Some businesses would argue that, when reading that the country’s construction has fallen by 2.5 per cent from August to September, which is largely influenced by the unstable political landscape in the UK at the moment, now is not a wise time to invest in expanding UK assets.
And then there are companies like Roca Group that would disagree entirely to the above statement. Claiming the title of market-leading bathroom manufacturer for more than 20 years, with more than 24,000 employees globally, Roca Group has recently opened a new and gleaming UK headquarters. Based on the outskirts of Leicester, the 145,000 sq-ft base, which also features one of the country’s largest bathroom showrooms, was the subject of my latest warehouse/factory tour.
“Roca Group is all about the long-term goals,” Alan Dodds, the Managing Director of Roca Group UK, tells Hotel Designs. “Our products are inspired by materials. Therefore, research and design is paramount.”
Peering over the interior balcony was the first time I grasped the sheer scale of Roca Group’s UK presence. The warehouse is colossal, complete with 12 dock level loading doors, two level access loading doors and 150 per cent more pallet locations than it sheltered in its previous UK base. “We had been at maximum capacity [in our old headquarters] for years,” adds Dodds. “And it’s refreshing, and it feels like the right time, to be able to bring all brands together under one roof.”
Although the brands under Roca Group may capture a different segment of the market, the research and development team behind each product launched work in-house and operate across both Roca, Roca/Armani, Laufen and Cosmic equally. “It can take anything from six months to two years for a product to be developed and ready for the market,” explains Dodds. “We may not always be the first to launch new concepts, but we ensure that when we do, we are adding something different. Something that the consumers have demanded.”
The latest shower toilets from Laufen are a solid example of this. Despite these W/Cs first being introduced in the ‘80s, the group has only recently launched them to the market, after investing time in careful and sensitive R&D. “We realised that consumers did not appreciate the chunkiness of this style of product originally, nor did they speak highly of the complicated and often unnecessary software when it comes to operating them,” said Richard Court, Laufen’s UK training manager. “Therefore, we launched our W/Cs to look discreet – like any other high-end toilet – and offer a one-button solution for operation that can, if preferred, also be adjusted by the remote.”
In regards to showcasing the latest products on the market across all brands, the new showroom is one of the largest – and most impressive – bathroom showrooms in the UK. In true Roca Group fashion, the space has been dynamically designed to enhance each product’s value and unique selling points. It superbly compliments the group’s ethos to form ideas responsibly and with purpose.
Often on the battlefield of bathroom manufacturers, one of the main challenges faced by bathroom manufacturers is differentiation. For Roca Group, each brand has its own position, aims and target market. However, all innovations are inspired by materials, form and function.
Some of these materials used for sanitaryware from other manufacturers include china ceramic, titanium steel, and even cast-iron. However, in 2013, after half a decade of research and in true Swiss design style, Laufen launched a new material that became known as the world’s thinnest ceramic. “Sourcing SaphirKeramik was Laufen’s dining out card for some time,” explains Court. “It allows us to manufacture thin material without sacrificing on strength. It is still to this day the only material that can do so – and we are the only company that uses it.”
The advantages of SaphirKeramik affect the availability of space. Put simply, less material is required without affecting the durability of the product. This could quite possible inspire future collections from Laufen that include smaller basins, for example, that would be impossible to recreate using any other material.
In addition to the vast innovation, the brand’s bread and butter has always been valuable collaboration. In 1989/1990, Laufen introduced the first design collection developed with the Porsche Design Group with a press release headed “The bathroom that’s a PORSCHE”. Since then, the brand has partnered with renowned designers such as Patricia Urquiola, Roberto Palomba and Marcel Wanders to take the aesthetics of bathroom design to new heights.
Next month at Sleep & Eat 2019 (stand L10), Laufen will unveil the result of its latest collaboration with Wanders. The New Classic collection interprets classical styles using Laufen’s SaphirKeramik to create soft, gentle feminine curves, alongside angular, masculine elements.
Over in the Roca division of the showroom, while the brand is less focused on collaborations, there is one exceptional partnership that has been repositioned and readjusted under the spotlight recently following the brand announcing its second collection with fashion house Armani.
Armani/Roca, as Giorgio Armani explains, “combines all the functional aspects of the bathroom space with elegance and subtly, providing an area that simultaneously provides comfort and wellbeing.” And the way in which the set has been curated within the new showroom with ‘that bath’ being taking centrestage, certainly does that bold statement justice. The latest products within the collection will also be showcased at Sleep & Eat on stand L20.
“Each brand that is under the Roca Group umbrella is equally dedicated to stay within the confines of its own design lane.“
Adjacent to the Roca section within the showroom, the company displays yet another unique bathroom brand and style. Cosmic was created in 1985 and started by uniquely producing abstract bathroom accessories, such as the free-standing Saku collection. Designed by Ricard Ferrior, the products’ designs were inspired by plant forms which grow and evolve.
The brand has recently expanded its offering, taking its inspiration from the rise in demand for industrial bathrooms, and included furniture, basins and a new range of lighting and mirrors. The Grid, also designed by Ferrer, is an excellent example of something different to launch in the bathroom furniture market. The parallel lines which frame the objects have been specifically designed for an architecturally engineered bathroom, something that neither Laufen nor Roca would compete to achieve.
Considering how heavily congested the bathroom manufacturing market is, Roca Group seems to be able to jockey for position and noise within the market place effortlessly. “Roca keeps life very simple, allowing the products’ innovative qualities do the talking,” Dodds concludes. “But if you launch good products, present them in the right way, and have a good team, you will be heard regardless how busy the market place is.”
Following my insightful trip to the group’s new UK Headquarters, one thing has become more apparent: each brand that is under the Roca Group umbrella is equally dedicated to stay within the confines of its own design lane. While all brands are inspired by outside influences and research, each and every decision is carefully considered to keep all brands at the forefront of the bathroom manufacturing market. Operating in 170 markets in all corners of the world, Roca Group’s long-term thinking has resulted in the launch of unconventional bathroom solutions for all designers.
Roca and Laufen are both recommended suppliers. To keep up to date with their news, click here. And, if you are interested in becoming one of our recommended suppliers, email Katy Phillips by clicking here.
Main image credit: Roca Group