In a freewheeling chat within a month since its opening, Retail Director Calum Stewart tells us about the new showroom, the encouraging response from residents, the Group’s expansion plans, challenges, and a lot more.
Can you tell us about the new showroom in Ras Al-Khaimah?
Sprawling over 8,000 square feet, the new RAK Showroom is our second largest in the UAE. Located in Al Qadi Building on Sh. Muhammed Bin Salem Road, it features our three brands SANIPEX GALLERY, BAGNODESIGN and AQUAZONE. Though a shade smaller, the new RAK Showroom is inspired by our one-stop-shop on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, and offers a vast selection of Bathroom, Spa & Wellness, Kitchen and Outdoor Living products alongside an extensive collection of Tiles – all elegantly displayed in line with the latest international trends.
Deciding the location was the major challenge. The first thought was to go to the city. But then, the city is growing south. I believe the future lies in the south of the city. Our location is going to be the centre of developments.Once the location was identified, our well drilled process of getting a showroom open was put in motion. We design the showroom layout ourselves and have our own in-house team of installers who work relentlessly to get the showroom open within our very tight deadlines. In the case of Ras Al-Khaimah, it was 6 weeks from taking possession to getting it open.
Unlike other emirates in UAE, in Ras Al-Khaimah you have a competitor who is its own. How do you see it?
Ras Al-Khaimah is famous for RAK Ceramics and many people are questioning why we would want to go and compete with them in their own backyard.
But our product portfolio is different, very different and that is going to be the key to our success. We will provide the Ras Al-Khaimah customers a wide range of new innovative designs and quality products to choose from.
Why do you think customers in UAE prefer Sanipex to your competitors?
Customers come to us for three reasons:
- Aspirational and inspirational showrooms
- Innovative products: one of our key competitive advantages is that we have the capability to react quickly to changes in design trends and bring new innovative products to the market way ahead of our competitors
- Service: our staff, who are all graduates of the SANIPEX Training Academy, interact with our customers to help them select the right product so that the end result exceeds their expectations. Our tagline is ‘Creating your Dream Bathroom’ and we don’t mind spending time with customers to help them attain that goal.
What is the secret behind your confidence in investing in a Covid-hit market?
The company experienced significant growth following the 2008-2009 financial crisis. When times are tough, people turn to those whom they can trust. They turn to people who provide quality products, quality service and quality after-sale service. It is critically important that you stay connected with your customer and thanks to our significant investment in our IT infrastructure, when lockdown came, we were able to continue with the business, uninterrupted, with our staff all working remotely from home. As soon as we reopened, our showroom business very quickly returned to normal.
What will be Sanipex’s role in post-Covid UAE market?
We are very well positioned as we have three routes to market.
The Project Market has slowed down. However, we remain very active on specification and working with our key customers. We are all set for the market to pick up.
Our Trade Business is strong as we have continued to hold stock and can be relied upon to deliver products to customers as and when required.
Our Retail Business is experiencing strong growth. This is the result of ensuring robust stock availability, excellent service and consistently bringing innovation to our showrooms.
During lockdown, people stayed at home and since they spent more time at home, they realised the need to renovate their bathrooms. Regrettably, many missed their holidays due to the pandemic. But that left them with money in hand which they would invest in properties. We’re optimistic about Sanipex’s leading role in UAE market.
It’s nearly a month since you opened in Ras Al-Khaimah, how is it doing?
It’s very positive. It’s a new market and in the first 3-4 months we are focusing on presenting our wide range of products to the community. We go out, meet our potential customers, and present our products. The interest shown by the Ras Al-Khaimah residents to these presentations is very positive…tremendous. In addition, we receive several walk-in customers too. It’s very encouraging.
What prompted, rather inspired you to open the group’s second largest showroom in Ras Al-Khaimah?
Innovation, inspiration and customer service are key to our vision, and we strive hard to take our wide range of products as close to our clients as possible.
We realised the huge potential, mostly untapped, of the Northern Emirates, and wanted to explore the market. At first, we thought of going with AQUAZONE, our brand that offers mid range products, in Ras Al-Khaimah. Then we looked at different options. Ras Al-Khaimah is developing very quickly. Beachside villas and apartments are coming up there like in Dubai Marina. We were quick to spot this and were convinced that there was an opportunity for premium products as well. Even our Abu Dhabi Showroom was getting queries on luxury products from RAK residents. So, we decided to offer a collection of wide-ranging products to our customers in Ras Al-Khaimah.
Any other reason?
More and more people now tend to move out of big cities. They want to improve the quality of life and are in search of places offering serenity. Ras Al-Khaimah is a perfect fit for them. It has got long beaches, and 10 minutes’ drive from there it’s desert, and beyond that mountains. RAK is also fast emerging as a major Middle East trade centre with international focus.
Has Covid’s outbreak hastened the shifting of people from big cities?
Yes, it certainly has. Covid has created a new work culture – a mixture of working from home and office and if people can work from home two or three days a week, Ras Al-Khaimah is a viable option for many working in Dubai or even in Abu Dhabi.
Have you formed any specific strategies for the RAK market?
Well, it’s a new territory for us. We’ve identified three categories of customers there – local Ras Al-Khaimah residents, other Emiratis having a second home there and expats. Finding the right mix of products is a challenge. Now that we’ve opened, we’ll speak to our customers to find out their special requirements and alter our collection of products accordingly. We would expect to have around 80% of our product mix correct for this market and are open to make the necessary changes as required.
Any expansion plans?
Yes. We are actively looking at a number of potential showrooms across the UAE and if all goes to plan, we should be opening our next one early in the new year.