Category Archives: Industry Insights

Lakes Extends Popular Wave Range with Hinge & In-Line Addition

Leading manufacturer of shower enclosures, Lakes Showering Spaces, has kick started 2024’s product development with the extension of its popular Wave range to include a Hinge & In-Line option.

Ideal for wider enclosed spaces, the Hinge & In-Line model builds on the success of the core range of Wave products including sliding doors, quads, bi-fold door and walk in panel.

The product includes genuine 8mm thick glass throughout and comes in a broad range of sizes from 1m up to 1.7m wide.

For installers, the usual attention to detail has been applied in order to make this as friendly to use as possible and in line with Lakes’ commitment to quality, the Wave Hinge & In-Line enclosure complies to relevant British and European standards.

It will also be available in a range of colours including silver, black and brushed brass, the latter of which was launched last November.

Mike Gahir, Managing Director at Lakes, said: “The Wave range has been a huge success for us since coming to market in the summer of 2022.

“From a practical perspective, its strong frames and quality build mean there is no compromise in the performance of the showering space, while its engineering is focused on retaining a simplicity and ease of handling for installers when carrying and manoeuvring it into position in confined spaces.

“Visually, this latest addition adds a nice stylistic compliment to the range, creating that feeling of premium elegance.

“We’re delighted to be able to continue to broaden Wave and support our customers in being able to offer solutions to a wider variety of consumer requirements and needs.”

All Lakes products are backed by a no-quibble guarantee and come with AllClear glass protection coating, which forms an invisible, microscopically smooth shield to assist with cleaning and repel water, limescale and soap.

Read more on Installer online:

Lakes Managing Director speaks to KBB Focus

Mike Gahir, Lakes Managing Director, spoke with KBB Focus journalist Nicola Hanley at the start of 2024 to discuss our products, people and plans for the future.

The article touched on everything from sustainability credentials to staff satisfaction and our recent Management Buy-Out.

Read the full piece:

A Buyer’s Guide to Shower Enclosures

Choosing the right shower enclosure can significantly impact the aesthetics and functionality of your bathroom. With a myriad of options available, selecting the right one for your bathroom requires careful consideration. In this buyer’s guide, Mike Gahir, Lakes Showering Spaces, explores the factors you should keep in mind when choosing the perfect enclosure to suit your bathroom space and personal style.

  1. Consider the space available: Is the shower enclosure for an ensuite or the main family bathroom? This can influence the type of enclosure that’s right for your requirements. It’s also important to take accurate measurements of your bathrooms before you decide which enclosure to choose. You will need to consider all dimensions including ceiling height. You will also need to think carefully about where the enclosure will be installed in the room as this will affect which type you choose. Will it be in the corner of a room or in a central position against the wall?
  1. Budget considerations: Your budget is a crucial factor in the decision-making process. Remember that while premium materials and features can enhance the overall appeal, there are also budget-friendly options available that still offer durability and style.
  1. Style and Aesthetics: The style of your shower enclosure should complement the overall design of your bathroom. Whether you prefer a sleek and modern look or a classic and timeless feel, there’s an enclosure to match your taste. The most common types of enclosures include:


Sliding Door: Ideal for smaller bathrooms, sliding doors save space and offer easy access.


Quadrant: Quadrants are designed to fit perfectly in the corner of a bathroom or ensuite, making the most of all the space available. They normally come with sliding curved shower doors.


Pivot Door: Pivot doors rotate on a pin mechanism at the top and bottom of the door frame. The door opens outwards into the bathroom, but because the far edge of the door swings backwards into the shower, they need less clearance than a hinged door.


Hinged Door: A hinged shower door opens into the room – something to consider when planning the layout of your bathroom. Best for spacious bathrooms, hinged doors offer wide access to the shower.


Bifold Door: Bi-folds consist of two or more glass panels. Generally, one glass panel is fixed to the shower surround, while the other panels fold in on its hinges. These are a great option when space is at a premium, as the door folds completely into the enclosure.


Side Panel: Shower glass side panels are individual glass panels that can be used to create unique shower enclosures. Side panels joined with a door to create a bespoke shower enclosure perfect for your bathroom.


Walk-In: The popularity of walk-in and walk-through showers have grown significantly, driven by a desire to achieve a wet room look without the expense of tanking the floor and walls. Comprising a simple glass panel teamed with a low-profile or concealed underfloor shower tray, one end is left open allowing you to ‘walk-in’, or both ends are left open to ‘walk-through.’


Frameless: These provide a modern and sleek look with minimal hardware. Planes of clear glass create the illusion of more space with clean lines that flow right the way through.


Semi-Frameless: These combine the best of both worlds. A semi-frameless enclosure has framing on each side of the larger piece, but not around the door panel.

  1. Functionality and Accessibility: The functionality of your shower enclosure is paramount. Consider factors such as ease of access, especially if you have family members with mobility concerns. Sliding or pivot doors are great for compact spaces, while walk-in enclosures provide a barrier-free entry. Additionally, think about the cleaning and maintenance requirements of different enclosure types. Frameless enclosures, for example, are not only stylish but also easier to clean due to fewer nooks and crannies.
  1. Maintenance and Cleaning: Shower enclosures are subjected to water and soap residue daily, so ease of cleaning is a vital consideration. Additionally, choosing glass with protective coatings can help prevent water spots and mineral build up, making your cleaning routine more manageable. All Lakes glass enclosures come with AllClear protective coating as standard.
  1. Professional Installation: Unless you’re experienced in DIY projects, it’s recommended that your shower enclosure is professionally installed. Proper installation ensures the enclosure is stable, safe to use and won’t leak.

With the exception of the Prospect Range, which has a 10-year guarantee, all Lakes own manufactured products are back by a unique no-quibble guarantee. Download the brochure

Lakes’ comments in BMBI Q2 2021

Mick Evans, Operations Director Lakes Showering Spaces and BMBI’s Expert for Shower Enclosures & Showering comments in the BMBI Q2 2021 report:

“Half-way through 2021, there are many reasons to be optimistic for internal trades.

Consumer research points to the home improvement trend gathering pace for internal trades. A report on Insight DIY suggests that two thirds of UK homeowners are planning home makeovers in the next year, with a new bathroom the top choice for 32%. People want more and better spaces in their homes and this is driving the RMI trend.

The Bank of England says households have accumulated £260bn in their savings accounts since the start of the pandemic. According to the research commissioned for Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles two thirds of homeowners are planning to spend up to £135bn of this next year on improving their home. Savings and intentions to spend are distributed unequally though as the pandemic has increased the divide between the Haves who are driving a growing market for premium products and high quality improvements, and the Have Nots, homeowners whose outgoings leave little room for such spending.

However, meeting strong demand for bathroom installations still comes with its challenges. According to the BIKBBI, almost half of installers (47%) have had to cancel jobs due to being pinged by the NHS Covid app. The August changes to self-isolation rules should put an end to the ‘ping-demic’ and those unexpected losses, as order books for the remainder of the year are looking healthy.

Shipping problems are still prevalent. A world economy synchronised by Covid is expanding, driving demand – and shortages – for home improvement and construction products worldwide. Components coming from China or the Far East are affected by port congestion at both ends of the journey, and by container shortages and increased freight prices. Delays and extra costs are likely to cast a shadow over the industry’s recovery well into the Autumn.

With the relaxation of stamp duty, more people are likely to choose to improve not move in the second half of the year. These customers will be researching online before they buy, so it’s important to have a strong digital presence, and a personable showroom experience to ensure homeowners get the products they want.”

BMBI Experts speak exclusively for their markets, explaining trends, issues and opportunities. For the latest reports, Expert comments and Round Table videos, visit


The Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI)

The BMBI is a brand of the BMF. The BMBI report, which is produced and managed by MRA Research, uses GfK’s Builders Merchant Point of Sale Tracking Data which analyses sales out data from over 80% of generalist builders’ merchants’ sales across Great Britain. The full report is on


Lakes’ comments in BMBI Q1 2021

Mick Evans, Operations Director Lakes Showering Spaces and BMBI’s Expert for Shower Enclosures & Showering comments in the BMBI Q1 2021 report:

“In a market used to thinking of 2-3% up or down as significant, it’s been an extraordinary 18 months. Total sales for March were 47% above March 2020 but sales were also 23% ahead of March 2019! Kitchen & Bathroom sales are currently 18.7% ahead of March 2020 but -1.0% below March 2019, as lockdown restrictions hit internal trades harder than external.

“However with restrictions being relaxed, homeowners are feeling more confident about letting tradespeople back into their homes. With pent-up demand and, according to the BoE, an accumulated £200bn in consumer savings, RMI activity is already fizzing.

“A year at home, in homes that weren’t designed for staying in or working from home, has persuaded many to invest more in their homes, so they’re ‘designed for life’. The housing market is frenetic, and home improvements show no signs of slowing. Better bathrooms and new bathrooms have become a higher priority.

“There is also growing demand for more attractive multigenerational products. For example, non-slip stone shower trays, stylishly secure seating, and grab rails which make showering safer for the older and less secure-footed.

“As the host of the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, there is real emphasis for the UK to lead from the front and inspire action ahead of November. There are many aspects to sustainability and saving CO2 in practice, and Lakes is proud to have been the first in our sector to be awarded Carbon Neutral Plus certification for our UK operations, for continued commitment to reducing our impact on the environment. We invested significantly in packaging design, and closing the loop for recycling, and reducing carbon miles. Equally, sustainability can apply to delivering high quality products which are designed to last longer, making for happier customers and less waste of materials and resources.

“Looking ahead, polls show working from home is unlikely to see a big reversal, and RMI is forecast to grow strongly in the medium to long term. Omnichannel sales are growing strongly, and we expect this to continue. But homeowners often need help, and only know what they want when they’re shown it and have it explained by an expert. Are stockists and retailers ready?”

BMBI Experts speak exclusively for their markets, explaining trends, issues and opportunities. For the latest reports, Expert comments and Round Table videos, visit


The Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI)

The BMBI is a brand of the BMF. The BMBI report, which is produced and managed by MRA Research, uses GfK’s Builders Merchant Point of Sale Tracking Data which analyses sales out data from over 80% of generalist builders’ merchants’ sales across Great Britain. The full report is on


Kitchens & Bathrooms sales surge in Q3

Sales to builders by Britain’s builders’ merchants surged in September, with sales up 8.3% compared with September 2019, according to the latest Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) report. Landscaping was the strongest category over the period (+31.2%), albeit with one extra trading day.


Total value sales in Q3 2020 (July-September) were significantly up on the previous quarter (+63.2%) when many merchants were closed. All product categories reported growth with Kitchens & Bathrooms seeing the strongest quarter-on-quarter recovery (+131%), closely followed by Tools (+130%).


Total Builders Merchants value sales in Q3 2020 increased by 1% compared to Q3 2019. Landscaping sales were up 24.2% – the highest level since the index was set up in 2015. While Kitchens & Bathrooms sales recovered strongly quarter-on-quarter, compared to the same three months of 2019, sales were down -7.1%.


Sales across all product categories were up in September compared to August, with Total Builders Merchants up 13.7%. Kitchens & Bathrooms sales were up 10.4% over the same period.


August’s BMBI index was 124.6. Landscaping (175.5) was strongest, followed by Timber & Joinery Products (133.4). For Kitchens & Bathrooms it was 111.6.


Lakes Sales & Marketing Director Mike Tattam and BMBI’s Expert for Shower Enclosures & Showering comments: “Q3 sales of bathroom products were boosted as homeowners, who saw money accumulate in their bank accounts faster in lockdown than they could spend it, chose to improve their bathrooms. We expect another boost to bathroom products sales in Lockdown 2.0.

“The market is up on the same period last year. Plumbers and installers are busy, with full order books into Q1 2021. That’s despite the inconsistent messaging coming out of national and regional governments and assemblies. The UK government though has been clear: construction is essential, and installers can continue to work safely in the home.

“On the supply side, there’s port congestion in China, with high volumes being shipped to the recovering world economy. Worse, companies are importing extra ahead of the Chinese New Year, when virtually the whole of February is lost from the extended break. And they’re importing extra to beat increased tariffs from a hard Brexit. There’s a shortage of large containers, so importers are having to accept smaller containers, which adds to the problem in the UK. Felixstowe and Southampton are clogged with empty containers. So, ships are getting bounced to other ports. Haulage companies and drivers are unable to provide delivery slots, and companies are waiting over two weeks for deliveries from Felixstowe in particular.

“Each link in the supply chain is only as strong as the one next to it: if one link breaks the whole chain fails. With Brexit looming, successful supply chains will be those who work closest together, sharing information about stocks and expected sales. Supply ‘chains’ that try to maximise the interests of individual links will fail first and suffer most.

“One important effect of post-Brexit change is the new trademark that comes into effect from January 2021 – UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed). By the 31st December 2021, all products sold in our sector will require this mark, rather than the previous European CE mark. After 1st January 2022 products showing only CE marks entering the general marketplace will not conform to standard. The new UKCA is currently not recognized in Europe as a legal standard. Products that are sold in both the EU (including Eire) and UK can be dual marked.”

BMBI Experts speak exclusively for their markets, explaining trends, issues and opportunities. For the latest reports, Expert comments and Round Table videos, visit

Thinking outside the box to create a more sustainable future

Climate change is the biggest challenge facing humanity, and we all have a part to play in making our tomorrow a little greener, says our Sales & Marketing Director and BMBI Expert Mike Tattam.

You don’t have to visit Antarctica to witness the devastating consequences of climate change – it’s all around us. Extremes of weather, rising sea levels, carbon emissions at their highest since records began and wildlife driven to extinction, all as a result of human activity.

While the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreements have prompted most countries to create and implement policies to reduce their environmental impact, it has yet to have the desired effect and we are fast approaching the point of no return. The global temperature is rising and if it goes beyond two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the impact is likely to be severe, widespread and irreversible.

In our industry, climate change has been a hot topic for some time particularly with regards to energy efficiency in buildings and low carbon products. The shift to green has encouraged merchants and their suppliers to consider the sustainability of their operations and this will become more widespread if the Government’s proposed Environmental Bill is passed later this year.

Originally tabled in 2019, the first Environmental Bill was shelved due to the election but it’s back for 2020 and, if passed into legislation, it will impact us all.

The draft bill requires the Government to set at least one target in four key areas: air quality, biodiversity, water, and resource efficiency and waste reduction. There will also be a target for the reduction of fine particulate matter (tiny particles which are inhaled). While the exact targets will not be confirmed until after the Bill is passed, it is likely that the resource efficiency and waste production requirements will be particularly pertinent to builders’ merchants and their suppliers.

Polluter pays
The Environmental Bill’s Resources & Waste strategy includes initiatives such as a tax on plastic packaging which uses less than 30% recycled plastic and minimum requirements to encourage resource-efficient design. The big one, however, will be the invoking of the ‘polluter pays’ principle.

While in office, Theresa May’s Government signed up to the EU’s ‘circular economy’ directive. The idea of a circular economy is that we move away from a linear approach (make, use, dispose) and use resources more sustainably through re-use and recycling. The European directive required producers to pay 80% of the costs to dispose of their goods’ packaging. In the Resources & Waste strategy, the ‘polluter pays’ principle would see manufacturers taking responsibility for the full costs of disposing of the packaging they place in the market.

This tough stance on packaging is understandable. How many times have you opened a delivery and wondered why such a small item is wrapped up in so much packaging, or stopped to consider why your fruit and vegetables need to be shrink-wrapped? Packaging is key to achieving the UK’s overall environmental targets – both in domestic and commercial arenas – and it’s especially important for reducing plastic waste.

Sustainable packaging
For builders’ merchants, packaging is a big deal too. Too much packaging means more material to recycle on-site, while insufficient or ineffective packaging means damaged goods, returns and unhappy customers. So if suppliers need to find more sustainable packaging designs to meet future regulatory requirements, they will need to carefully balance their responsibility to the environment with the needs of their stockist customers.

Recognising the growing importance of resource-efficient packaging, Lakes recently invested significantly in redeveloping its packaging to minimise the amount of waste going to landfill. Our old packaging used internal polystyrene packing to prevent movement, plastic banding to keep the product secure, and stapling and plastic tape to secure the cardboard carton. With 150,000 products manufactured every year, there was significant cost and waste attached to this approach.

It also negatively affected our business. We discovered that the plastic banding was being used to pick up and move the boxes – a practice which was unsafe and also risked cutting the cartons and damaging the product.

So in March 2019, we became the first in the sector to introduce 100% recyclable packaging. We removed the plastic banding, stapling, plastic tape and polystyrene to reduce our waste to landfill by 75%. We added in handling slots to make the products more manoeuvrable. The new packaging has halved the number of damaged returns and improved transportation and stockholding, thanks to the smaller box sizes – all in addition to being kinder to the environment.

But best practice must be followed downstream if the packaging is to be truly sustainable. If our stockists and installer customers don’t have access to the facilities needed to recycle our boxes, we are exploring how we can close the circle by taking empty packaging returns – via a merchant – so we can recycle them ourselves.

We all need to act to make a difference, in our own lives and in our business activities, to ensure the world’s natural resources are protected for future generations. Lakes is a certified carbon neutral company and uses offsetting – such as the planting of trees – to balance the carbon emissions we generate through the course of manufacturing and transporting our products. The Environmental Bill will hopefully have more businesses thinking about what they can do to make small or big changes to their operations.

Sustainability is now as important as profitability, and the two can go hand-in-hand when environmental issues are considered as part of wider business objectives.

Rethink, Recover, Rebuild

While COVID-19 disrupted many businesses, the pandemic has created a unique opportunity for builders’ merchants to emerge with a more flexible approach to selling, says our Sales & Marketing Director and BMBI Expert Mike Tattam.

The builders’ merchant sector is bouncing back stronger than any of us could have forecasted, or hoped, and the Government’s ‘Build Back Better’ mantra is kickstarting construction. It’s giving everyone in the supply chain a much-needed boost.


The green shoots of recovery?

After the precipitous drop in revenue in April, with many branches closed or partially closed because of lockdown, the easing of restrictions in May set sales and confidence on an upward trajectory. By June, branches operating on skeleton staff were rushed off their feet and most of our merchant customers had returned to full capacity to cope with the uplift in demand from the building trade.

Home improvements buoyed merchant sales as a range of projects around the home proved popular among households with extra disposable income. But it would be naïve to think we are out of the woods and there is an air of caution as we head towards the final quarter. The Pulse report from July, produced by MRA Research, found that while merchants were generally upbeat, half of the merchants surveyed were less confident than in June, unsure whether the surge in sales was indicative of a V-shaped recovery or just the clearing of a backlog of orders which built up while branches were closed or semi-operational.

It’s difficult for us to see the full picture, particular for showering spaces as they are large, difficult to store items that builders normally order job-by-job. This lag skews the true pipeline of orders for suppliers and merchants.


Rebuilding resilience

Realistically, there could be more challenges in store for the sector. Regional lockdowns, like those in Leicester and Blackburn, could severely impact individual branches, while the end of the furlough scheme (anticipated in the Autumn) is expected to result in widespread redundancies which will impact consumer spending and overall market confidence. And this is all before we reach Brexit at the end of the year!

It’s impossible to predict how all these factors will affect the industry, which makes future proofing and planning even more of a challenge. It’s at times like these that merchants and suppliers need to pull together.

We’re all experiencing the pain of supply chain issues and meeting customer demands while adhering to safe working practices. Clear communication, a collaborative mindset to tackle the problems and a little understanding all go a long way.


Rethinking online

If anything positive has come out of this pandemic it’s the push for innovative solutions, which will change the builders’ merchant marketplace for the better.

During lockdown, we all immersed ourselves in online and digital ways to live and communicate – from Teams calls with colleagues, and Zoom pub quizzes with friends, to unprecedented levels of online shopping and ordering in.

Merchants were quick to jump on the increase in online shopping, switching their traditional business models to establish themselves as click and collect or transactional sites.

In July, Lakes launched a pioneering online showroom concept, which gives installer and homeowner customers a showroom experience from the comfort and safety of their own homes. The showroom is hosted within the merchant’s own website, so all the leads and enquiries go to them to close the deal.

The industry response has been overwhelmingly positive because – after two years in development – it’s landed at just the right time. But while purchasing behaviours are changing, and at a pace accelerated by lockdown, there is still a firm place for physical showrooms in the post-COVID world.

Our online showroom provides a way for merchants to warm up casual browsers into warm leads for showroom staff to covert. It’s a space for customers to research products and get in touch with our stockists directly. Realistically website visitors are not going to commit to buying a big-ticket item without seeing it first. They still need to visit a merchant showroom to touch and test the product for themselves, feel the quality and speak to informed and friendly staff about whether its right for them.

We hear from our merchant customers that their showrooms are increasingly busy, which is encouraging. And as post-lockdown customers now visit showrooms on an appointment basis, they come with more serious intentions to buy.

The future of merchant selling is not only online. The steps and sequence of the customer journey have changed, but we mustn’t underestimate the value of human interactions in that journey. The future of showrooms is omnichannel, incorporating the best in online and offline selling, to deliver a holistic and safe customer experience. That’s the ‘new normal’ and it’s here now.

Lakes endorses BMF’s support on Green Homes Grant Scheme

Sustainability is high on most people’s agenda and this includes improving the thermal efficiency of our homes and buildings.

As a carbon neutral organisation we’re pleased to see the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) working in partnership with Trustmark to support the new Green Homes Grant Scheme.

The scheme will see the government give over 600,000 homeowners in England a voucher that covers two-thirds of the cost of qualifying energy efficiency or low carbon heating improvements to their home. The voucher is worth up to £5,000 for most, and £10,000 for some. The following insulation measures, that could help families save up to £600 a year on their energy bills, are covered by the voucher:

  • solid wall
  • under floor
  • cavity wall
  • loft
  • flat roof
  • room in roof
  • insulating a park home

The Government is urging tradespeople to sign up for TrustMark accreditation in a drive to support 100,000 new jobs to fulfil the new energy efficiency scheme, and to ensure that homeowners can be confident of the quality of both the materials and the workmanship of projects completed under the new scheme.

Find out more here.

Builders’ Merchants’ Q2 sales: A tale of resilience and recovery

The BMBI results for Quarter 2 show the phenomenal resilience of the sector in action. April, May and June couldn’t have been more different. April, in almost full lockdown, fell -76.5% year-on-year, May recovered to -39.9% as restrictions started to ease, and June grew +2.2%, helped by two more trading days this year, more relaxed restrictions and a booming Landscaping category.


Total Builders Merchants value sales in Q2 2020 (unadjusted for trading days) fell -38.6% compared with the same period in 2019.

Landscaping the strongest performer, was down -13.3% over the same period. Tools was weakest (-58.6%), followed by Kitchens & Bathrooms (-57.9%) and Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (-53.1%).


Total value sales dropped by -27.2% in Q2 2020 compared with the previous quarter. All categories declined except for Landscaping (+38.7%). Kitchens & Bathrooms was down -55.8%.


June improved with total value sales +2.2% up on May. Landscaping showed the biggest category surge over this period, up a blistering +50.3%. Sales were still negative in most categories, but returning, with Kitchens & Bathroom sales recovering to -22.5%.


The quarterly BMBI index for Total Builders Merchants was 76.4, with Landscaping ahead of all categories at 138.8. The index for Kitchens & Bathrooms was 48.4.

Mike Tattam, Sales & Marketing Director Lakes and BMBI Expert for Shower Enclosures & Showering, comments: “Lockdown had a dramatic effect on all areas of construction. But after the initial shock in April, the recovery has been faster than forecast. The industry is positive, however the market is understandably cautious. Is this a V-shaped recovery driven by pent-up demand or the W-recovery predicted by economists who expect lots of downward pulls from regional lockdowns, mass unemployment, consumers switching to save not spend, and a still up-in-the-air Brexit throwing a spanner in the works?

“We’ve all learned the value of strong supply partnerships in this pandemic, with manufacturers working hard with merchants to overcome supply chain constraints, while working safely and communicating clearly.

“Merchants are adapting quickly to this new normal, converting traditional call and collect business models into click and collect, and setting up transactional sites as quickly as they can. Our personal purchasing behaviours changed almost overnight during lockdown, and since then many merchants and manufacturers have looked more closely at including online in the mix.

“Yet online selling doesn’t work as well for higher-ticket or complicated products where people don’t always know the questions they need to ask and need expert assistance to guide them. They want to see how products work and want to feel the differences between different qualities and price, and they like the reassurance of proximity for the confidence and convenience of an accessible after sales service.

“Not all merchants have the deep pockets to invest in the right retail technology and the scale to succeed, but an omnichannel strategy with online and offline combined is very effective in playing to merchants’ local strengths.

“The steps and sequence of the customer journey may have changed, but we mustn’t underestimate the value of human interactions in that journey. The future of showrooms is incorporating the best in online and offline selling to deliver a holistic and safe customer experience. That’s the ‘new normal’ and it’s here now.”

BMBI Experts speak exclusively for their markets, explaining trends, issues and opportunities. For the latest reports, Expert comments and Round Table videos, visit

A large profitable market you may be overlooking

With multi-generational living on the rise, we expect greater demand for housing that reflects this strong trend. Displaying showering spaces that cater for different needs within the same household will be increasingly important, says Sales & Marketing Director and BMBI Expert Mike Tattam.

Recent research for the NHBC Foundation[1] by the Cambridge Centre for Housing & Planning Research (CCHPR) finds that 1.8 million UK households now include two or more adult generations. That’s 38% up since 2009. Drivers include providing support for older family members, a lack of affordable retirement homes, as well as sons and daughters returning to live with their parents, and the high cost of housing.

The demographics of an ageing population will have an increasing impact. According to the ONS, there are currently 11.8 million over 65s in the UK. They are forecast to rise to 18.5 million by 2040. The return of millennials to live with their parents is a big driver too. The Resolution Foundation says about 20% of 25-34-year-olds live with their parents, compared with 16% in 1991. With a shortage of new homes being built, worsening affordability, and rising rentals, it’s clear why young people are returning to live with parents.

When social distancing measures for Covid-19 are relaxed and normal life resumes, these factors will still be in the driving seat. Multigenerational living is baked into the next 20 years and will be a strong driver for many home improvement sectors. The number of homes being converted to adapt to multigenerational living is currently around 125,000 a year[2]. Loft or basement conversions, extensions and separate living annexes improve your living space, and allows for greater privacy and independence.

The bathroom is one of the most used rooms in a house. With more people living under one roof and sharing bathroom spaces, it’s more important that showering spaces and bathroom furniture are robust, low maintenance, easy to clean, safe and adaptable for different needs from young children to the less mobile, or ageing parents.

Two key considerations for a multigenerational bathroom are improved accessibility, without compromising on style, and maintenance.

Accessibility with style

Multi-generational houses need practical solutions to ensure older parents or people with access or agility problems enjoy a safe and invigorating shower. Typically these adaptations are clunky or utilitarian white, glossy plastic without refinement. But they don’t need to be, and it’s not what this new market is looking for. A new generation of multi-generational products are smart, stylish and unobtrusive, well matched to the popular spa-like modern bathrooms.

Walk-ins with a low threshold tray are increasingly popular, creating an open, stylish space to reduce slips, trips and falls. There’s a growing trend for premium, stone-resin trays that are non-slip and feel great under your feet – ideal for wet rooms where the bath is removed for ultimate accessibility. An integrated shower seat provides a seamless finish to a comfortable and safe showering experience, or a discreet, foldaway shower seat and grab rail attached to the wall for a perfect uncluttered look.

Sparkle & shine

Showering spaces are mainly glass, and with Covid-19 making us more conscious about keeping our hands and surfaces clean, the last thing you want to be doing is spending a lot of time wiping away the build-up of scum and scale after every shower, and for every shower in the house. ‘Hard work’ showering spaces quickly lose their appeal.

Innovations like AllClear® from Lakes Glass – an advanced nano-coated glass coating on both sides of the glass – ensures that water, limescale and soap scum slide off the glass rather than sticking to it with a simple wipe using a damp cloth. AllClear® is also 10 times more scratch resistant than normal glass, so it can handle whatever families throws at it.

Quality sliding shower doors also have a ‘quick release’ function at the base to make it easy to clean around the hard to reach areas. Many homeowners are unaware of this, and while not revolutionary, it’s an appreciated benefit when it’s pointed out.

Selling style & practicality

Multi-generational living is not a specialist market: it’s a big and growing trend, which affects everybody. Engaging with it, asking questions about lifestyle, and getting to know what people want and need gives merchants a competitive edge. These consumers are not looking for ‘cheap and cheerful’ solutions. Grandparents moving in with children generally have the money and time to shop for products with the convenience and practicality they need, and the higher-end style they expect.

As the COVID-19 lockdown eases and showrooms slowly reopen, make sure yours are ready with designs for multi-generational living to encourage conversation and new selling opportunities.

Discover Lakes Additions here, our growing range of additional options for showering spaces to suit today’s lifestyles, or Walk-Ins for flexible solutions without compromising on style or design.

For more information or to take advantage of our range in your showrooms, call our sales team on 01684 853870.




Builders’ Merchants’ Q1 sales hit by Coronavirus restrictions

Builders’ Merchants’ sales in the first quarter of 2020 were knocked by the COVID-19 pandemic and Government measures to contain the virus.


Total value sales in Q1 2020 (unadjusted for trading days) fell -6.7% compared with the same period in 2019, with all core product categories affected. Adjusted for trading days, total builders’ merchants’ value sales dropped -8.2%.

Tools (-12.7%) and Timber & Joinery Products (-11.1%) reported the biggest falls on an unadjusted basis. Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (-7.4%), Heavy Building Materials (-6.5%), Decorating (-5.1%) and Kitchens & Bathrooms (-4.1%) were also down. Perhaps not surprisingly, the one outstanding performance was in Workwear and Safetywear up +24.2%.


Total value sales dropped marginally by -0.8% in Q1 2020 compared with Q4 2019. Most product categories reported lower value sales over the period, including Kitchens & Bathrooms (-2.4%). The exceptions were seasonal category landscaping (+7.6%), Workwear and Safetywear (+9.5%) and Renewables & Water Saving (+15.9%).


The quarterly BMBI index for Total Builders Merchants was 105.6, with Workwear & Safetywear ahead of all categories at 129.1. The Index for Kitchens & Bathroom was 111.9.


Mike Tattam, Sales & Marketing Director and BMBI’s Expert for Shower Enclosures & Showering, comments:

Many bathroom and showering products are manufactured in China. While our factory in China is fully open and our UK stocks are high, as a result of the disruption many containers and ships along the global supply chain are in the wrong place, unable to unload or load, and extending the normal 6-8 weeks lead time. Stocks are arriving in the UK, but the lockdown here means many products are sitting in UK docks or on ships with nowhere to go.

“The sudden mass closure of builders’ merchants, partly driven by media and social media pressure, meant that installers and homeowners were driven to the internet, taking advantage of easy online ordering and direct delivery. Once government eases restrictions and encourages the reopening of showrooms, merchants will have to work hard to win back a customer base that may have become more used to online buying. Making sure your staff are experts in their field, so they add value with advice and support (while adhering to social distancing guidelines), has never been more important.

“Construction sites are returning to work, but it will be slower for the RMI market as the general public will be wary of inviting tradespeople into their home. Ensuring that they have full personal protective equipment (PPE) and can demonstrate they are operating to clear safety guidelines is fundamental in getting this sector of the market moving. Tradespeople who behave safely in PPE are more likely to be accepted than those who don’t.

“It’s not all gloom. Some merchants report homeowners have been using their time at home to plan future building work. Cramped bathrooms, showering spaces that are a hazard for some of the family, or lack of an ensuite, become extremely important when you’re locked in for weeks on end. Holiday budgets that can’t be enjoyed abroad, may be spent on improving the home. The ‘bounce back’ may not be immediate but may be sooner than economists would have us believe.”

Each quarter, BMBI Experts speak exclusively for their markets, explaining trends, issues and opportunities. For the latest reports, Expert comments and Round Table debate videos, visit

2019: A year most of us won’t forget!

2019 will go down as one of those years we won’t forget. Brexit dominated the headlines and created uncertainty across all spheres of business in the UK, including the builders’ merchant and retail stockist sectors. The year also reminded us the effect weather and long periods of rain can have on business and sales.


Total Builders’ Merchant value sales in Q4 2019 were -4.0% down compared with the same quarter in 2018. Adjusted for trading days, average sales a day dropped -2.4%.

Tools (-8.5%) and Timber & Joinery (-6.7%) were particularly affected, closely followed by Heavy Building Materials (-4.6%). Kitchens & Bathrooms was among the three product sectors to report an increase over the period (+3.0%). The other two were Renewables & Water Saving (+6.4%) and Workwear & Safetywear (+5.8%).


Quarter four 2019 did not end well, with total value sales dropping -13.9% compared with Q3 2019. The drop was less marked when adjusted for trading days (-5.2%).

Most product categories reported lower value sales over the period, with sales of the seasonal category landscaping down the most, by -33.2%, followed by Heavy Building Materials (-14.8%) and Timber & Joinery Products (-13.1%). Quarter-on-quarter value sales for Kitchens & Bathrooms fell by -6.4%. The only two categories to report growth over the period were Workwear & Safetywear (+11.2%) and Plumbing, Heating & Electrical (+3.8%).


The total BMBI index for Q4 2019 was 106.4, a significant drop from 123.6 in Q3 2019. The index for Kitchens & Bathrooms was higher than the total at 114.6 for Q4 2019, but had fallen from the previous quarter (122.3).

Our Sales & Marketing Director Mike Tattam and BMBI’s Expert for Shower Enclosures & Showering, comments:

Looking back, 2019 was a year on hold. The first quarter started promisingly, but the RMI replacement and improvement market for shower enclosures and bathroom products was weakened by constant negativity in parliament and the press over Brexit. Different channels and different regions were affected in different ways, but some stockists reported sales down by up to 10%. The final three months were particularly weak.

“However, December’s General Election appears to have been a pivotal moment. The public and business responded with relief to the prospect of clarity and stability from a big-majority Government, and the constant carping in the media has eased.

“GfK’s Consumer Confidence index rose strongly in December, by 3 points, followed by a further 2 points in January. January also saw a strong 1.9% rise in house prices, according to Nationwide. Consumer spending grew 3.9% in January, according to Barclaycard, up from a lacklustre 1% growth in December. This has yet to translate into business across all sectors, but it sets the scene for better news for the home improvement market in 2020. We expect homeowners will have the confidence to spend on their property, including investing in a new or improved bathroom.

“One of the key factors driving such investments is the increasing trend to multi-generational living. Recent research quotes a 46% increase in multi-generational living in less than a decade. Older family members are moving into their children’s homes, and the number of households with 20-34-year olds living in their parental home increased from 2.6 million in 2007 to 3.4 million in 2017.

“More people under one roof means the bathroom is one of the most used rooms in the house. Bathroom furniture and showering spaces therefore need to be robust, low maintenance, easy to clean, safe and adaptable to different needs. For example, the less mobile require low thresholds so they can get in and out of the shower without tripping, and grandparents may need a shower seat and grab rail so they can shower safely and comfortably. But these improvements do not need to be ugly or utilitarian. There’s a new generation of ‘multi-generational’ products that are smart and stylish, well matched to the spa-like modern bathrooms that have become so popular.”

Each quarter, BMBI Experts speak exclusively for their markets, explaining trends, issues and opportunities. For the latest reports, Expert comments and Round Table debate videos, visit

New decade, new #DesignedForLife brochure from Lakes

Lakes, a leading manufacturer of showering spaces and a carbon neutral company, kicks off the new decade with a refreshed #DesignedForLife brochure. Building on Lakes’ key themes of lifestyle imagery and bathroom sets that reflect life as lived, the 2020 brochure includes a new dedicated section for Walk-Ins, the new Bay Series and Lakes Stone launched last summer, and an extended Collection of Lakes Additions.

Lakes Additions 500 Series is a new collection of discreet foldaway shower seats and stylish grab-rails and bars. With a rise in multi-generational living, bathroom and shower manufacturers need solutions to suit a range of lifestyles and needs under one roof. The 500 Series adds safety and comfort without compromising on great looks or design.

Lakes’ brochure is rapidly becoming a powerful sales tools for merchants, stockists and installers. It makes the case for the whole showering space – the glass, tray, hardware, framing and optional extras. This innovative approach is helping Lakes’ customers explain the market easily and effectively, and makes the most of new selling opportunities.

Sales & Marketing Director Mike Tattam comments: “Our brochures don’t just look different from the norm, they are also leading the way in defining the showering space market to give it a purpose and focus so our customers can sell more. From explaining the technical function of shower glass, through to the simple benefits of quick release – a spring mechanism that makes it easy to clean around the base of the shower – our brochure reminds customers of what matters for today’s lifestyle needs. The new brochure has hit the market already and we’re looking forward to its impact!”

For a copy of Lakes’ new 2020 #DesignedForLife brochure call 01684 853 870 or download it here.

Lakes debates crunch-time issues and industry trends in 4th BMBI Round Table

Our Sales & Marketing Director and BMBI Expert for Shower Enclosures & Showering, Mike Tattam, recently took part in the Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) fourth Round Table Debate. The debate took place in December 2019, hosted at Geberit HQ in Warwick.

The BMBI is a brand of the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) and the annual debate is organised for BMBI Experts to discuss topical issues, and the implications for our industry. Neil Lawrence, COO of Jewson, represented builders’ merchants and Mike Rigby, CEO of MRA Marketing (creators of BMBI) joined the BMBI Experts. The debate was chaired by Jennie Ward on behalf of Builders’ Merchants News (BMN).

Five main topics were covered:

  1. The climate change agenda & environmental legislation
  2. Economic confidence & Politics!
  3. Changes in buyer behaviour and how we sell
  4. Changing Regulations, changing building practices, changing priorities
  5. Merchants and distribution – where next?

The debate will be reported in the January, February and March issues of BMN. It was videoed in full and each video topic will be uploaded to the BMBI website from February 2020.

Other BMBI Experts that took part included: Andy Simpson, Packed Products Director Hanson Cement; Derrick McFarland, Managing Director Keystone Lintels; John Duffin, Managing Director Keylite Roof Windows; Malcolm Gough, Group Sales & Marketing Director Talasey Group; Mike Beard, Merchant Development Director Encon Insulation; Nigel Cox, Managing Director Timbmet; John Coe, Commercial Director Alumasc Water Management Solutions (AWMS); Steven Heath, Technical & Strategy Director Knauf Insulation; Simon Taylor, Director of Sales Ibstock Brick and Jeff House, Head of External Affairs, Baxi Heating UK.

The BMBI is a reliable and up-to-date measure of Britain’s Repair Maintenance & Improvement (RMI) activity. The quarterly and monthly reports use GfK’s Builders Merchant Point of Sales Tracking Data, which analyses sales-out data from over 80% of generalist builders’ merchants’ sales across Great Britain.

The Experts speak exclusively for their markets, adding perspective and context to the data while also explaining trends, issues and opportunities.

Visit to download the latest BMBI reports or learn more about each Expert. Follow @TheBMBI on Twitter.

Merchants’ sales of kitchen and bathroom products grow in Q3

Total Builders’ Merchants’ value sales were down -0.8% in Q3 2019 against the same period last year. The adjusted figure, which takes into account the difference in trading days, was down -2.3% compared with Q3 2018.

Value sales of Heavy Building Materials declined marginally by -0.4% year-on-year with Timber & Joinery sales also falling by -4.7% over the same period. Kitchens & Bathrooms was among the strongest categories with growth of +3.2% in the quarter.

Compared with Q2 2019, Total Builders’ Merchants’ sales saw marginal growth of +0.2% in Q3. However, when adjusted for the four additional trading days in Q3, the figures showed a sales decline of -6.0%, marking the second consecutive quarter with negative growth. Despite a fall in sales of -0.8% on an adjusted basis, the Kitchens & Bathrooms category was the second best performing category quarter-on-quarter.

Month-on-month sales in September were up by +1.0% compared to August on an equal number of trading days, with merchant sales of bathroom and kitchen products slightly more positive at +1.8%.

Mike Tattam, Sales & Marketing Director Lakes, and BMBI’s Expert for Shower Enclosures & Showering, said: “With political parties outdoing themselves in predicting dire consequences, and politicians and the media flinging large numbers around, it’s no wonder people are uncertain and less confident.

“GfK’s Consumer Confidence Index dropped a further two points in October to -14. The index is calculated as an average of averages from five core questions. The questions are about people’s personal financial situation, based on how it’s changed in the last 12 months and how it’s expected to change in the next 12 months, how the general economic situation has changed and is expected to change, and in view of that, whether now is the right time to make major purchases?

“The gaps between their own situation and their expectations and views of the economy are huge. In October, consumers’ personal financial situation and expectations for the next 12 months are both +1 i.e., still positive, and the Major Purchase Index (which includes most RMI projects) is also +1 so it’s still a good time to buy. But, consumers’ views of how the economy has performed in the last 12 months have tanked (-33), as have their expectations for the next 12 months (-37)! Could there be any clearer demonstration of the negative effect of the grandstanding and self-serving behaviour in parliament and the snide commentary we’ve been exposed to in the national media?

“The Environment Bill that was introduced to Parliament after the Queen’s speech has been parked while we elect a new Government. If enacted, it will set environment targets for the UK. Industry will be required to recycle glass, metal, plastic, paper and card and cover the costs of doing so, including the costs of collecting and transporting the waste. Whether this Bill makes it or not, another will follow so manufacturers need to act now.

“That’s why Lakes recently announced new sustainable packaging to reduce waste. It will also make it safer and easier for our customers and installers to handle large heavy packaging. And it’s why we’re establishing a closed-loop mechanism to bring back packaging waste from stockists and installers to us.”

For the latest insights, download the Q3 BMBI Report here:

Lakes on ‘Shaping the showroom experience’

During the inaugural Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) Kitchen & Bathroom Forum, our Sales & Marketing Director, Mike Tattam, presented on the importance of the showroom experience.

Focusing on what influences buyer behaviours, Mike confirmed showrooms are more important today than ever: “The internet has changed how most of us buy and influenced our expectations of service,” says Mike. “It’s easy and convenient to now buy most of what we need online, putting a strain on many bricks and mortar retailers. People thought online shopping would reduce the need for showrooms too. But when it comes to high ticket home improvement items like bathrooms, clicks haven’t replaced bricks.

“Consumers may start by researching online but before they decide they look for where they can go to see and touch the products, explore the options and have their questions answered by knowledgeable staff.”

In Mike’s view, showrooms give customers the confidence to buy and they will make their decision based on the whole experience: “It’s where merchants and stockists have a distinct competitive advantage so think about the showroom holistically so every feature enhances the experience and makes it easy for customers to decide,” empahsised Mike, “And think about solutions too. Customers will want to learn about a range of options that will suit their bathroom space, style and lives.”

Mike’s presentation also covered the how our senses – consciously or not – influence buyer behaviour: “Without instruction sight, sound, smell and touch will kick in as soon as we enter a showroom so first impressions count.”

Mike’s tips for creating a memorable and impactful showroom experience were to consider the following:

  • Is your showroom clean & tidy?
  • Does it have good lighting?
  • Is it welcoming from the outside?
  • Are the displays stimulating and well kept?
  • Is the literature up-to-date and accessible?
  • Do you offer seating and refreshments?

And when it comes to showering spaces specifically:

  • Is the hardware polished and damage-free?
  • Do the handles feel secure and comfortable in the hand?
  • Do the doors close smoothly and quietly?
  • Is the glass smear and scratch free?
  • And not forgetting the floor! Is the tray robust? Anti-slip? Low threshold?
  • Are accessibility products included?

Mike concluded: “Stockists who blow customers away with stunning displays, expert knowledge, and a great customer experience will be the winners in today’s omnichannel world.”

For information on how Lakes can help support your showroom sales, call 01684 853870

Lakes hosts FORTIS buying group at HQ

Lakes recently hosted FORTIS merchant buying group at its HQ in Tewkesbury for its annual board meeting. The visit included a tour of Lakes’ newly refurbished showroom, which now displays Lakes’ new Bay series and Lakes Stone shower trays launched earlier this year. The revamped showroom also reflects Lakes’ new branding, look and messaging for a sharp and contemporary finish.

Lakes’ internal sales team demonstrated the new products to the FORTIS board in the spacious area, answered questions and held a discussion.

Sales & Marketing Director Mike Tattam comments: “It was a pleasure to host FORTIS at our HQ. We have a strong relationship with its members and the board. It was a good opportunity to introduce them to more of our team and demonstrate our range and innovations in a relaxed environment. Our office includes spacious meeting and showroom facilities, which are open to our merchant and stockist customers by prior arrangement.”

If customers would like to visit Lakes’ new showroom or find out more about booking our board room for group meetings, call our sales team on 01684 853870 or speak to your Area Sales Manager.. For more information on our range visit here.

Slowdown in merchant Q2 sales of kitchen and bathroom products

Following a strong start to the year, Total Builders’ Merchants’ value sales were down -1.2% in Q2 2019 against the same period last year. However, the adjusted figure, which takes into account trading day differences, was marginally positive at +0.4%.

Most product categories recorded a negative performance, heavily influenced by poor trading towards the end of the period (June). Heavy Building Materials, the largest category, declined by -1.6% year-on-year. Bathrooms & Kitchens value sales were down by -1.3% over the same period. Landscaping was the best performing category, rising by +1.2%.

Quarter-on-quarter, however, the picture is more positive. Total Builders’ Merchants’ sales in Q2 2019 increased by +8.9% compared with Q1, and average sales a day (which takes into account the difference in trading days) were up +12.5% over the same period.

Month-on-month, sales in June were down by -9.4% on one less trading day compared to May. Merchant sales of bathrooms and kitchen products fared better, down -3.2%.

Sales & Marketing Director Mike Tattam, and BMBI’s Expert for Shower Enclosures & Showering, said: “Three years of negative headlines with politicians changing position and pretending they haven’t, has taken its toll on public trust. It’s making people ask if they should buy products such as bathrooms and showering spaces now or wait until the fog clears and there’s less to worry about.

“Consumers are concerned about the wider economy, but while real incomes are rising, they’re much happier with their own finances and prospects. However, they’re holding back on big ticket sales like cars, bathrooms and showering products. Lakes, our own brand, is doing better than the market but we estimate that shower enclosures and associated products are down around 9% in the first six months. Unlike boilers, showers are not distress purchases, they’re planned in advance and can be delayed.

“Brexit concerns are also weighing on the pound with suppliers absorbing increased costs, but now that’s not sustainable in the long term particularly if sterling falls further.

“The public recognises Brexit as businesses’ biggest challenge, but 49% of consumers see online shopping leading to the decline in the high street as the second biggest. Helping stockists respond to it is the next challenge. Stockists want support from their suppliers who need to give a clear indication of their strategy and trading route so customers can make decisions on their own future requirements.”

BMBI Experts speak exclusively for their markets, explaining trends, issues and opportunities. For the latest reports, Expert comments and Round Table videos, visit

Lakes certified as a Carbon Neutral Company

Lakes has achieved the Carbon Footprint Standard having assessed its carbon emissions and achieved carbon neutrality via support of internationally certified carbon offset projects.

The two-stage process audited all greenhouse gas emissions associated with Lakes’ UK operation. This resulted in the award of the Carbon Footprint Standard – based on Lakes’ carbon footprint assessment being audited in a process following ISO 140064-3.

To compensate for carbon emissions produced in the natural day-to-day running of a business, Lakes is working closely with Carbon Footprint Ltd to offset them in three ways. First by planting trees in the UK because trees absorb carbon dioxide to produce oxygen. Lakes will also support a Uganda borehole rehabilitation project to provide a source of clean drinking water, and a solar power energy installation in India.  Both Uganda and India projects, as well as providing climate change mitigation, also support developing regions of the world.

Lakes’ focus on improving its impact on the environment is an integrated approach which follows its announcement in March this year that packaging for all new products is now 100% recyclable. Lakes is the first in its sector to do this. The company has now taken this further, extending it to 100% recycling of all product waste, primarily glass and aluminium, and all recyclable site and office waste.

Mick Evans, Lakes Operations Director, says: “It’s important we all take responsibility for the negative impacts we’re having on our environment. By making these changes Lakes is reducing and offsetting its carbon footprint. We’re delighted to have achieved Carbon Neutral status and we hope others will follow our lead.”

Dr Wendy Buckley, Client Director at Carbon Footprint Ltd, adds: “Lakes is taking a leading and proactive position in its market, to measure and manage its carbon impact – even though there is no legislative requirement for them to do so. They are making active steps to reduce the carbon emissions in the business, going forward, and by carbon offsetting they are mitigating unavoidable emissions by supporting projects across the world with immediate effect.”

Redefining quality in glass for showering spaces

When you see a shower, it’s easy to focus on the hardware: the shiny metal attracts the eye and the taps and showerhead command the most attention. However, the main component of most modern showering spaces is actually the glass. By its very nature, it is most often looked through rather than looked at. Because of this, homeowners may not consider the quality of the glass unless the designer/installer points it out or they discover its limitations.

The general assumption in our market is that the thicker the glass, the better the quality. We would question this, however. Yes, the space needs to be safe and robust and there are times where a combination of glass thickness, bracing arms or framing is required for overall structural integrity. But once the glass is thick enough to achieve this, what is the benefit in making the glass thicker? Over-engineering by using glass thicker than it needs to be risks over-spending and makes life difficult for one-man installers, who may struggle to position unnecessarily heavy glass panels.

Glass technology

Our view is that the way the glass impacts the showering experience is a much more persuasive tool than focusing on thickness. Glass technology has come a long way in recent years and it’s the glass’ characteristics that denote quality. For example, high levels of iron oxide in standard glass reduces the amount of light that can travel through it, giving it a greenish tinge. This in turn affects the colour of tiles and paint – and how the rest of the bathroom looks from inside the showering space. Homeowners may not have noticed it, but when they see a low-iron example like Lakes Glass with PureVueHD, the difference is startling – the green hue is almost completely removed. Being able to see your bathroom in its true colours is a much better indicator of quality than thickness, and PureVue can be easily demonstrated in the showroom.

Equally, the sense of sanctuary and wellbeing of a shower shouldn’t be marred by glass that is smeared with limescale or soap scum. Lakes Glass comes with AllClear®, a special coating that uses nanoparticles to fill microscopic gaps in the naturally pitted surface. This ensures water, limescale and soap scum slide off the glass rather than sticking to it, keeping it clear and unblemished.

This kind of benefit is particularly important when you consider modern homes. Busy, active lives as well as the rise of multi-generational living means the shower can be one of the most used functions in the house. Even the most glamorous showering space can quickly become humdrum when reality sets in and it becomes a laborious task to keep it clean and looking good. Thanks to AllClear, a simple wipe with a damp cloth keeps Lakes Glass looking like new – which in turn reduces the need for harsh chemical cleaners that can harm the environment and hands. It is also 10 times more scratch and impact resistant than standard glass, so it’s perfect for families with young children – or for showrooms where people walk past with bags and objects that could scratch the surface.

Lakes Glass comes with PureVue and AllClear on both sides as standard, not as an optional extra. It’s added value built in to the glass itself because we believe genuine quality is essential for creating the premium spa-style shower experience today’s homeowners demand. And what constitutes quality is changing. Thickness of glass should be considered in the context of the overall design of the showering space for practical and safety benefits. Today’s well-informed, demanding homeowners don’t care about the difference between 8mm and 10mm – it’s how the quality of the glass enhances the showering experience that matters.

One thing you can’t get online 

One thing you can’t get online 

In his refreshingly honest opinion piece in the June issue of KBB Review, Paul Crow wrote about how Ripples’ showrooms have changed to offer an inspirational shopping experience. We would certainly agree that stimulating displays, relaxing facilities and somewhere where you can talk to experts are all essential for capturing today’s discerning homeowner.

People thought for a while that online shopping might undermine the need for showrooms. Certainly, the high street has taken a hammering as consumers change the way they shop. But clicks haven’t replaced the need for bricks – in fact showrooms have become more important than ever. A homeowner looking for a new bathroom will most likely gather inspiration from a variety of places, ask friends’ advice, and then research different options online. But anyone who is about to spend thousands of pounds on a bathroom is going to want to experience how the products look and feel ‘in the flesh’.

Consumers want to check the tangible attributes of a product before committing to buy, including the size, material, and colour (which don’t always render well on screen). There is one other crucial reason too. No matter how good the photography or how compelling the descriptions, there is one thing about a product that’s virtually impossible to convey on a web page: quality. And today’s homeowner places a lot of emphasis on quality. They want to enhance their homes with stylish decor and accessories that look great and will last.

Quality is particularly important when it comes to showers because showering is about so much more than just getting clean – it’s a place to unwind and refresh, a time and space for you, a sanctuary from the world. It’s a holistic experience and every aspect of the environment has to be right. Attention is often drawn to the fixtures and fittings of a shower because the shiny hardware is eye-catching – but it’s the things you don’t immediately notice that make the difference in quality. For example, what is the shower tray like? Does it feel reassuringly solid or does it flex as you get in? Does the door wobble or clang when shut? Quality is a feeling, and it’s a feeling you only get from the whole experience.

A showering space is often made up of mostly glass, so how the glass looks is important. Homeowners may not have noticed that most glass has a greenish tinge to it, which affects the colour of tiles and paint, and how the rest of the bathroom looks through it. However, when they see a low-iron glass like Lakes’ PureVueHD the difference is startling – and being able to see their bathroom in its true colours is another indication of quality.

Equally, the sense of sanctuary and wellbeing of a shower shouldn’t be marred by glass that is scratched or smeared with limescale or soap scum. That’s why Lakes Glass comes with AllClear® as standard – a scratch resistant, stay-clean long-life coating technology that ensures water, limescale and soap scum slide off the glass – a simple wipe with a damp cloth keeps it looking beautiful. The design of our shower doors help with cleaning even further, as they can be unclipped from their runners to allow easy access to the whole space.

Even the simple act of stepping into the shower should exude a sense of luxury. The way a shower feels under foot has a bigger impact than you might expect on how we perceive the whole experience. Lakes’ stone resin shower trays for example are low profile, anti-slip, and anti-bacterial. They feel solid, safe, and look great. They have a natural quality look and feel, adding to the spa-at-home experience customers love.

When you have an appreciation of how important these factors are, it’s important to realise, as Mr Crow has, that the way products are presented can make the difference between making a sale or not. Is the glass and hardware clean? Scratch and damage-free? Are the designers knowledgeable? And do they engage in a two-way conversation so they know exactly what the buyers need?

From walking into the showroom, the setting, lighting and surrounding space, to reaching for the handle and opening the door, stepping onto the shower tray, and looking at or through the glass – the whole experience must feel quality. Do your showering spaces look right in the display space? Are they lit well? Your eyes are drawn to quality hardware and your hands instinctively reach for the handle. If it’s comfortable and solid in their hand with a pleasing shape it says quality. Make sure handles are fitted correctly so they feel sturdy. Check that doors close smoothly and quietly. If anything feels loose or ill-fitting, the customer may not say anything, but they’ll question the quality, whatever the price.

Think about the showering space holistically. Make sure every feature enhances the experience, and you’ll communicate the quality assurance today’s customers demand.

To find out how Lakes can help you make the most of your displays and showrooms and maximise sales, arrange a meeting with one of our Area Sales Managers. Find their details here.

BMBI reports Strong Q1 for Kitchens & Bathrooms

Total Builders’ Merchants value sales to builders, contractors, and kitchen and bathroom installers were up 5.9% in the first quarter of 2019, compared with Q1 2018. Product categories that grew strongly included Timber & Joinery, up 6.6%, Heavy Building Materials, up 6.8%, and Landscaping, which saw value growth of 15.6% as the year got off to a better start than 2018 with the milder weather. Bathrooms & Kitchens sales were up 1.1% year-on-year.

Compared with Q4 2018, Total Builders Merchants’ sales in Q1 2019 increased by 1.9%, but average sales a day (which takes into account the difference in trading days) were 3.0% lower over the same period. Sales in the Kitchens & Bathrooms category were up 4.7% on the previous quarter, achieving a higher growth rate than many other categories.

Total sales in March 2019 were up 8.3%, with the milder weather impacting positively compared to the same period last year. Kitchens & Bathrooms sales were up by 2.1%. Product categories that displayed the highest growth year-on-year were those related to external work. Timber & Joinery was up by 9.2% and Heavy Building Materials by 9.4%, while landscaping saw an even greater increase at 25.6% in March.

Mike Tattam, Lakes Sales & Marketing Director and BMBI Expert for Shower Enclosures & Showering, comments:

“Much as we’d like to, it’s hard to block out the effects of Brexit on our lives and businesses. Businesses are frustrated by having to divert their time and focus from helping customers compete more effectively and grow, to focusing on minimising the potential disruption and delays from one of these outcomes so they can compete at all.

“Whether shower enclosure companies have their products made for them, or they manufacture as Lakes does in its own factory, most companies import, mostly from China. So, all brands have to factor in shipping, long lead times, port access, currency movements – and road haulage for the final leg of the journey – so customers can sell without disruption.

“There have been fewer delays caused by ships being diverted from UK ports, but it can take 48 hours getting through French ports as customs officials start flexing their muscles. The Road Haulage Association says there are not enough HGV drivers in the UK, and many EU nationals are returning home because their markets are good, wages are improving and there’s plenty of work.

“Many companies built up their stocks in Q1 to unprecedented levels to ensure continuity of supply in time for an unruly EU exit on 29th March. But carrying and funding up to five and half months’ stock in the short term is quite different from carrying it through to October 31st, the postponed exit date or beyond.”

BMBI Experts speak exclusively for their markets, explaining trends, issues and opportunities. For the latest reports, Expert comments and Round Table videos, visit

It’s not a battle between online or offline

It’s not a battle between online or offline

The internet has changed how most of us buy and has influenced our expectations of service, but it’s not the greatest challenge for the bathroom and kitchen supply chain.

Whether we planned it or not, we’re all going on an omnichannel journey. Debates about online buying are often seen as a battle between buying cheap online or buying quality through a traditional outlet or showroom. That may be true of many consumer goods but it’s a misleading picture of big-ticket home improvement markets. It’s not a battle between cheap online or expensive bricks-and-mortar showrooms, it’s about combining them seamlessly to provide an effective omnichannel experience along the whole customer journey. Excitingly, it’s a journey where retailers have a distinct competitive advantage, if they choose to work closely with like-minded supplier partners.

We’ve all come across websites that seriously reduce prices to the point you wonder if they can be making a profit at all. Many consumers automatically research online for the best price, but then it varies by sector. With commodity products and products where we don’t need advice, we might buy online. However when it comes to big-ticket home improvement items it’s about the experience. Consumers may start with researching online, but then they will usually want to speak to an expert to give them the confidence to buy, and find a retailer nearby so they can go and see the product. This is particularly important.

Often the final step in buying higher-value items is about setting our mind at rest by touching the products, asking questions and listening to advice. A showroom gives retailers the chance to do that and show products as they need to be shown, which you can’t do with a website or brochure. That’s a huge competitive advantage, if you use it.

For example, a good display enables you to demonstrate the handles on the shower door are sturdy; that the doors close smoothly and quietly; and that the shower tray doesn’t dip or creak when you stand on it. Customers can also explore the different styles of showering spaces; and check they will fit and suit their bathroom space. You can only do these things effectively in a showroom where you can feel the quality of the product and check out the practical benefits too. Customers will then be ready to buy, in a way that’s convenient to them.

The challenge for brands and retailers is to make this a seamless end-to-end experience which is easy for homeowners. It’s important that customers, however they start their journey, get the same benefits, service and support. Most people use a mix of on and offline, and wherever they began most will buy offline, usually where they find great displays, can touch and see what they’re buying, and benefit from the knowledge and advice of experienced staff to put them at their ease.

The industry may obsess about it but consumers aren’t really thinking about – or interested in – the channel or mix. They’re focused on their journey and they want it to be as smooth and effortless as possible. If we can do that, homeowners will respond enthusiastically and tell their friends who will also try and buy.

Merchants’ mixed performance in Q4 2018

Total Builders Merchants fourth quarter sales were a respectable 3.1% higher than in Q4 2017 but look closer and things were less encouraging. The quarter started well, with October sales up 6.8% year-on-year. However November only grew by 0.8% and, as this latest report shows, December was only 1.0% higher than December 2017. Factor in inflation and volumes will have been lower.

The economy is losing momentum, with 2018 growing at its slowest annual rate for six years (ONS). Contributory factors were lower factory output, car production and weaker construction.  NHBC new home registrations in 2018 were broadly flat, whilst numbers moving house have fallen. Fewer movers impacts on RMI, with a consequent fall in replacement kitchens, bathrooms, windows, re-decoration and refurbishment work.

The elephant in the room is, of course, Brexit. Nearly two years after Article 50 was triggered and a little over a month to go before the UK’s departure date we remain in a state of limbo. It’s hardly surprising that investment by businesses and home-owners has slowed.

Our Sales & Marketing Director and BMBI Expert, Mike Tattam, comments:

The BMBI figures tell us that the Kitchens & Bathrooms sector underperformed the total merchant market in the last six months of 2018 but performed better than the total market in the previous 18 months.

They also show broad signs of seasonality over the last three years, with Kitchen & Bathroom sales tracking the total merchant market in the winter and spring, underperforming the market in the summer months, then overtaking the total market in the autumn and peaking in November.

But extreme weather can disrupt these patterns. Last years’ winter season was unusually cold, keeping builders and installers indoors which contributed to the Kitchens & Bathrooms category outperforming total builders’ merchants’ sales from November 2017 to March 2018. The hotter than average summer may have encouraged more homeowners and installers to find reasons to be outside. A small fall in housing transactions in Q2 and Q3 2018 will also have reduced the number of projects.

Long-term trends in the bathroom sector also influence these sales statistics to varying degrees. The pressure on living space in new homes, as housebuilders maximise the number and value of the houses they build on the land available, favours showering spaces instead of baths. Housebuilders also add value with ensuite ‘bathrooms’ and wet rooms.

The political turmoil and economic uncertainty created by an imminent Brexit is weakening consumer confidence and is probably having the greatest effect on larger improvement projects. There is abundant anecdotal evidence of projects being postponed or just not progressed.

Without a clear voice from Government, it’s near impossible to be certain what Brexit we should plan for. However, Lakes has prepared as best we can to supply our stockist partners with the minimum of disruption, whatever form Brexit takes.

In the aftermath to Brexit, the ‘Have’s, particularly the over 55-year old homeowners who have become the biggest drivers of higher-end home improvement sales, will be relatively unaffected. Even in the most disruptive scenarios, where house prices lose a large part of their value, they remain house-wealthy with their savings and pensions, still keen to improve their lives and properties.

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Kitchen and Bathroom trends

In the latest article for BMF One Voice, our Sales & Marketing Director Mike Tattam and the BMBI Expert for Shower Enclosures & Showering comments on trends in BMBI’s Kitchen and Bathroom statistics:

BMBI is a brand of the BMF. It’s produced by MRA Marketing using gold standard data from GfK, one of the largest insight agencies. GfK’s Builders Merchant Point of Sale Tracking Data analyses sales out data from over 80% of generalist builders’ merchants’ sales across Great Britain. BMBI is a growing platform to influence and argue for what matters to the industry, and a unique platform for building brands. A monthly index and quarterly reports include tables and trends plus insights from GfK and the BMF, and 14 BMBI Experts, leading brands that speak exclusively for their markets. They are: Alumasc Water Management Solutions (AWMS), Crystal Direct, Dulux Trade, Encon Insulation, Hanson Cement, Heatrae Sadia, Ibstock Bricks, IKO PLC, Keylite Roof Windows, Keystone Steel Lintels, Knauf Insulation, Lakes Showering Spaces, Natural Paving Products and Timbmet.

“The figures in the latest BMBI report (November) indicate that there have been some changes in the Kitchens & Bathrooms category over the last few years, with the November 2018 figures appearing to show a negative trend. But while it’s true that the sector underperformed the total merchant market in the last six months of 2018, Kitchens & Bathrooms performed better than the total market in the previous 18 months.

“Looking at the data for the last three years, there are clear signs of seasonality, with Kitchen & Bathroom sales tracking the total merchant market in the winter and spring, underperforming the market in the summer months and then overtaking the total market and peaking in November.

“One feature of last years’ winter season was the unusually cold weather, which kept builders and installers indoors and contributed to the Kitchens & Bathrooms category outperforming builders’ merchants’ sales as a whole from November 2017 to March 2018. It is likely that the hotter than average summer that followed and the net 2.8% fall in housing transactions during Q2 and Q3 2018 had an impact of Kitchen & Bathroom sales over the summer and into the autumn.”

Richard Frankcom Key Account Director for GfK adds: “At the back end of 2017 the Kitchens and Bathrooms category was showing faster revenue growth than volume growth, so there was price inflation.

“During 2018, revenue growth has slowed and prices have increased at a slower rate than total builders’ merchants in Kitchen and Bathroom categories with no compensating impact on volumes, resulting in slower value growth and hitting the largest sub category bathrooms more than kitchens. Other factors may be influencing these trends to varying degrees too such as a continuing long term slide in sales of baths, growth in wet rooms, and the current political and economic uncertainty which is contributing to weaker consumer confidence, with anecdotal evidence of projects being postponed.”

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Lakes researches the market to reset strategy and grow

Before confirming their objectives and resetting their strategy to grow, Lakes undertook a comprehensive market investigation beginning with independent market research and customer insight.

Early this year, MRA Research interviewed a representative sample of 120 merchants and bathroom stockists. The research measured awareness and perceptions of shower enclosure brands, performance and market positioning. It benchmarked the Lakes brand, products, service, support and marketing against competitors. This was followed by marketing audits and in-depth reviews of the market, demographic and lifestyle trends.

The benchmark research shows that while merchants’ prompted awareness of the main shower enclosure brands is good, as you’d expect, ‘top of mind’ unprompted awareness is low. It’s a crowded market with lots of multi-stocking, and few of the over 50 brands mentioned by merchants and bathroom stockists could be named without prompting. The average number of brands stocked was 3.6 a branch.

In the research, merchants and stockists rated 20 factors for importance, and rated brands for performance against these criteria. “Lakes did well,” says Sales & Marketing Director Mike Tattam, “coming top for service, quality, deliveries and guarantees. We also outperformed the market when rated for ‘A company I trust’ and for ‘They value my business’.

“The shower enclosure largely defines the shower, and it’s the showering space that enables the showering experience,” Mike Tattam explained. “Traditionally, enclosures were largely functional, with scant regard for design. However, shower enclosure brands are now adapting rapidly to the growing demand from ‘The Haves’. These are mainly over 55-year old homeowners, largely unencumbered by mortgages, whose homes have been appreciating strongly. They have the money and they’re willing to pay for the quality, colour, style and design they want. It’s important that we and our customers capitalise on this significant opportunity.

“Installers selling to the Haves tend to grow faster and do better than other installers,” Mike continues, “so it’s encouraging that 81% of respondents in the research found Lakes adds value to their business. With our investment in new products and supporting services we’re focusing on supplying not just what the shower enclosure market wants and needs, but also what outlets that sell Lakes need.”

Compared to other ‘bathroom’ products, people spend less time thinking about shower enclosures. They look through the glass at the shower head, fittings, or tiles before they see the enclosure. “That’s because enclosure brands have left it to others to promote showering spaces,” Tattam says, “and not explained why or how the showering space is important. Lakes plans to change that.

“We commissioned the research to benchmark Lakes against the best, to improve performance, and we learned a lot. It’s guided our strategy, investment in new products and our support to help merchants and bathroom stockists grow,” Mike Tattam concludes.

For more information and to benefit from Lakes’ top service and innovative solutions call 01684 853 870

Builders Merchants’ sales enjoy Q2 bounce

Builders Merchants’ sales enjoy Q2 bounce

Sales through UK builders’ merchants bounced back in Q2 2018, with the BMF’s Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) reporting 7.2% growth in sales value over Q2 2017.  There was one more trading day during Q2 this year, adjusting for this the average daily sales growth year on year was 5.5%. The strong performance in Q2 contrasts markedly to a weather-hindered performance in the first quarter of the year.

The cold weather in quarter 1 seemed to stimulate growth in Quarter 2 within the Plumbing, Heating and Electrical category as people looked to upgrade old or failing equipment. The category had exceptional year on year growth up 13.3%, with April growing at 22.5% year on year driven by Boilers and Lighting.

Mike Tattam, Lakes Sales & Marketing Director and BMBI Expert for Shower Enclosures & Showering, comments:

“Home improvement retailers struggled with the weather and a less confident retail market this year. But, RMI continues to perform. This BMBI report shows that kitchen and bathroom Q2 sales were 6.1% up in value on the same quarter last year, and the past 12 months were 6.1% up compared to the previous twelve, making it the second best performing BMBI category.

“It’s been a relatively flat start to the year for shower enclosures though, with signs of improvement from this quarter. Merchant and stockist showrooms reported less foot traffic in June and July, coinciding with the World Cup and extremely warm weather.

“Compared to other ‘bathroom’ products, people spend less time thinking about shower enclosures: they look through the glass at the shower head, fittings, or tiles before they see the enclosure. That’s because enclosure brands have left it to others to promote showering spaces, and not explained why or how the showering space is important. However, emerging trends are shaping the market, providing opportunities for strong growth.

“Eight out of ten people now prefer to shower than take a bath. New build homes are shrinking, so housebuilders favour stand-up showers instead of baths, and lifestyles are changing with an increase in multigenerational households having an impact too. The bathroom is increasingly becoming a personal sanctuary and it’s an important space with enclosures at the heart of good showering.

“The most significant trend is the development of ‘The Haves’, driven by the rising value of homes, housing wealth and demographics. This group of generally older homeowners, especially the over 55s, own much of Britain’s housing wealth. They account for most of the UK’s savings, and they’re becoming more numerous. They have the money, and with rising house prices paying for the purchase, why wouldn’t they invest in their home? This powerful trend is driving most home improvement markets, not just bathrooms and showers. Watch this trend grow in importance.”

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Showering is an essential part of a premium bathroom

Showering has come a long way from the ‘Psycho’ days of wrestling with limp shower curtains and clunky perspex enclosures. The wetroom and walk-in now create a feeling of relaxed spa living and we’ve come to take this facility for granted as a standard feature in the bathroom.

In a recent survey of 1000 consumers, aged between 18 -70, conducted by for us by OnePoll, we found that over half those surveyed said that they shower daily (50%) and 62% said that they’d rather have a separate shower enclosure to combining this with their bath. So there’s a clear majority in favour of showering and having a separate space for that, with almost a quarter (24%) saying that the style of the enclosure would be the biggest influencing factor in their selection process.

With showering having the edge in daily cleansing, it’s easy to argue that showering is an essential part of a premium bathroom and style plays a very important part in the choice of enclosure. Some of the most popular designs we sell are our Coastline walk-in styles. This perhaps illustrates the increasing trend for creating the boutique hotel feel in our own homes, with the focus on quality of materials to create an opulent and indulgent feel.

Whilst style is an essential consideration, so too is space. Over half of those consumers polled said that the size of the enclosure was the most important feature of their choice. So designs that maximise on available space lend luxury to the bathroom experience. Where the layout allows, a larger footprint for showering is preferred, as we see from our premium sales, where our larger sliding doors are our best sellers, often replacing baths. However, the feeling of space doesn’t have to come entirely from floorspace; mirrored enclosures offer reflective magic that conjures light into smaller rooms. These fit the growing trend for form with function, by combining the practicality of mirroring with aesthetic impact and adding a point of style.

70% of our total Coastline sales are made up from walk-in designs, clearly demonstrating that the customer base for the premium collection favour the ease, style and freedom of minimalist screening.

Finally, it’s fair to say that the concept of premium implies choice and having the option to bathe and to shower separately, yet in equal style, must surely be the ultimate statement of luxury.

People: the key to showroom success

A huge amount is spent each year by retailers, manufacturers and merchants in designing and building impressive showroom spaces. These beautiful retail environments not only cost a huge amount of capital, but also have significant operating costs, so how do you make the most of your most expensive showroom asset; your people? In this article, Robin Craddock, managing director at Lakes Bathrooms offers insight into what other leading retailers are doing to make the most of their employees and, in turn, to offer unforgettable service. It sounds simple to deliver a consistently great experience to consumers, but it takes process, effort and rigor, as Robin explains.

In the bathroom business we pay careful attention to how we display our products and how we convince consumers about their lifestyle choices. Point of sale, quality of merchandising, layout and lighting are all essential factors to consider and will undoubtedly influence the showroom visitor’s experience. However, there’s one thing in the showroom that will make the ultimate decider between a sale and a lost opportunity – the staff it in.


Key to showroom success - happy staff = happy customers

This sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed how often it’s ignored. Recruit for attitude so that you have people who enjoy interacting, who are positive and purposeful. Once you’ve got the right team, invest your effort in leading them well and recognise and reward their effort. Observe carefully and give them specific feedback, both positive and constructive – and do that in addition to regular praise and thanks. If you keep your team motivated and enthusiastic they will radiate this to your customers and we buy from people we like.

There’s a great concept called ‘FISH Philosophy’ (you can find online) which advocates four key behaviours: ‘Choose Your Attitude’, ‘Be There’, ‘Make Their Day’, ‘Play’. It’s worth considering how this could be used to lift the energy and atmosphere in the showroom. We all know how it feels to be in an interesting and engaging environment, it makes us want to stay and to be part of things, so this can be used to stimulate and retain great staff, who, in turn, will build the customer relationships your business needs for success.


Key to showroom success - Map the journey

Every showroom owner or manager has a sense of the journey that they want the visitor to go on. From initial enquiry to placing an order or buying a product, there are known steps. Make sure you define this process and share your expectations about each step of the story with your staff. The ‘customer journey’ is regularly talked about by the giants in high street retail and you don’t have to look far to see behavioural descriptors that safeguard the experience. These should chart each step from ‘warm welcome’ to ‘friendly farewell’ and be clear about what staff need to do to reach the standard required for every component to work and flow, ultimately building to a complete and memorable experience.


Key to showroom success - Knowledge is power

Plan how your staff will build their product knowledge, their design expertise and inter-personal skills. Beyond formal training programmes, ensure that you keep this development alive in the showroom with daily team meets to start the day, where you share updates and energise. Product knowledge quizzes can encourage people to learn and retain information, plus it’s a playful way to bring some healthy competition in. Your suppliers should be only too glad to come in and run demonstrations and training, so capitalise on this support. You might also select product champions for certain areas of the showroom or product range that can support their colleagues with additional expertise.


Key to showroom success - Process

When it comes to the so-called ‘soft skills’ in the showroom (actually they’re the hard things to get right), it really helps to have a customer-focused process. Consider how easy it is for a customer to do business with you and how easy it is for a member of showroom staff to help that customer. Walk the process through and look for any ways that you can improve it. Usually the experts will be the showroom staff and listening to their suggestions for process improvement will validate their value and use front-line understanding to make your systems work for the customer.

A critical part of your process should be when and how you capture customer data. This unlocks the potential beyond the current sale and will allow you to keep in contact with them in order that you maintain the relationship and enjoy loyal custom in the future. Make this as effortless as possible, but be consistent on capture.


Key to showroom success -Upsell

The best way to sell to any customer is to find out as much as you can about them and what they want. Then it’s a simple job of matching what you have to what they want, whilst looking for opportunities to upsell if there’s something that they hadn’t considered, but fits their needs. The classic example is “Do you want fries with that”, or in our industry “Do you want a shower tray with your enclosure?” Complimentary products, such as a mirror or cabinet, can add value to a sale, so help the customer think of everything they will need to make their bathroom product a success. Plus you might be able to cross-sell into other areas, so whilst they’re equipping their new en-suite, would they also like to upgrade their family bathroom? To get this to work, discuss with your showroom team what questions they would ask to help customers get everything they need from you.


Key to showroom success - Closure

One of the rarest skills in the retail environment is the ability to close without overwhelming the customer. This demands careful observation of buying signals, such as when the customer’s language shifts towards commitment; eg, “What’s the delivery time on this?” Something as simple as asking for a price, enquiry about a warranty, checking sizing or availability can all be indicators of intent and that’s the signal to listen for. This is when to gently work towards the close and test how ready the customer is. An example might be “How would this work in your bathroom?” or “Where would you want this to sit in your design?” The answers to this sort of trial close question will give a clue on how close the customer is to ordering or buying. Once they’re ready then the confidence is required to close the deal; “So if I can supply this in 48 hours, you’d like to order?” Whilst customers need time to think and make decisions within the buying process, they also need help to move on and finalise.