New items and predictions for 2011

Over recent years, the  kitchen has become to look less, well, like a kitchen. Handles have nearly all but disappeared from furniture, while appliances are concealed behind cabinet doors or (in the case of extraction) beneath worktops.

The kitchen continues to be an extension of living space, and as such must blend seamlessly into formal dining, social seating and even media areas. It means the appearance of the kitchen, now more than ever, is prone to changes in interior trends and the whims of the fashion industry.

So, it’s no surprise neutrals from the catwalks have peppered the design of kitchen products. But we must also remember that the kitchen is a functional domain. It needs to meet the demand of time-poor (and increasingly eco-aware) consumers, with appliances taking the brunt of these demands. Appliances need to offer greater convenience for consumers while using less energy, water and detergent — saving them money too. We’ve taken a look at how the future product trends will impact on your business over the next 12 months.


Arguably the worktop market will be less about changes in colour, as many of the 2010 decors will be a recurrent theme, but more focused on texture and form. Stuart White, managing director at Bushboard, says: “The key trend for  worktops will be to focus on texture and the clever use of overlays to create different effects, both visually and aesthetically.”

While Paul McDowell, managing director of MCD Marketing for DuPont Corian, adds: “Key styles will be sharp and slender, with ‘shark nose’, receding edge prohles and ‘floating’ effects. All shades of grey look set to be a recurrent colour theme in kitchens, while materials that offer recycled content will be in clemand.”

Dishwashers and laundry:

For cleaning appliances load sizes are becoming increasingly important, to get through mountains of laundry, as well as pots and pans, more quickly. Hotpoint brand manager, lain Starkey, comments: “In terms of load capacity bigger is definitely better with 8kg and 9kg drums proving popular: The same goes for dishwashers, with 14 place setting full – sized machines and 10 place setting slimline models, becoming more widely available in the market.”

However, Les Wickes, head of product and buying at Baku, also points out: “Cleaning appliances, which  offer excellent results at low temperatures, and consume less water than standard appliances, will continue to be popular” And Tanya Searle, UK product manager of Electrolux Major Appliances, agrees adding: “Dishwashers with automatic programmes have the intelligence to work out the correct programme, by monitoring the level of soiling and the size of the wash load…This is a trend we would expect to see cascade down to many more models.”


Functions that remove the drudgery of cleaning and healthy-eating has spurred the trends for oven design. Simon Freean country manager of Amica in the UK, comments: The demand for self – cleaning ovens will reach a new level in the next couple of years.  There will also be plenty of focus on steam ovens in the year ahead, as it’s now a more affordable method of cooking healthy meals quicker”.

Certainly Neff has been quick to realise the explosion of steam cooking, as sales director Mike Jarrett, says: “Steam is a key area of importance in the oven market. With the growing demand for healthy eating and cooking, steam has come into its own in the last year or two and is building up momentum all the time. We plan to further increase our steam oven range in 2011.


The biggest sales story for hobs has undoubtedly been the rise and rise of sleek, flush-fitting models, be it electric or gas. Sales and marketing director of ATAG, Bill Miller comments: “We are seeing a growing interest in seamless, elegant and minimalist design particularly exampled by induction, or gas—on-glass models’.

And Steve Dickson, commercial manager for Stoves agrees: “Gfk data shows sales of induction hobs have continued to grow at a healthy rate over the last l2 months, increasing by more than 170% since 2005 and making induction the fastest—growing fuel category. The market has seen the introduction of some really innovative products, and with more manufacturers introducing new products to market all the time, the end cost to the consumer has reduced.”

Are customers demanding more service

Customer service has become a buzzword for the bathroom and kitchen industry, of late. But going the extra mile’ has always been important for successful, referral-led retailers.

Exemplary service levels can win business in these tough trading times and it forms the basis of many bathroom and kitchen businesses. After all, service is what sets independent designers and showrooms apart from the Sheds. But are consumers now demanding more service and what is best practice in customer service? Our expert retail panel explains all…

What do you define as customer service? Dave Sergison (DS): It’s everything. Mike Lloyd (ML): The welcome. Your mannerism. The whole experience. DS: lt starts offas that. But even if a customer rings up after two or three years, with a broken toilet seat, I’lI go out and fix it.

ML: lt’s actually easier to fix a broken toilet seat because that’s a simple, one-visit transaction, than it is to avoid fixing the seat. DS: Sometimes customers have even purchased items but they then change their mind and say it’s not what they wanted. In theory, you’ve got a contract stating exactly what they ordered – but you just change it. That sort of thing gives you the edge over the B&Qs and Wickes of this world because what does it cost at the end of the day?

Richard Gay (RG): l started out in the television industry. I always remember someone who’d had their television for 8-10 years say to me “l’ve had great service. |’ve had nothing wrong with it. Brilliant! Thank you very much I just said to them. “You haven’t had any service. judge us when we come out to sort a problem.”

DS: People expect problems, particularly in the industry we’re in. |t’s a complex business. lf you can make it as easy as possible for them (customers) and if there is a problem, deal with it, take the stress away from them – that is good customer service.

They don’t remember the problem; they remember how you dealt with it. Tina Riley (TR): We actually get more referrals after a service call  than we do when we finish a kitchen or bathroom project. I think if somebody has invested £20,000 with you, they’re expecting a certain level of service. You do that service and they are pleased with their bathroom or kitchen. But it’s what they expected in the first place. Where we find we do really well is if three, four or tive years down the line, a customer has a problem and we deal with it quickly, and possibly don’t even charge them, that’s beyond their expectations. lf you can be service-led, l think it does your bathroom or kitchen business the power of good.

Imtiaz Patel (IP): You can only get that level of service if your business is family-orientated.

DS: The customer coming to us is looking for that one-stop deal and is prepared to pay for that.

Wayne Bliben (WB): As specialists, we’ve put ourselves on a pedestal and tell ourselves the reason customers buy from us is the service they are going to get. You’ve got to meet their expectations and yes they are more demanding because that’s why they chose to buy from you. We’ve probably all had customers who have said “I’m going to be the most awkward customer you’ve ever had because I’m extremely fussy”.

Well, great. That’s what we’re here to do. They are the best customers because they’re not going to the B&Qs of this world. They are not going to go to a local builder’s merchant. TR: …And generally, the ones that tell you they are going to be like that aren’t. It’s the ones who you think are going to be really easy, no trouble at all, turn out to be the client from hell.

Do you look outside the industry for good examples of customer service? DS: Yes. You’ve got to haven’t you? Because you’ve got to  aspire to be… TR: …the best. DS: I would aspire to be Disney. I know they’re a Mickey Mouse operation… [laughs]…but, I actually think Disney gives the best service on the planet. So much so, its university teaches the likes of Coca Cola on customer service. Disney World is a place where as soon as you see it, you know they’re going to take your money off you. But they make you want to spend your money. The best testimonial I’ve ever received from a customer was ‘I don’t regard Dave as a business associate. I regard him as a friend’. I think if you can achieve that, it’s the pinnacle [of customer service]. RG: They do say if you can sell yourself, you can sell a product.

But how do you filter customer service throughout all staff members in your company? TR: Teach your staff well. DS: It is with difficulty. You’ve just got to keep on message – customer service is everything.

TR: Your biggest ambassadors on-site are your installers. You could have done the best job in the world in the showroom but  they are the ones day in, day out, for two weeks with the customer in their home, It’s making sure the client knows when the Htters are going to be there and when they are not going to be there. Good service is about taking care of their house, so you are looking after the customer.

DS: You basically are the link between the customer and the installation. You’ve got to make everything gel together and you’ve got to be working towards the same goal, which is complete customer satisfaction.

Anthony White (AW): When I started off, my biggest problem was educating people – employees – that where they were going wasn’t primarily a place of work. It’s the customer’s home. An EngIishman’s home is his castle and you must treat it with due deference. One of the first jobs I did, I employed a sub- contract electrician and he decided he had to drill a hole in the middle of the ceiling to pull cabling through. In this little cottage, there was an old settee, and he stood on it to drill a hole in the ceiling. I went mad when I walked into the room, saying “You’ll never work for me again”. He replied “lt’s old”.

But that wasn’t the point. It was theirs! The hardest part is making sure it was a good job.

All about sanitary ware

Celebrating its 30th   anniversary of trading, you could be forgiven for thinking that Ware Bathroom Centre has found the recipe for success and sticks rigidly to it. Well, yes and no. Yes, this independent bathroom showroom has maintained its philosophy of supplying quality mid-to-top end products, with ‘service paramount and the customer king’.

But managing director of Ware Bathroom Centre Mick Nicholls believes you should never stop learning about the industry and investing in your business: “I believe you get out of the industry what you put into it. l believe in continuing to make improvements, even when times are tough.” It is this thought process which has seen Ware Bathroom Centre recently add Swedish bathroom brand Svedbergs to its offen Mick says: “We take a lot of time and thought in setting out the showroom and choosing the right products that fit with our business plan.

Products must be different and have the design edge, with as much exclusivity as possible”. Adding about Svedbergs: “The margins are good and it is selling very well. lt seems sometimes that proht is a dirty word but it enables us to look after our staff, maintain our high standard in the showroom and pay our suppliers on time.”

Taking all orders

A devoted Spurs fan, skien race driver and three-time Marathon runner; Mick joined the industry at 17. He started Ware Bathroom Centre and Ware Heating and Bathroom Supplies (WHABS), with his wife Diane. And, despite the current economic climate, both businesses have had a successful 12 months and are faring well. In fact, Mick says: “We are very busy at the moment. We never turn anything away and try to fulfill every requirement. Today it may be a small order but tomorrow it could be more.”

Focusing on customers

This focus on the customer echoes throughout the business, with staff being central to deliver an exemplary level of service. Mick adds: “We are very conscious that people have to feel comfortable in  our showroom and our staff take great care to make people very welcome. All our sales staffare very knowledgeable and have the ability to instill trust and confidence.” He continues: “I am very proud of the company and believe we are well thought of both on the trade side and retail side.

We claim to be ‘One of the best bathroom showrooms in the South East’ and we are not embarrassed if people have travelled long distances to visit us. We know what we have to offer is excellent”. In fact the company’s attitude to service has kept customers coming back time and again. “The last time I did a customer survey 40% of our business was recommendations or people who had used us before,” says Mick.

Campaigning for marketing

But Mick is not content to rely on returning business or referrals alone to keep the momentum of sales. He has carefully created a marketing and advertising campaign to capture spend from both trade and consumers. He spends around £80,000 a year on advertising Ware Bathroom Centre and WHABS. Mick continues: “We spend a lot of money on advertising and make a point of going out to get business as opposed to waiting for it to walk in. We sent out a mailshot of our bathroom book to 3,000 potential customers.’ He adds: “We are in eight local papers a week, as well as two local magazines every month.

We have also recently started advertising in national, gay lifestyle magazines Diva and Attitude to target a demographic we weren’t reaching. We used a  different approach for the national magazines, as we had to get people out of London so we l took the ‘see what you can do in Ware’ approach, by pointing out l what the town has to offer whilst paying a visit to our luxury bathroom showroom.

Continuing to invest

The company has fought to 1 remain successful through tough trading times and has no plans to   stop. Mick has installed a new ` shop front and has plans to l extend the showroom, to make life better for the staff, and to restyle the accessory area as well. And he is positive about the future: “I’m not saying we’ll get back to where we have been but I’m optimistic about the future. |’m a pint glass half-full man.”

Staff and holidays

Q)I run a small interior design company and everyone wants holiday at the same time, which can leave us short staffed. Can you advise on how I can avoid this problem in future?

The Forum of Private Business is calling on smaller companies to work out their employees’ holiday entitlements, in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises at the end of the year.

Due to repeated changes to legislation, calculating statutory annual leave entitlements has become an increasing confusing process for business owners over the years. Part-time staff maternity leave and sickness absence pose a particular problem for employers. The Forum of Private Business website provides free information on holiday entitlement and a calculaton. The calculator can be found under the ‘HR’ section of the Forum’s website –

Suddenly discovering that employees are owed more leave than anticipated often causes major problems for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). With a smaller pool of workers to absorb absence among colleagues and greater fluctuations in company workloads, SMEs are disproportionately vulnerable to staff shortages, when compared to big businesses.

Smaller employers should find out how much leave is owed to their staff for 2011 as soon as possible. And they should also start to plan ahead for staff holidays. If smaller businesses fail to keep tabs on how much leave their employees are owed, it can lead to a lot of workers taking their holidays at once, causing potentially damaging staff shortages. The rules surrounding holiday entitlements are complex.

The legislation is particularly tricky to interpret. Especially considering areas such as sickness absence and maternity leave. So it’s perhaps not surprising if business owners put off dealing with the issue until they have to.

How to fit wooden flooring

Fitting Flooring Q:I have decided to lay solid wooden flooring down in my showroom. I quite enjoy DIY and so I want to attempt it myself. Do you have any tips that could help?

There are a few tips and techniques you can follow to help you in laying a solid wooden floor First of all, you need to prepare the area you are going to lay the flooring on.

1) Check the moisture content in the ground.

2) Make sure the surface is even, using a minimum two metre measuring rod or a spirit level. The level difference should not exceed 2mm over two metres of the floor.

3) Insert the gently-lifted fragment of the floorboard and tongue – in – groove and press in by hand towards the floor.

4) Protect the floorboards if necessary.

5) Decide the direction in which the floorboards will be laid. If no side exceeds 8m, lay the floor boards along the direction of the sun rays. In spaces longer than 8m, the floor should always be laid along the longest side of the room.

For a floating floor:

1) Lay the first row of floorboards with the tongue side facing the wall. Individual floorboards should be joined along the shorter sides (front) by sliding the profiled elements of the joint (tongue—groove) parallel into the following floorboards.

2) Begin the following row of boards with the cut—off fragment of the floorboard remaining from the first row, provided the length exceeds 500mm. Maintain a minimum 500mm flexibility between the ends of the floorboards in the neighbouring rows.

3) lnsert the gent|y—lifted fragment of the floorboard tongue-in-groove and press it by hand towards the floor.

4) Tap the floorboard lightly with a wooden block to the previously-laid row of flooring. The subsequent floorboard should be installed in the same manner, maintaining a distance of 5·8mm between the fronts of the floorboards. The floorboard should be tapped with the hammer and the assembly jig at the shorter side, thereby joining the floorboards frontally.

5) Lay each subsequent row of floorboards by pushing from the front side of the board (alongside, in order to eradicate gaps in the front joints). With the help of the assembly jig, insert wedges into the gaps along the walls.

6) To deal with obstacles such as central heating pipes, a fragment  of the board which requires additional manoeuvering a distance to make it fit should be marked appropriately, cut and fixed. Always remember to maintain the 10mm expansion gap around the pipe or side of the obstacle. Cover any resulting gap between the pipes and the floor with a rosette. No assembling belts should be used in assembling the floor.

7) Measure the last row of boards very carefully prior to laying. lf it is too wide, selected boards should be narrowed accordingly along the groove side. After fitting, push the boards, with the help of the  assembly jig to eradicate the gap between the freshly laid boards. Ensure a 10 – 15mm expansion gap remains along the wall.

For a glued floor:

1) Prime the ground according to the manufacturers instructions. Use a paint roller to spread the primer evenly over the ground, without creating puddles, then wait for 12 to 24 hours before beginning the glueing. Polyurethane and synthetic glues, suitable for use over floor heating, are recommended for ready—varnished flooring. Never use dispersion glue. Glue contains solvents, so keep the room well- ventilated and wear protective rubber gloves during installation.

2) Prepare the glue ingredients following the manufacturers recommendations. Spread the adhesive with a corrugated spatula, The glue must cover at least 60% of the floorboard surface.

3) Lay the floorboards by firmly pressing towards the glue-treated ground, ensuring that the glue does not leak onto the surface of the floorboard.

4) Assemble the floor as the instructions for a floating floor.

5) Load the freshly-laid floor for 12 hours after assembling.

More bathroom news

Adding to its range of shower-baths, Artweger has introduced Twinline 2 to its offering, which is available in the UK from   Twinline 2 offers a bath and shower in one, with a deep tub and a straight glass door The shower door is operated from standing, with waste activated by a mechanical locking mechanism.

HiB has introduced three LED illuminated mirrors to its portfolio, which are powered by a long-life rechargeable battery. The six-cell battery pack has between a 30-35 hour life under normal circumstances, according to HiB, and can be recharged up to 1000 times. The pack slides out of a slot in the side of the mirror and is charged using a remote unit.

Adding to its Elements range of frameless shower enclosures, Aquaplus Solutions, has launched a patterned glass offering. MESH is available in white, black and grey and can be specified to cover the entire panel, orjust the middle section. Four shower trays have also been introduced to the Elements range including Freedom and Purity.

BC Designs has added the freestanding Waterdrop tub to its Slimm range of baths. The Waterdrop is manufactured from liquid acrylic resin reinforced with fibre glass and volcanic ash, intended to provide maximum strength. Measuring 1910 x 505 x 830mm, the bath is designed with smooth contours and a large bathing area.

Croydex has introduced Kingston, a collection of bathroom accessories manufactured from solid wood with glass, chrome and ceramic elements. The range comprises of a soap dish, free-standing mirror; towel rail and toilet roll holder: A tumbler and holder, shelf and tumbler plus waste bin are also available to co- ordinate with the Kingston bath panel, cabinet and toilet seat.

Just out for bathrooms Feb 2011

Kohler has introduced the Briolette Vessel to its Nature’s Chemistry collection of feature basins. Briolette is manufactured from glass, and designed to emulate the cut surfaces of precious gemstones. Measuring 445 mm in diameter and 121 mm in height, the basin has thin walls to create reflections.

Expanding its Gap collection, Roca has now added a furniture and bath collection to the range. The furniture collection comprises of a wa|l – hung column unit and seven base units. Gap units are available in a range of sizes from 350mm to 650mm and in a choice of three finishes. In addition, the acrylic bath collection offers a choice of five sizes.

Adding to its range of brassware, Crosswater has launched The Edge collection, featuring a basin spout, a bath spout and bath filler: The collection also comprises of two basin monoblocs, and basin two-hole set, a basin three-hole set, a bath live-hole set and a manual shower valve. The Edge range comes with a 15-year guarantee.

The Hydra tap collection has been introduced by Roper Rhodes to add to its range of bathroom brassware. The Hydra collection includes a mini basin mixer, bath filler and bath shower mixen as well as a basin mixer. The collection features temperature and flow limiters and the basin mixer comes complete with a click waste.

Mereway Bathrooms has launched the Fusion solid surface worktop collection. Fusion worktops are available in four matt Hnishes, including Pietra and Crema and four gloss finishes, including Duna and Rosso. In addition, Mereway Bathrooms has also introduced a range of sanitaryware, Cascata. This includes a basin and back-to-wall WC.

What are you likely to see in 2011 for bathrooms

It’s been written so often it’s almost a cliché, but bathrooms will continue to be designed as havens, as an escape from the stresses and strains of everyday life. ln fact, recent research commissioned by Kaldewei, with the Cologne Rheingold Institute, suggests the bathroom is now more important as a private retreat than the bedroom.

The study also dismisses previous theories that the bathroom and bedroom could follow the lead of the kitchen and lounge to create an open-plan living space. The study was conducted with people looking to purchase a bathroom. And results of the research suggested that the WC will be removed from future schemes to create and maintain the coveted spa-like experience. It further showed that the bathroom needs to be personalised with increased use of technology, but all wrapped up in an environment styled upon nature. So we’ve taken a look at the individual product trends, for 2011 , that reflect this continuing move towards creating a sanctuary-style bathroom.


The UK has a continuing love affair with the bath and so it’s unsurprising that tubs will remain to be a force in sales. Nostalgic designs with a contemporary twist are set to be the story for bath sales. Nick McGrellis, marketing controller of BC Sanitan, says: “ln recent years, traditional styles have increased in popularity by a considerable amount and it is no surprise that the trend will continue throughout 2011.

And colour is also seen as a trend at Victoria + Albert, with marketing manager jonathan Cartel; stating: “As metallic climbs down from the catwalk and onto our furnishings for 2011, we are inviting this latest trend with the launch oia customised metallic Toulouse model.”

Shower surrounds:

Shower surrounds will remain predominately minimalist, as marketing manager of Aignalux Sandra Hyde, says: “large panels of glass, slim frames and low level trays will characierise the modern ranges?

There is also set to be an injection of colour into the bathroom through showering surrounds. “One of the key irends of the rnornerrt is the re-appearanceor black as a fashion colour in bathroorn productsf says Ross Nixon, head of design at Maile. And Loraine Henderson, rnarkeiing manager at Roman, agrees: “Manufacyturers are starting slowly to inject colour and pattern into shower enclosures. Colour is also now being injected into trays again to co-ordinate with other balhroorn finishes.”


Bathroom taps have evolved from being a purely functional itern, into a design element in their own right. Boasting architectural forms, high-tech digital controls, and the ability to consierve waten taps are the jewel in the crown of bathroom design Senior vice president of Grohe, Paul Flowers, says: “Digital has the potential to really change how you interface with water it has the potential to create a better experience with prograrnmabie features and at the same time to reduce consumption, manage energy and water so that it is really delivered in the optimum way.”


One of the biggest stories for the bathroom has been the increased use of furniture, as it stows clutter to create a sleek environment. Robert Lawrence. marketing manager at Moores, continues: “Modular furniture will be a key trend in 2011. Natural wood finishes will continue to he popular, along with high gloss and bold, bright colours that help to refleet light around the room?


We’ve grouped radiators and accessories because of their similarity trends. Not only do they mix materials in design, but often need to serve a multitude ol purposes. The radiator now acts as a towel warmer too, while the once humble mirrored cabinet beasts lighting, clocks and (sometimes) even music!

Michael Sammon, sales and marketing director of Frontline Bathrooms, says: “For radiators, mixed finishes and matearials will be big this year and tall, siim radiators will remain popular due to their stylish and spacesaving attributes.

For accessories,its not enough to be beautiful. For example, mirrors need to offer more such as shelves, storage, lighting and shavers sockets.”


Luxury and minimalism are key words for showering, as deluge shower heads are set to gather apace in sales. Paul Tanner; head of sales and marketing at Waterfront, adds: “Everywhere we looked at the trade showers in 2010, we saw sharp, sleek blades of metal, punctuated by grids of water holes. This trend is going to be hot news in 2011.
The design works well in both ceilingmounted and wall mounted applications’. And Darren Holliday. managing director of Abode, agrees that minimalism will be a key trend: “We will also see a decline in the importance oi exposed riser rails which link the shower valve to the head. More and more bathroom installers now recommend using concealed pipework to minimise the visible brassware on the wall.”


With the bathroom continuing to develop into a natural retreat, sanitaryware styling will follow suit. Russell Barnes, sales director at Laufen, says: “Soft shapes and rounded curves will replace the stark, angular lines that have gone before, with ceramics that are uninterrupted by an overflow making their way from the very top of the market, through to middle price points as well”.

And to create a clutter-free haven, there will continue to be a move towards wall·hung suites. “Wall-hung sanitaryware will continue to grow in popularity in 2011, as consumers seek to achieve a high-end contemporary look agrees Victoria Willis, product manager of Geberit Sanitary Systems.

Value as importsnt as brand

‘Hard times’? All times are hard times. lt’s just that some are harder than others. Whether going through ‘hard times’ or ‘harder times’, the customer dictates what goes on display in the showroom and what product the customers aspire to.

Now the question of branding, whether from a philosophical viewpoint or theoretical, means different things to different people. One thing is certain though, ‘brands’ come at a premium. If your company brand wishes to project customer service, values or a certain style, this will all need money. For an SME, this only means one thing and that is marketing to get more sales. We have all had those customers where they will come in with brand names they want. You show them the product and at the same time, try to avoid injury by fallingjaws at seeing the price.
Discretely then, but all too obvious to us, they move onto a similar product, less pricey and ultimately unbranded. Branding matters on goods that have a lot of moving parts or will make the visit to the bathroom a bit ofan experience, showering for example. Customers will pay more for an unbranded toilet than for a branded toilet that looks dull. The industry though, has shown over centuries that products, and ultimately companies that do well, are the ones that provide a durable product for a realistic price. l have basins and toilets in my showroom that may be one or two steps higher in terms of quality and design, but their price may be double that of a similar product which lacks a brand. My top 10 selling products are all unbranded and are not necessarily the cheapest.

The bathroom industry (and perhaps the kitchen industry as well) is product-orientated with a strong emphasis on price. When buying a bathroom you need not provide all the bells and whistles car dealerships do, as the industry is different. People will, more often than not, have a car in mind they want to buy, but when it comes to a new bathroom, the pocket will always be the judge. No-one buys a  second-hand bathroom and the competition is fierce: Branding, or the part brands play, is less important than providing the customers with a value for money product. A wireless internet area would not be all that wise for us.