Sales and marketing director of RAK Ceramics Ben Bryden reveals his plans for elevating the brand and continuing the current growth trajectory. By Amelia Thorpe.
"Over the last three years, we’ve seen a major shift in the brand perception of RAK Ceramics in the UK," says sales and marketing director, Ben Bryden. "Before, we were very much viewed as a middle of the road, mass-market brand, whereas our focus has more recently been to elevate the brand into the affordable, aspirational sector with exclusive designs."
This is the reason, says Bryden, 44, that RAK has started working with designers such as Patrick Norguet (RAK-Valet), Giuseppe Maurizio Scutellà (RAK-Petit) and most recently, fashion design brand Elie Saab (Elie Saab Maison Surfaces and Bathroom Collection). But isn’t there a lot of competition in that sector? "Yes, there is, but it isn’t necessarily retail-orientated and is more geared to the contract market, whereas we take up a lot of space in the retail market." (He estimates that RAK sells through some 7,000 retail outlets in the UK.)
One of the largest ceramics brands in the world, publicly listed RAK Ceramics was founded in 1989, is headquartered in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and has a group annual turnover of approximately US$1 billion. "While our primary focus is on manufacturing ceramic and porcelain tiles and sanitaryware, our aim is to be a one-stop-shop solution for your bathroom and tiling needs," continues Bryden, noting that the product portfolio has expanded by around 60% in the last 5 years. "While we are probably best known in the UK for our sanitaryware, we are also now a manufacturer of brassware, furniture, bathtubs, accessories and showering products," he says. Most products are made in RAK’s own plants in the UAE, India and Bangladesh, with furniture and shower trays produced to RAK’s designs by specialist factories in Italy.
"Our target over the next 2-3 years is to really drive into the affordable aspirational and affluent aspirational sector," he continues. The UK sales force has been expanded from 6 to 10 over the last year, with an emphasis on new merchandisers to generate displays (RAK operates through a network of distributors). "The next raft of new products will be launched in August next year ," says Bryden.
"We are forecasting to close at £40million this year – sales have been good the last few years," he says of the annual turnover, up from £27million in 2014. "We are forecasting double digit growth next year." He anticipates this being driven by the expansion of manufacturing capabilities in the UAE, including efficiency improvements and the opening of a new production line, expected to go live from April. "The factory has been working at 100% capacity the entire year and not necessarily able to fulfil every order when it should have," he explains. "Expanding the production line will increase our output by about 10-15% each month."
"We will also be supporting our retail network by having a wider range of product available through distributors by working even more closely with them," he concludes.