Interview: Sonas CEO Richard Sloan – This is a marathon, not a sprint

InterviewFeatures Tue 14th May 2024 by Nicola Hanley

Interview: Sonas CEO Richard Sloan – This is a marathon, not a sprint

Interview: Sonas CEO Richard Sloan – This is a marathon, not a sprint

Feature by Nicola Hanley | Tue 14th May 2024

Nicola is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about interiors for 15 years. A former editor of Essential Kitchen & Bathroom Business magazine, she has also worked in PR and is now a freelance writer specialising in kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms. More

Hot on the heels of making its debut at KBB Birmingham, Sonas Bathrooms’ CEO Richard Sloan talks to Nicola Hanley about reaching the brand’s first year milestone in the UK. 

When KBBFocus last caught up with Richard Sloan, CEO of Ireland’s biggest bathroom brand, Sonas Bathrooms had just entered the UK market and he was at the very beginning of his quest to win over the UK’s hearts and minds. A year down the line and the company has just finished exhibiting at KBB Birmingham for the first time, where it had a large presence and unveiled a raft of new products.

So how have these first 12 months gone? “I’m satisfied to say that from a sales perspective, we have reached the first-year milestone that we wanted,” says Sloan. “The first year was about establishing ourselves and building up a network of customers and we’ve brought a number of retail customers, those early adopters who were looking for something fresh and new, on the journey. What we really wanted to do was have sensible and controlled growth with those customers so we could meet their needs and demands in terms of order fulfilment.”

Unveiled at KBB Birmingham, the ASPECT Scandinavian coloured wetroom panels, seen here in Cashmere Pink, are designed to perfectly complement the Scandinavian-inspired furniture

Previously, Sloan said he was looking to get 200-250 retailers on board during the first year. It’s a target that he comfortably hit with around 300 retail partners currently working with Sonas. “We’re on track with the number of retailers that we aspire to have and for the first quarter, we’re well ahead of our plans compared to last year and on track to continue growing the business in year 2,” continues Sloan.

Featuring a sleek and minimal frame, the Mirage wetroom panels come in matt black and brushed gold, pictured, and with clear, smoked or fluted glass

He won’t be drawn on what that ultimate number is and says it’s something the business will assess on a year-by-year basis. He’s also keen to make sure that those customers who were open to taking a chance on a new brand reap the rewards. “I want to continue to be important to the people we’re dealing with and for them to be important to us,” says Sloan. “So each year we’ll take a view as to what the next year should look like in terms of developing the customer base. But we don’t want to oversaturate the market and it’s important for those early adopters to have that advantage. They’ve embraced a new brand and supported us and it’s important they get an opportunity to get a return on that. Naturally, no business can survive on a very narrow customer base, not with the ambitions that we have, but this is a marathon and not a sprint. It’s very much about steady, measured, controlled growth that can continue to service our customers well.”

Exhibiting at KBB Birmingham was a key part of Sonas’ growth strategy and Sloan is very pleased with how the show went and the response the brand got from visitors. “We obviously put a lot of time, effort, resources and investment into our attendance and the feedback and engagement we got showed it’s really paid dividends.”

Previewed at KBB Birmingham and set to launch mid-2024, the freestanding GAIA bath has a stone-effect finish

The event allowed Sonas to show the breadth of its product range and colour palette through key themes that focussed on design, texture, wellness and sustainability. A range of innovative, products were unveiled such as the new HAKK brassware collection, ASPECT Scandinavian Coloured Wetroom Panels and MIRAGE Framed Wetroom Panels. Visitors were also able to see prototypes of its new freestanding baths, including the stone-effect GAIA and REED, which has a fluted finish and integrated whirlpool system. 

The Scandinavian-inspired HAKK basin mixer in matt black

Sloan says Sonas will likely be a return exhibitor at KBB Birmingham and already has his sights set on the 2026 show. Also on the cards is a UK distribution centre, likely to come in the next year or so. "It’s very much on the roadmap but we’ve refined our logistics solution in Dublin so we’re actually able to deliver products duty paid, directly to the retailer, in 2-3 working days, and that’s working very well,” he says. “Because we’re still building our business in the UK and the sales mix is quite different to our home market, we probably need another 12 months under our belt and enough intelligence into what that sales mix would look like.”

With its fluted design, the freestanding REED bath has an integrated whirlpool system, Bluetooth technology and coloured aqua lights

Sonas also has ambitions in terms of specification, but Sloan says that’s still too early in their roadmap to consider. In the meantime, it’s all about building on its early momentum. “The next 12 months is about deepening the relationships and adding on additional customers, which the KBB event will allow us to do as we generated lots of interest. We’ve got really strong products and we continue to innovate and we have lots of plans for new ranges so we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing in terms of driving the business in that retail space and establishing that customer network. It takes time but it’s a big opportunity. We’re trying to build our business for the long haul and put the right foundations in place.”

Tags: interview, features, sonas bathrooms, richard sloan, bathrooms

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