BathCom – the bathroom sector community that brings together retailers and suppliers – is hosting its first conference at the Belfry Resort on 25th October. Here BathCom MD Mike Nicholls explains the purpose behind the event, and reveals why the group is now ready to drive forward.
Q: Tell us about the idea behind the BathCom Conference, and the theme 'Surviving and Thriving as an Analogue Sector in a Digital World'.
A: As a community for independent retailers and suppliers, we wish to focus on how bathroom retail survives and thrives alongside the digital age and the obvious commercial benefit this will bring for retailers and their suppliers. We see clear examples of how this is being done from within our membership and want to share this for all to make their own conclusions for their own businesses. Some suppliers have, or are launching, initiatives perfectly aligned to this theme and the conference will serve as an ideal platform. The economic backdrop and the passing of the post lockdown boom will make this theme more relevant.
Q: Who is the conference open to and what are you looking to achieve by hosting it?
A: We have around 70 retailers and all main suppliers booked to attend. Suppliers will be showcasing in an exhibitor area and BathCom will host a presentation 'setting course' for the years ahead, to include speakers from retail and supplier members. We aim to encourage interaction and strategy discussion across the community. Bringing people together to network and find new opportunities will also be a clear benefit, with the chance for our members to relax over dinner and socialise within the community.
Q: How has BathCom evolved over the past 18 months?
A: In 2021 we (like everyone else) were held back by the third lockdown and gained momentum as the year progressed. At the turn of 2022, it felt like all the wires connected and all lights came on, taking on several quality new member retailers at a rate which means BathCom is now truly national. We have consolidated the supplier base and will from now only take on new suppliers for gaps. Consequently, the buying infrastructure of BathCom is in place and serves as the platform to build strategies in line with our original plans and expectations which will be shared at the conference.
Q: Previously you mentioned that a group of 150 retailers was the maximum you were looking for – is that still the case?
A: We currently have 130 member retailers and can now see that 150 is the likely minimum and more realistically around 175. We are careful to get a geographical spread and there are still several big towns without members.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish over the next 12 months and beyond?
A: Our mainframe is in place and ready to drive forward. Apart from continuing to grow retailer spend with our member suppliers, our growth focus will be on developing strong internet marketing strategy ideas for our retailers, as the main source for growth generation for the remainder of the decade. This will emphasise marketing existing bricks and mortar retail showrooms using digital media to win footfall.
We also need a central point for sharing information and our original forum will be replaced by a portal in 2023, which will be largely devised on feedback from members. We have other ideas on how we can make the process of bathroom retailing simpler, and these will be showcased at the conference.