4 New Showrooms Added To Kitchen Worktops Network

Leading kitchen worktops brand, Granite Transformations, has extended its nationwide retail presence with the opening of four new showrooms in the first half of 2011. Two are in conservation areas, in Stamford, Lincolnshire and historic Bath, another in a thriving market town, St Ives, Cambridgeshire, while the fourth sets the standard for a new style of in-store concession, at Notcutts Wheatcroft Garden Centre in Edwalton, near Nottingham.

In common with so many of today’s high street names, Granite Transformations showrooms are franchised businesses, owned and managed by local people, but backed by a global organisation that fits 100,000 kitchen installations annually. Each franchisee has taken advantage of an internal financing scheme that allows them to expand into fresh postcode sales territories at preferential rates, enabling them to grow already successful retail businesses.

In Bath, entrepreneur Tim Hegarty has added to two existing sites in Bristol, with a boutique-style showroom on the busy London Road leading into the city centre. Nottinghamshire businessman Ian Floyde has expanded to the beautifully preserved town of Stamford with a highly acclaimed period-fronted new showroom, at the same time benefiting from the agreeable surroundings and busy footfall at Wheatcroft, with a substantial concession site. While the Whitwood family, father Malcolm and sons Oliver and Tom, have spanned their Anglian sales territory, with an outlet in the former county town of Huntingdonshire, in St Ives’ bustling market square, to complement their established Norwich store.

The frontages of the two conservation area premises, in Bath and Stamford, demonstrate the restrictions imposed by planning authorities and the influence of Granit Transformations’ newly-appointed showroom designer, Stuart Clarkson of Richmond, North Yorkshire. The restrained graphics and muted colours are a good fit with these elegant period properties and the more upmarket image shows a possible way forward for Granite Transformations retail branding in the future, appealing perhaps to a more mature, core customer demographic.

For the shop interiors, Stuart has used Granite Transformations’ tough, hardwearing and flexible agglomerate material for shopfitting elements and design features, as well as for demonstrating the product in kitchen and bathroom sets. Thus, conversation areas, internal walkways and wraparound seating units are clad in granite and quartz finishes to reflect the material’s outstanding design potential. Similarly, authentic Italian glass mosaic tiles, from sister company Trend, are presented in large gilded picture frames, portraying them as artworks.

The Wheatcroft garden centre concession is inside the main building, close to the checkouts, and was designed by Stuart as an inviting area, complete with displays to inspire customers and relaxing ‘chillout’ zones for discussing décor ideas. The site is permanently manned and Ian Floyde reports that it is already generating as much custom as a regular high street showroom, suggesting a more affordable entry level for would-be Granite Transformations franchise recruits.

“This is the biggest garden centre concession in our UK network and we are now putting it forward as a model for start-up franchises and  existing franchise owners looking to open additional showroom locations,” says UK franchise chief, Danny Hanlon. “There is no shop lease to sign, lower legal fees and less fit-out or signage costs, leading to a substantially reduced initial investment.

“The continual opening of new showrooms is important to a fast developing consumer brand like Granite Transformations,” he continues. “We conducted a customer mapping exercise recently, which demonstrated the power of high visibility, accessible showrooms. According to our data, some 80% of our customers live within a 20 mile radius of a showroom, with market penetration falling away quite sharply after 30 miles. This indicates that a strong retail presence, whether it’s a high street location or an in-store concession, is a catalyst for driving sales locally. So I’m pleased to see a number of our franchise owners investing in maximising their sales revenue and to report there are other new showrooms in the pipeline.”