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2020: How the bathroom industry adapted and thrived

Date Added: 19.04.2021

2020: How the bathroom industry adapted and thrived

 

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year since the first lockdown was implemented as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

So much has changed since then; our understanding of the virus has changed, restrictions have loosened (and tightened) and, most importantly, the vaccination programme is in full swing.

 

But one of the biggest changes over the past 12 months was how businesses of all shapes and sizes adapted to ongoing restrictions – and an ever-changing marketplace.

 

In the bathroom industry, the biggest adaptation came early on, when the first, harshest lockdown came into force.

 

Shops and showrooms were forced to close, non-essential workers were directed to stay at home and, overnight, or so it seemed, our world went virtual.

 

For more than a month in 2020, here at Ideal we closed all of our physical premises, and, once we reopened, we put extensive measures in place to adhere to the Government’s social distancing guidelines, including limiting the workforce on site, implementing one-way routes in warehouses and offices, and providing sanitiser stations and PPE where necessary. 

 

Measures such as this have become commonplace, and rightly so. But what of the bathroom showrooms up and down the country, which rely on footfall and physical visits to keep them going?

 

Keeping everyone safe

Our 2020 Industry Report was a vital tool in analysing the measures showrooms have had to put in place to become Covid-compliant and ensure the safety of staff and customers.

 

We reported that 85 per cent of businesses provided PPE equipment, such as masks and visors, to staff, 71 per cent restricted the number of customers in showrooms at any one time, and 43 per cent offered appointment-only visits.

 

And while 71 per cent of respondents said that the biggest challenge their business faced was from online competitors, 36 per cent said the biggest threat came from reduced footfall, specifically as a result of coronavirus restrictions.

 

Going digital

Which brings us to the next adaptation the industry was forced to make; the move to a more online way of working.

 

And, while our Industry Report showed little change in the use of e-commerce websites over the course of the pandemic, other forms of digital marketing came into their own.

 

As Danielle Lillis, Ideal Bathrooms’ commercial director, explains: “One thing that really leapt out of our report is the use of digital, and this is very much a trend we’d expect to see flourishing over the next 12 months, particularly with regards to e-commerce; while 95 per cent of retailers have some form of website, only 15 per cent had the capability to allow customers to purchase online.

 

“With distancing regulations continuing and another lockdown in place, we think this is a key option for showrooms to offer, and we’re looking forward to seeing continued innovation in this regard over the next year.”

 

A changing market

Beyond the physical adaptations, in terms of adhering to regulations, changes in marketing methods and implementing extra hygiene protocols where necessary, the industry also adapted by changing its very market.

 

With customers no longer browsing retailers’ showrooms (although, as we will see, the demand was still very much there), bathroom manufacturers shifted their focus to the public sector.

 

Many were able to secure contracts with developers supporting areas such as the NHS, as well as plumbing and drainage for products required for urgent repair and maintenance.

 

Business as usual

It is worth noting that, despite enforced shutdowns and continuing distancing regulations, one thing that hasn’t changed in the industry was confidence.

 

And this has been borne out by the remarkable bounceback, fueled largely by pent-up demand and some consumers having cash to spare.

 

With foreign holidays, if not out of the question then certainly a less attractive prospect, and a year spent staring at our own four walls, the home renovation market appears to be one of the real winners of lockdown.

 

According to industry website Houzz, there was a 53 per cent increase in demand for home professionals in January 2021, compared to the same period in 2020, offering an optimistic outlook as we ease our way out from what is hopefully the worst of the pandemic.

 

Last year was a year like no other, and one nobody is any hurry to repeat. However, through working together across the industry, and reacting quickly and decisively to any and all regulations, there is hope that we can all emerge stronger than ever.

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