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RETAILER PROFILE | Norden Bathrooms, Tiles and Kitchens Left: Bette bath,


Crosswater screen, brassware from Hansgrohe and Calypso basin unit. Centre: Finwood Designs vanity unit, Roca basin and WC, Bette shower tray, Matki screen, Vola brassware. Far right: working steam room


manager at the PTS branch in Raynes Park, which he built up into its flagship store in the South.


It was while on holiday in Lanzarote that he hatched his plan to ask his family to start up their own business again. “I had a customer base at Raynes Park and predicted that £100k a month of trade-only business would follow me,” he tells me.


He recalls that his grandfather was “absolutely delighted” with the idea. Before long, he had moved out of his spare bedroom and into a unit on the Nonesuch Industrial Park, where he achieved £1 million in its first year. Now Norden occupies six units with 14,000sq ft of warehousing space.


Bathrooms


But Norden did not make the move into bathrooms until 2012. Why? He tells me that he noticed a drop in business from some of his loyal customer base of one-man-bands who were starting to install more bathrooms. Norden could see that this would be a natural progression for his business.


So he moved into a former bathroom showroom that had been vacant for two years. Initially, he employed his brother-in-law and cousin, who knew nothing about the trade, “because their people skills were phenomenal”, which to him was “more important than product knowledge”.


Norden aimed at the middle to high end market and he recalls how happy he was to get brands such as Duravit and Hansgrohe on board from the outset. “Most companies knew our family, knew Norden and Fry & Pollard, and that really helped,” he adds. “And the showroom is in a great position here. We ticked a lot of boxes without probably knowing it at the time.” He says that they also targeted Bette, Catalano, Utopia, Merlyn, Showerlab and Gessi. To those, the showroom, which now had much more space, has since added Laufen, Crosswater, Emporio Bagno, Axor,


74


Duravit basin and mirror, Waters Baths bath and JIS radiator


Dornbracht, Vola, Kyrya, Artelinea, Radox, JIS Sussex, Bisque, Zehnder, Viega and HiB.


But he tries not to have too many options in any one product category as he believes that would give customers too much choice. And, he adds: “If we do £100k a year with a tap supplier, we’ve got clout. If we are doing £5-10k, we don’t.”


Desirable


But he did want desirable brands: “The wow factor is what we are going for throughout the whole showroom and not just in our window displays.” The showroom also boasts a working steam room and they open late on Thursdays for customers to come in and try it out.


There is also an impressive display of fully working shower heads. They had planned to install a sauna too, but, as Norden confides, costs were “frightening” and the plan was shelved. The showroom uses Virtual Worlds


software for those customers that want a design service. Norden does charge for this, but that is refunded on final purchase.


Norden also realised that he had to offer tiles to his customers. Luckily, he had a good relationship with the owners of International Tiles, who were looking to retire.


So he bought their retail business and added tiles to the new Ewell showroom, taking on three of the team from International.


He felt confident the tile business would grow and formed it into its own division, just as kitchens and bathrooms are.


But there was one final piece he wanted to complete the Norden jigsaw – and that was kitchens.


“Kitchens was something I had wanted to do about five years ago. We had purchased Unit 6 in Kiln Lane for storage and we had pencilled Norden Kitchens to go in there.


“But when we realised we could do


it here [in the old bathroom showroom], we shelved that plan.”


Norden had to pause the fit-out of the kitchen showroom for six to eight weeks because of how the Covid crisis had impacted cashflow. It opened in September 2020, only to close again some five weeks later. Norden promoted assistant manager at Norden Heating, Doug Jackson, to kitchen showroom manager and brought in designers Lotty Tuck, who had worked for Howdens, and Michael Poulton, who was with Wickes previously. Looking back on it all, Norden reflects: “I am really pleased with what we have achieved. Kitchens had a record month in July, considering we had only been open four or five months. We are selling between eight and 12 a month at the moment and they are nice kitchens. That number’s only going to go one way [and he doesn’t mean down!]”


As with bathrooms, installations are carried out either by a customer’s own installer/builder or by tradesmen recommended by Norden.


Norden has grown over the years to 37 staff, eight of whom are family members, and it has eight retail and trade sites in Epsom/Ewell. The bulk of the company’s turnover (70%) is plumbing and heating, with bathrooms taking 20% and kitchens 10%, but this “sleeping giant” is expected to grow.


Dave Norden sums it up like this:


“We are immensely proud of what we have achieved.


“My team works extremely hard and we are increasing our numbers quarterly to cope. The family and the people we employ are the backbone of the business. “We are now going to consolidate.


We will continue to grow, especially in our retail divisions.”


· October 2021


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