From Croydon to Qatar: bathstore’s tips for the journey east

Date: 21-06-2017

Tagged as: GrowthInternational TradeTop Track 250

 

When bathstore looked for expansion overseas, Qatar provided a perfect opportunity. CEO, Gary Favell, explains his approach to successful expansion.

Gary Favell, CEO of bathstore, the largest specialist bathroom retailer in the UK.

Gery Favell of bathstore

Top Track 250

This case study is produced in association with Top Track 250

For Gary Favell, CEO of bathstore, the largest specialist bathroom retailer in the UK, making waves overseas has largely been about choosing the right partner from the outset.

Launching its flagship international store in Qatar’s Barwa Commercial Avenue in April 2016, Favell says working closely with local business partner and representative, Manazel International Enterprises, has put bathstore in a strong position for future expansion in the region.

Choosing a destination

Qatar is currently among the biggest consumers of building products in the world. Middle Eastern consumers are travelling more, staying in western hotels and being exposed to European designs and styles, notes Favell.

With many ‘thirty-something’ Qataris now setting up home, they are reflecting that influence in their choice of home fittings. It was, he says, an obvious target for bathstore.

But getting involved in matters cultural and administrative with which they were unfamiliar unnerved bathstore’s Croydon-based UK executive team. “Many retailers have tried and failed by going into overseas markets where they don’t have a local partner,” comments Favell.

His head office has all the know-how on company matters, “but if we don’t know our way round the local administrative offices, it quickly becomes very difficult to do anything”.

bathstore’s tips for success overseas:

 

  • Have a plan from the outset
  • Enter a market because there is an opening not because you want to
  • Success in one country or region does not guarantee success elsewhere
  • Partner locally for a true understanding of the market but take the time to build trust
  • Calculate local operating costs; take professional advice if you don’t know
  • Employ a local manager; do not squeeze out local talent

 

Pick a perfect partner

Emirati firm, Manazel, had for some time expressed an interest in striking up a formal relationship with bathstore. Bringing a great depth of knowledge of local and regional culture to the table was an attractive proposition.

“We invited them over to the UK, had a good chat and got to know them and could see that the market in Qatar was very buoyant,” Favel recalls. “Having gone through that courtship and period of due diligence we became partners.”

Playing to your strengths

Choosing a master franchise agreement as the best way forward, this relieved the UK team of all the local planning, compliance and administrative work. But with the brand remaining with bathstore in the UK, the Qatar store gets to use the same format, footprint, business processes and stock sourcing.

The big difference is that Manazel has the freedom to reflect local culture – including the provision of a prayer room for customers and colleagues.

Giving it the liberty to tap into local needs has seen a few other differences emerge, says Favell. The current market is mainly supply-only, selling direct to the builder. With contractors taking on jobs from start to finish, bathstore fitting teams are unlikely to gain site access, says Favell. “We’re happy to let that market evolve.”

“Many retailers have tried and failed by going into overseas markets where they don’t have a local partner”

Lessons for all

Revealing his key ingredients for successful overseas expansion, Favell lists moving slowly, taking the time to find and build relationships with the right local partners, and plotting a definite but cautious pathway from the outset.

With all the groundwork, the visits and the open discussions between the UK team and Manazel, he feels bathstore’s newest partner has truly become part of the brand. “If you do the right thing, build the trust, you’ll get through it a lot smoother,” he concludes.

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