel? A: The impact of all the changes on personnel has obviously been really difficult, but we’ve been as supportive as we could be and, from a business perspective, it was the change we needed. We’ve kept a core skill base, but we had to say goodbye to a number of fantastic personnel. We lost 80 people through the

redundancy process, but rehired 35 people for key positions at the new HQ at Ilton. So, we do have a lot of new people in the business, but that’s created a fresh and dynamic environment. It’s all about looking to the future.

Q: You’ve made some key

changes to the sales teams as well, haven’t you? A: We’ve kept our entire sales force throughout the restructure, but what we now have is three distinct sales divisions – a healthcare sales team, a retail sales team and a merchant sales team. This enables us to really tailor our services and products to each specific market we operate in.

Q: How has the business been performing since the changes? A: In 2019, Coram UK delivered strong growth with increased sales in healthcare adaptations and luxury

Q: What’s the next stage of the five-year plan? A: With the transformation process now complete, we fully expect to see growth in 2020 across all our product and market sectors, supported by continued investment in brands, product, design and marketing. As a group, we are more engaged

on joint products and initiatives. We have some really exciting plans for the future. The Group will also be exhibiting at the kbb Birmingham show 2020, with a suite on the concourse.

wet rooms – which grew by 25%. Following the introduction of the new Coram enclosures ranges, sales were in line with expectations.

Q: How have the changes impacted your customers? A: As you can imagine, with such significant changes to manufacturing, head office and warehousing, we’ve definitely experienced some service issues. There’s no doubt our customers have felt the change, but we’ve engaged and communicated with them throughout the process, so we’ve been able to maintain those relationships. And I hope they’d agree we’ve done everything possible to limit the impact. Through increased efficiency in operations we are now able to offer an even better service to our customers – another key objective of the changes.

kbbreview · January 2020

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