Following a sustained period of growth, Sottini – the Italian-inspired bathroom brand known for its crafted luxury products – has bolstered its retail team with two new Regional Sales Managers covering the breadth of the UK. Recently, Diane Larner caught up with Matt Bell and Gary Major to find out how they intend to enhance the growing reputation of the brand.
Q: You’ve both started at the same time. Matt, you’re looking after the north of the UK, and Gary, you’re responsible for the south. How are you engaging with retailers in your new roles?
Gary: For me, it’s about providing guidance and direction to help drive growth and profitability for our retail partners. I like to be on the ground, helping retailers find the right tools to address the pressures they face on a daily basis. Having owned my own retail bathroom and kitchen showroom, I am very aware of what our customers require from brands like Sottini. I am here to help and support them in maximising the opportunities that Sottini is able to provide. We don’t just give retailers mid to high-end market-leading designs, we also offer support packages that include an unparalleled commercial offering.
Matt: I agree. Today’s retailers have different needs, and a large part of our role is getting that face-to-face time with our showroom partners so we can assure them that we’re putting their individual needs at the heart of our new strategy. Like Gary, I’m out on the road, building relationships with current Sottini partners, bringing new partners into the Sottini family, and offering the very best packages for them.
Q: The market is driven by consumer demand. What retail trends are you both noticing at the moment?
Gary: Today’s consumers view their bathrooms as aspirational spaces, which is where Sottini’s product range fits perfectly into the modern home with new contemporary designs produced with our Diamatec® technology, making them not only stronger but also thinner. Sottini’s latest collection of Ellero basins reflect this trend, offering elegant shapes with soft square designs that fit any bathroom.
Matt: Dependability and reliability are so important. Consumers expect longevity from their bathrooms, especially when they’re investing in more high-end products. Bathroom products that are flawed will shatter the illusion of peace and calm in the bathroom. The ceramic finish on Sottini products is market-leading and Diamatec® means we can build basins to be stronger than ever before. This, incorporated with our award-winning Aquablade® WC technology, ensures a more efficient bathroom.
Gary: Lighting and technology are becoming increasingly prioritised by consumers. We already have some beautiful lighting features in our Turano vanity unit products with sensor operation, but we are looking to extend this further and develop more solutions that incorporate this trend in the future
Where do you see Sottini developing in the next couple of years?
Matt: We’re going from strength to strength at the moment. In my opinion, this is because our offering ticks all the right boxes for retailers of all types and sizes. I see our partner network continuing to grow quickly as we create more momentum across the industry. I think over the next two years, you’ll see Sottini’s partners benefiting from being part of a huge force in the mid-to-high-end bathroom market.
Gary: Our new showroom on Clerkenwell Road in London’s design district is one indicator of the positive direction we’re heading as a brand. It’s a beautiful space in a fantastic, renowned location. Within this non-transactional site, we will be promoting the brand to designers and specifiers, while also stimulating demand for our products with Sottini partners and consumers.
Q: What’s the strategy behind this growth?
Matt: It’s about raising knowledge and awareness of our brand but also offering retailers specific recommendations for their showrooms. Our partners have been very forthcoming and open to the advice we offer. Our strategy is focused on giving retailers geographic protection, as well as industry-leading partnership packages.
I’ll be working to enhance the growing reputation of Sottini by continually looking at our retail strategy to ensure we are adding great value to our retail partners’ product offering. This is exactly what I would have wanted from a supplier.
Gary: From a retail perspective, we don’t just focus on the products – we have a holistic approach with a full support structure, from designing the showroom, to training retailers on how to sell our solutions. We give our retail partners an opportunity to work with an aspirational brand that will guarantee return on investment.
Q: What Sottini products are you currently promoting?
Matt: Fusaro and Ellero are key focuses for us. They are our newest ranges and have already enjoyed success in the market. Fusaro is an inspirational collection which presents retailers and customers with infinite possibilities. It’s a range of 40 washbasins and toilets which feature softer angles, finer edges, and contemporary curves. Whereas Ellero, as we’ve already mentioned, features 3 extraordinary looking ceramic basins, which stand out in any washroom.
Gary: As well as the ranges Matt highlighted, I’m currently focusing on the core products that Sottini offers. These includes our wide range of vanity units and furniture which bring high-end design and features priced at accessible retail price points. They are on trend and future-proof. Additionally, we’re promoting our WC range as they epitomise durability and elegance with innovative Aquablade technology. This makes them water-efficient, hygienic and fashionable solutions, made up of various shapes and sizes to suit any application.
So, what are your favourite products offered by Sottini?
Gary: I would have to say our Aquablade WC ranges, as they offer all the advantages of rimless styling but with a market-leading hygienic solution. Also, our freestanding baths have a superb design and are competitively priced, making them worthy of a prominent place in our partners’ showrooms.
Matt: I don’t have a favourite product, but I do have a favourite bathroom combination. The Mavone vanity unit, coupled with a Fusaro basin has a great finish. I love how our products are so versatile and can be used interchangeably with a range of different furniture. At the same time, the Vara and Piomba freestanding baths are beautifully designed.
What packages are you offering retailers?
Matt: We have three types of supplier relationship available for our retail partners to take advantage of. These are Famiglia, Compagno and Amico (Family, Partner and Friend respectively) – each of which offer different levels of dedicated support depending on the requirements of the retailer.
Gary: We’d love to discuss these options with anyone who’s interested, just get in touch by sending an email to email@example.com
Pictured Right: Gary Major Pictured Left: Matt Bell
Mark Crabtree from On The Level tells us what motivates him and why 3D printing excites him...
BR: How long have you worked in the bathroom industry?
Personally I’ve been involved with On The Level for the last 15 years, but the company has been going since 1999 meaning we are fast approaching our 20 year anniversary.
BR: What are the key USP’s offered by your company?
On The Level prides itself on being able to fix problems, and we often succeed where other companies have failed. We are also proud to be an advice-giving company, so we are always happy to answer questions from past, current and future customers.
BR: What new manufacturing technologies excite you?
With so many advances in technology, there’s always something new on the market. Right now though, we are however, excited by the thought of 3D printing.
BR: What challenges do you foresee for the industry over the next 12-24 months?
How the housing market goes can have a direct impact on a variety of industries, the housing market is very buoyant and interest rates have just gone up for the first time in a while. When we are lucky enough to build a good relationship with a housing developer, we are generally well looked after.
BR: Which industrial designer do you admire the most and why? (Living or departed)
Sir Terence Conran
BR: Where do you think the industry most needs to improve?
In adhering to mandatory legislations. While CE marking has been a legal requirement since July 2013, it’s horrifying to see the lack of knowledge and apathy to what is a legal requirement – not an optional choice.
BR: Online has certainly changed the market, what key benefits have you seen?
The internet provides the ability to launch and promote a product instantly with as much or as little details as the end user wants.
BR: What advice would you give a new starter in the industry today?
Whilst experience is useful - product knowledge is essential.
BR: What motivates you most in your work?
Leading a successful, happy and fun team and constantly developing new products, new markets and the Brand.
BR: If you could choose a super-power what would it be & why?
I have got super powers, but I cannot disclose them!
Kaldewei : interview with British designer Bim Burton on his Designer collaboration with Kaldewei - and why it is a great success...
Why did you want to be part of designjunction?
I was really flattered to be asked to take part in designjunction this year. I was recommended by British Designer Steuart Padwick, the creator of the breathtaking sculpture “Head Above Water’ also on show in London. Designjunction is one of the best destinations during the London Design Festival (LDF), so obviously, I just couldn’t say no.
Where did the idea to create bath chairs come from?
The theme this year is (Re)act and renew so when designjunction asked me what I would design, I immediately thought of the bath chair as it’s an object which is not only functional but has the chance of a second life. The Kaldewei bath makes a great exterior for seating and I thought this was relevant today with the theme reuse as well as being great for an outside seating area.
Why is sustainability so important to you?
Sustainability should be important to everyone. Kaldewei’s baths are 100% recyclable so perfect for this product. During my time as a designer, I have recycled many objects into practical and interesting pieces of furniture.
Again, this was a recommendation, this time from designjunction. I’ve found Kaldewei to be very enthusiastic when working with their baths. I couldn’t believe how well made and strong they are, I would definitely recommend them as a bath for their design and durability alone. Kaldewei were very generous in providing me with the chance to realise my design idea of turning baths into chairs – to reuse baths as seating. Kaldewei provided their steel enamel baths for me to cut and workout different ways to use the parts as chairs. I turned them up, sideways, and discovered how many variations I could make. I am very grateful for them trusting me and my imagination.
How did you find working with steel enamel?
Cutting the steel wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had imagined, cutting the steel with the right tools is very forgiving!
What was the biggest challenge? In a word – “time”.
There just isn’t enough of it. Time is so precious, I usually have very little of it to bring a project together.
What was the most fun?
I’ve enjoyed working with the challenge of the bath shape and its material, as well as having the freedom to use my creativity bringing to life my design - transforming the baths into bath chairs!
What will happen to the bath chairs after the event?
Good question! They will probably go for sale. I already have a list of people who would like one… so let’s see.
From Inside to Out is in collaboration with - Kaldewei, AJ Wells, Agua Fabrics & AHEC.
Designjunction held in London between 19th– 22nd September, provides a fantastic showcase for innovative, creative talent - presenting breakthrough brands shaping design.
Bim Burton is an innovative modern furniture maker and designer, creating timeless design with space saving ideas. Taking this year’s themes of (Re)act at designjunction, Bim and Kaldewei have worked together to create, exclusively, for designjunction, a series of recyclable, sustainable unique bath chairs in three different styles. These were showcased within the Installations area, located in Lewis Cubitt Park, Kings Cross, London, throughout designjunction, which was very well attended and hosted cutting-edge designers, breakthrough brands, an unrivalled talks programme and unique design experiences.
Kaldewei steel enamel baths are 100% recyclable, made from Kaldewei’s own superior steel enamel and have been ingeniously crafted to Bim’s unique design - creating beautiful, designer chairs for designjunction’s visitors to relax in. Designer Bim Burton explains more in our interview.
Pictured: Chairs at designjunction