As House of Rohl opens the doors to its new Design Centre Chelsea Harbour showroom, Amelia Thorpe talks to vice president and general manager EMEAA of Fortune Brands, Steve Geary, about what UK retailers can expect to see from the umbrella brand.
After the last 18 months, the return of in-person design show, Focus, at London’s Design Centre Chelsea Harbour this week is especially welcome for those in search of creative inspiration. And the shot in the arm for bathroom designers at the event? The opening of the new and glamorous House of Rohl showroom on the top floor – a double size space devoted to displays of products by luxury brands Victoria + Albert Baths, Perrin & Rowe, Shaws of Darwen and newly launched Riobel brassware from Canada.
Says Steve Geary, vice president and general manager EMEAA of Fortune Brands Global Plumbing Group, which owns the four brands: “We have decided to use the House of Rohl banner to pull all our brands together in the UK, because they are complementary – and all offer handcrafted, unique, quality products that make a curated collection.” The name is drawn from US distributor of premium fixtures, Rohl, also owned by Fortune Brands.
Replacing the former solus Victoria + Albert Baths and Perrin & Rowe showrooms, the House of Rohl space has been combined to create a generous amount of display area, a meeting room and enough floor space to accommodate 100 seated for a design event. Displays combine brassware from Perrin & Rowe or Riobel with kitchen sinks from Shaws of Darwen or basins and baths from Victoria + Albert. “House of Rohl is an umbrella brand to be used from a marketing and sales point of view, to bring people in to see the individual brands,” continues Geary, 54, who has run the UK operation for the last three years.
Founded in Quebec in 1995 by plumber Mario Bélisle (‘Riobel’ from the last and first three letters of his first and last names), Riobel produces brassware that Geary describes as ‘modern and ultra-modern but quite weighty as well’, with designs that draw on the architectural shapes of the French Canadian city. “While Perrin & Rowe [brassware] goes with the more traditional Victoria + Albert tubs, Riobel goes with the more modern,” he explains. Products have luxury level pricing but a step down from “super luxury” Perrin & Rowe.
While the separate sales forces have been combined into one that represents all four brands, Geary insists that there is no requirement for retailers to take all of them. “We’re not using any of this as leverage within the trade other than to offer something – if they want to be part of it,” he says. “But we do believe that the brands are complementary and getting quality multi-brand displays with people who genuinely buy into what we are trying to achieve is our goal for the next 12 months as things open up again.”
As Fortune Brands is a publicly listed company, Geary won’t be drawn on figures, but he does say that there has been “very healthy growth” across Victoria + Albert, Perrin & Rowe and Shaws over the last two years, and that he believes the growth will continue. He adds: “For decades the brands have gone from strength to strength, but by putting the brands together under the House of Rohl banner, it allows us to better reflect the unique stories that each of the brands has with our retail partners and through our consumer communication.”
“We may add to the portfolio of brands in due course, but they will have to be the best in their field and complementary to the other House of Rohl brands,” continues Geary. “This is the start.”