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BATHROOM RETAILER PROFILE | Versatile Bathrooms and Tiles


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1. The Diesel Living tile display on first floor 2. One of the new, exclusive furniture ranges that Versatile is sourcing from a factory in Italy 3. The Radiator display on first floor of showroom


And so brand partners are very important… “Yes, the key heavyweights like Dornbracht and Kaldewei. The market dynamic is different here in Ireland – we deal direct with those factories,” explains Andrew. “They are supported by our brothers-in-arms in the UK and we work extremely closely with them, but we would look after them on an exclusive basis in the island of Ireland [they are distributors for Dornbracht, Alape, Drummonds, Thomas Crapper, Eban, Zehnder, Bisque and have exclusive deals with Diesel Living, Apavia and Harmony. They also sell Laufen, Imperial, Lefroy Brooks, Matki, Dansani, Duravit, Victoria and Albert, among others].


“These opportunities were created in the recession and


The recession for us was very good. We didn’t see one. We were blessed with our team. We adapted. Customers felt that because they were dealing with Versatile, that’s like a lifetime warranty


Andrew Treacy, managing director, Versatile Bathrooms and Tiles


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we work on building those brands. We don’t like too many conflicting brands. So the turnover has been linked to those key factories that we look after exclusively. Our average growth will be a sustainable 15% to 20% per annum. “We like brands you can’t buy everywhere. We are promoting into a very small market a product that can be bought online or 50 miles down the road is no good to us.” I ask Andrew about their commercial contracts. He explains: “We are about to do Microsoft’s European headquarters – we also did Amazon and Google. We would work with their architects and builders. Last week, we got an order from Facebook. They are doing a massive complex called Fibonacci. Seven major office blocks and we’re after getting the first one. And that happened through a retail experience. Interior designer Jean Feeney came down here to do her own bathroom in Tipperary and then she said she was designing Fibonacci and wanted to specify our tiles and our sanitaryware.” Andrew estimates that the commercial business represents around 50% to 60% of turnover. And it has knock-on benefits for the retail side. “The engineering skills set has been a massive help for our retail business. For the consumer, we will calculate the heat loads for their bathroom, what size of radiator. What energy source they will use – heat pump, boiler or purely electric or mixed. And what’s destroying the fabric in many bathrooms, and what many retailers would not have the experience in, is ventilation – we calculate the amount they need.” Joining our conversation, co-director Philip Treacy explains that this work often takes them to the UK: “I primarily look after the UK and Ulster. Through the recession, when we were fighting for any business we could get, a lot of the mechanical contractors from Northern Ireland followed the work to London and we developed relationships from there. It is commercial and residential, with one-off houses and a few hotels.”


During my tour of the showroom, I was shown two new ranges of Italian furniture. Catherine asks that I do not divulge who they are sourcing them from in case “other people want them”. Andrew adds that the furniture is made for them exclusively and they sell it under the Versatile brand name. “Are we reinventing the wheel?” muses Andrew. “No, we are keeping it relevant to our designs. Later, we will go one step further with a cheaper range. It will again be branded Versatile. “We’re on a journey with that particular factory. How can other retailers apply it to their own business? The main thing to take out of it is to try to be as individual as possible and work with a client that knows you are trying to match the product to your own requirements.”


Marketing So how does Versatile promote itself? Now they have a dedicated marketing team, do they use social media? Philip takes this one: “It is one of our biggest marketing tools now. We have put an emphasis on it over the past year. Case studies are huge, as are videos. The only reach we have to generate more people for our mailing list for direct marketing is through the likes of LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – [jokes] all the stuff we hate! It’s where people are going. And we have started to engage with the influencers – bloggers. Quite a number of them have been in-store and have posted on their Instagram while they were in the shop, and we saw the numbers liking our Instagram page go through the roof.”


They also host in-store events, for both retail and commercial customers. Andrew reveals that they are planning an event focusing on well-being. Philip adds: “We do a lot for interior architects, give them lunch and a tour of the showroom and hopefully get our products specified for their clients. If an interior designer is working on bathrooms for three or four clients, they can bring them here in one hit and we will give them a presentation and tour.” Andrew explains: “With a lot of our top-end clients, we never see them. Their designer has been empowered to make the decisions and then they come down with their clients.” Looking to the future, Andrew sees a lot of mileage in well- being and sensor products and this is an area where they will be doing more. “We are at a crossroads now,” says Andrew. “Are we happy where we are, or do we go forward or go back? Because it will mean more people again.” Either way, Versatile’s commitment to quality products and quality of service is sure always to be a part of their future.


kbbr kbbreview · June 2019


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