Home grown: why Victoria + Albert Baths is joining forces with its siblings

Victoria + Albert Baths is joining forces with its new siblings to maximise growth, say directors Jim Platt and James Smith

Victoria and Albert bathrooms

Victoria + Albert Baths may have been founded more than 20 years ago, but it has gone through a decent dose of change in the last couple of years. Bought by American home and security company Fortune Brands in 2017, it now counts UK companies Perrin & Rowe and Shaws of Darwen as sister brands, and is now run by a new management team under the Fortune Brands Global Plumbing Group banner.

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Company profile:

Who are we? Jim Platt, sales director UK and Ireland, Fortune Brands Global Plumbing Group; James Smith, director of marketing and innovation EMEAA, Fortune Brands Global Plumbing Group 

What do we do? Luxury freestanding bath and basin manufacturer, plus accompanying brassware and bathroom furniture 

Sales stats “UK sales have grown by 10% in 2019,” says Jim Platt

 

V + A directors Jim Platt and James Smith

“This year is the first that we have brought all three brands together under one UK management team,” says UK and Ireland sales director Jim Platt, who joined the firm in April. “What we are doing is finding and exploiting opportunities where we can create synergies across the three businesses and creating range offers that are complementary by using what we have across the product portfolio,” continues Platt.

The new Taizu bath, centre, is designed as a spa-style bath, retailing from £4800
The new Taizu bath, centre, is designed as a spa-style bath, retailing from £4800

Each brand, be it Victoria + Albert freestanding baths and basins, Perrin & Rowe brassware or Shaws’ heavy fireclay sinks, will continue to produce individually, with their respective head offices in Telford, Rainham and Darwen, but be brought together when collaborative opportunities arise.

They are all luxury brands, all about craftsmanship and hand finishing, and essentially sold into similar markets
Jim Platt, sales director UK and Ireland, Fortune Brands Global Plumbing Group

Adds James Smith, director of marketing and innovation EMEAA, who joined in February, “They are all luxury brands, all about craftsmanship and hand finishing, and essentially sold into similar markets, so when you bring them together commercially, they make a lot of sense as a portfolio.”

4 Looking across Victoria + Albert Baths’ specification showroom at London’s Design Centre Chelsea Harbour
Looking across Victoria + Albert Baths’ specification showroom at London’s Design Centre Chelsea Harbour

It means, for example, that architects and specifiers may be offered a cross-brand range of products, and that the Victoria + Albert sales team may talk to relevant bathroom showrooms about Perrin & Rowe, although orders will go through existing distribution arrangements, as applicable. “We will be looking for opportunities for all three brands,” says Platt.

Business history 

The company was founded by Chris Davies in 1996 and was more recently bought by Fortune Brands in 2017. It is now part of Fortune Brands Global Plumbing Group, alongside Perrin & Rowe and Shaws of Darwen.

All Victoria Albert baths and basins are manufactured at the company’s own factories in South Africa, and all are made of Quarrycast, its own mix of volcanic limestone and resin.

Brassware is made to Victoria Albert Baths’ high spec specification in England, while accessories come from Italy. The head office, warehouse and European distribution hub are based in Telford, while the total enterprise is truly global with offices in the USA, Canada, Australia and South Africa.

The company has enjoyed a showroom in the Design Centre Chelsea Harbour since 2010, and one in Milan since 2016. Victoria Albert Baths’ products are sold in total by around 200 retailers in the UK.

When it comes to Victoria + Albert Baths specifically, Smith says, “We want to develop a real design language for V+A going forward that makes it feel even more unique than it does now, and we want to make the most of our material.” He emphasises Quarrycast’s warm-to-touch, naturally white, stain resistant and strong-yet-light characteristics, and the ability to create seamless, flowing shapes.

The double-ended Marlborough slipper bath with plinth (left), and the deep, classical Toulouse
The double-ended Marlborough slipper bath with plinth (left), and the deep, classical Toulouse

Recent launches include Victoria + Albert’s most top-end design to date, the large round spa-like Taizu, which can also be used outside, and its first built-in baths, the Kaldera collection. It is well known that there are now other companies creating freestanding baths in stone-resin mixes, some at significantly cheaper price points than Victoria + Albert. So what keeps this brand growing – with sales up 10% so far this year? “Design leadership,” says Smith.

Victoria + Albert’s bestselling bath, the luxurious Barcelona
Victoria + Albert’s bestselling bath, the luxurious Barcelona
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“We recognise the need to continue to innovate.” He says that a new cycle of launches will begin in about a year’s time, across space-efficient designs, ‘standard’ price points and top-end models. While Victoria + Albert is the largest of the brands globally, it is the smallest of the three in the UK, and arguably its attention may have drifted to robust growth in Europe, USA and China. But Platt is determined to bring focus home. “We want to build partnerships with our retailers and take a tailored approach to build sales,” says Platt. “The UK is a really important market to us.”

Q&A

Your greatest challenge? “To prioritise the opportunities, because there are so many,” says James Smith

Your greatest opportunity? “To leverage everything that is good out of the brand and in creating a uniquely differentiated proposition,” says Jim Platt

Strange but true “When I joined V A, I thought people were winding me up when they talked about sofa baths. But it is true – we do have some sofas made from baths, although we’re not planning on selling them just yet,” reveals Jim