As the economy teeters on the edge of recession, the official opening of global bathroom manufacturer Roca Group UK’s new 145,000 sq ft HQ, trade showroom and warehouse in Leicestershire must surely be a statement of confidence in the future.
“Being a private company, something like 90% of profits get re-invested in the business, either in terms of acquisitions, greenfield operations or R&D,” says UK MD Alan Dodds. “We take a mid- to long-term view, not a short-term one.”
Who are we? Alan Dodds, MD Roca Group UK
What we do Global bathroom manufacturer
Sales stats Current Group UK and Ireland annual turnover is £75million
Staffing levels About 130 in the UK
Outgrowing its previous premises about three miles away, Roca has also taken the opportunity to close its Laufen office in Evesham to bring it into the fold. The new warehouse was planned to have “30-40% expansion room, but we’ve had to fill it with Brexit stock,” says Dodds. (Current stock value is £9.2million, up from £4.8million about a year ago.)
“Our turnover this year will be in the order [as a UK Group] of around £75million and, given that we started from zero in 1993,
that’s not bad,” continues Dodds, who says that the Group has taken market share every year for 20 years in succession, as measured against BMA figures. The 2019 result will be “around 8% up on last year”, and he anticipates a similar performance in 2020. “We’re fortunate in getting growth from both brands and all market sectors,” he explains.
And the key reason for that? “It’s the benefit of long-term planning, investment, the right product, good people,” he says. “Continuity and consistency – it may sound boring, but that’s it.”
Long known as a sanitaryware manufacturer, Dodds reveals that the Group is also the fifth largest brassware manufacturer in the world. “We don’t punch our weight in brassware [in the UK],” he says, adding that they are now focussed on developing sales in both taps and showers as part of the complete bathroom offer. “It’s a matter of getting serious about it, not treating it as an afterthought,” he says.
Roca UK was established in 1993, has been run by Alan Dodds, 62, since 1999, and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Roca Sanitario S.A. It markets, sells and distributes both Roca and Laufen products in the UK. Roca is a generalist mass market brand, from entry level to luxury Armani product.
It is sold in about 350 independent retailer showrooms, representing just under 50% of its sales, with project work and sales through merchants making up the rest. Laufen has more of a luxury position and is only sold through independent showrooms, stretching from lower middle to luxury including the Alessi, Kartell, Sonar and The New Classic ranges. Laufen is sold in about 200 dealers in the UK and Ireland. Laufen sales make up about 15% of the UK Group.
The UK operation offers about 85% of the group portfolio (for both Roca and Laufen brands), and there are about 35,000 stock keeping units for each brand. In addition to the new HQ, the company has the Zaha Hadid-designed Roca London Gallery, aimed at the A&D community, and opened in 2011.
“We also feel that there’s an opportunity for Cosmic in the UK,” continues Dodds. The Barcelona-based brand was acquired by the Group in 2012, grew with an offering of accessories and basins, and now specialises in a full range of “young, fresh” bathroom design.
It has been available here since the end of 2018 and is now being sold by about 50 retailers, with another dozen in the pipeline. New Roca products in 2020 include Everlux coloured brassware in seven finishes, new colours in the Inspira collection, a digital shower, a shower toilet with integrated cistern, and the development of RocaProtect, its software package designed to help facilities managers monitor and maintain bathrooms in hotels and commercial settings.
For Laufen, it’s the new “simplistic” Navia shower toilet, an extension of the Sonar range designed by Patricia Urquiola, and The New Classic collection designed by Marcel Wanders.
Does he worry about newcomers snapping at his heels? “It’s always been a competitive marketplace,” he says. “You’ve got to put the work in long term, offer the right products, the service – you can’t dip in and out.”
Your greatest challenge? “To keep innovating and being at the forefront of people’s minds on products”
Your greatest opportunity? “To be seen by more of the market as making and supplying the complete bathroom solution”
Strange but true “During the Rugby World Cup, one of the Welsh squad rang his bathroom installer from Japan to request a shower toilet, after using one there. He chose a Roca one – and we said he could have it for free if he persuaded the rest of the squad to buy one”