Bathroom and tile retailer Easy Bathrooms is on a store roll-out drive with the firm looking to offer customers a better quality of service to that of online rivals.
The Leeds-based firm, which has seven stores across Yorkshire, recently started expanding into the South of England and is eyeing further showrooms there.
Easy Bathrooms has just completed the opening of its 17th showroom and the firm says that online retailers are sacrificing quality in order to offer low prices.
However, a demand for quality from customers and also being able to see the products before buying them is fueling the firm’s expansion.
Lauren Fealy, operations manager of Easy Bathrooms, told The Yorkshire Post: “Buying any bathroom is quite a big investment for your house so people want to look at it, feel it and see the quality of it.
“Especially in our industry at the moment there’s a lot of online retailers that are selling bathroom products quite cheap.
“How we differentiate from them is that we’re not the cheapest in the industry but our products do offer better quality.”
Lee Reed, marketing manager for Easy Bathrooms, says that the company’s growing store network enables it to share expert advice with customers.
“We generally employ people who have quite a bit of experience in the bathroom industry already,” he added.
The company, which employs 96 staff, said it is enjoying a busy year of trading, with the property market doing well and many people looking to add value to their houses by installing new bathrooms.
The vote to leave the European Union has dampened the property market in certain parts of South England but Easy Bathrooms hasn’t seen demand impacted for its products.
Ms Fealy said: “The cost of living is a lot more expensive down there.
“Our Basingstoke store has been open for a month now but order values are a lot higher up here than they would be in Yorkshire.”
Mr Reed says that that particular store has already hit its sales targets and customers further south are spending more on big ticket items.
One area which the Brexit vote has impacted in the bathroom and tile industry is the cost of materials. The subsequent fall in the value of the pound following the referendum has driven prices up.
A lot of Easy Bathrooms’ products are imported in from abroad and the company says that the industry as a whole has seen prices go up.
Despite this the Leeds-based firm insists that demand has not taken a hit. “We’ve not seen it affect demand at all at the moment,” said Mr Reed.
Ms Fealy said: “It’s not just us who is having an increase, everyone in our industry is having to deal with an increase.”
The bathroom and tile industry is heavily influenced by what happens in Europe when it comes to styles and trends.
Easy Bathrooms says trends in particular originate from Italy before making their way across the world.
Minimalist trends are in vogue at the moment, says Ms Fealy, with a lot of customers looking for “sleek, simple designs” when fixing up their bathrooms. Mr Reed added that bathroom furniture is an area of big growth.
Focus on motorway corridors
The business was founded by Craig Waddington, who is Lauren Fealy’s partner, in 2012.
Mr Waddington has 20 years of experience in the bathrooms industry.
“Craig project manages the opening of all the new stores. He also does all the buying for the business,” Ms Fealy said.
Easy Bathrooms is targeting the M1 and M62 corridors for its expansion due to logistical ease. “We’ve kind of populated Yorkshire now,” said Lee Reed.
The company, which has its head office in Birstall, says it is planning on rolling out more stores.
Ms Fealy, operations manager, said: “We’re on a store roll-out at the moment. We’re hoping to open eight more showrooms next year.”