As Ireland moves to Phase 2 of its Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, TileStyle, the country’s largest and most successful tile retailer, looks forward with confidence to its future under the ‘new normal’.
The most important development that has taken place in the latest phase of the reopening has been that customers have been allowed to travel from 20km away, where under the previous strict terms of the lockdown it was 5km.
Gerry Butler, Managing Director, believes this now gives his business the opportunity it needs to recoup lost sales and continue on its growth plans, which were going well up until March of this year.
“Looking at the first three months, we were having a great year,” he says. “Then we all took a bit of a hit unfortunately. Now that we can attract customers from a 20km radius – effectively the whole Dublin area – I hope we can pick up strongly where we left off, although we won’t know for sure for a couple of months how successful we’ve been at that.”
With Europe’s largest tile showroom at 52,000sq ft, there is a lot at stake for TileStyle. That’s why the company views the upcoming trading period as pivotal. To strengthen online sales, the TileStyle will be relaunching its aspirational website with a new transactional front end. With a large part of the business being retail, online sales and the development of an omni-channel strategy will play an important role in the future, along with other initiatives, such as a customer reward mechanism.
For customers who choose to come into store, the important thing right now, says Gerry Butler, is to make them feel safe. “We are absolutely state-of-the-art on health & safety,” he says. “You won’t find queues or overcrowding at our store, and we are doing temperature readings of staff and customers as they enter the building. This is the type of precaution that some high end retailers, such as BMW dealers, are taking now. It gives both customers and staff the confidence that they can come in to our store and shop or work with confidence. If customers need further reassurance they can make an appointment before they come in.”
Irrespective of the current crisis, TileStyle has a lot of strengths in the Irish market, on which it now intends to capitalises. The company has a good mix of contract, retail and wholesale business. It is solus distributor of the Porcelanosa range in Ireland. It offers a design service and has a growing expertise in bathrooms, not to mention being at the leading edge of the latest tile developments, such as industrial and wood-effect tiles.
“Our business is fundamentally strong and the Irish market has a lot going for it,” says Gerry Butler. “We believe that Brexit actually presents a good opportunity for us – Ireland is now the only English-speaking country within the EU and our economy was strong up until March. This is different from the crash of 2008/9 – there is no housing glut, people are buying houses and new houses are being built. What’s more we are a low tax economy, which is good for manufacturing.
“The only cloud on the horizon is the risk of a second wave of the virus. This is why we are taking every precaution that we can within our business to ensure that TileStyle remains a safe place to visit and shop.”