Keeping ahead of consumer trends and offering a variety of flooring options is essential for success in the new build sector, says Peter Kelsey, Managing Director of Designer Contracts, the largest flooring contractor in the UK.
How has Designer Contracts evolved since its inception – and what does this mean for your customers?
Designer Contracts became a stand-alone business in 2004 and has grown into what is now the largest flooring contractor in the UK.
In the past 10 years we have tripled turnover, broken into the social housing sector and doubled the amount of regions we work from and the number of employees. We do business with most major new home and regional developers throughout the UK.
Our central distribution depot has trebled in size with the move to larger premises. This relocation sees an increase in size from 44,000 to 109,000 square feet, with a significant increase in height, offering three times the amount of storage capacity.
The new warehouse is located close to major road networks, meaning that as business continues to grow our dedicated distribution service can continue to ensure goods are delivered on time. We realise that a delayed delivery can have a massive knock-on effect and we won’t let our customers down.
The extra space allows us to keep huge stocks, and with our automated cutting machine and in-house curtain workroom, we are ideally placed to meet the most demanding supply schedules.
As well as floor coverings, we supply curtain, blind, lighting and furniture packs and have our own workroom facility where we produce curtains and blinds. We also have a show home interior design service, working with some of the country’s leading developers.
What is the central aim of Designer Contracts?
As the largest flooring contractor in the UK our two primary objectives are – outstanding prices and excellent local service.
We have earned a reputation as one of the most reliable suppliers in the market. With over two decades’ experience in supplying floorcoverings across the UK, we offer a vast selection of products at competitive prices. From our 12 regional centres, we service a diverse range of businesses and organisations, covering single rooms to entire developments.
In a tough market with increasingly tight margins, we have national buying power which means we are able to offer top brands.
We have an extensive selection of flooring to suit all budgets, including carpet and carpet tiles, vinyl, safety flooring, wood and wood effect, along with leading brands, including Karndean and Amtico.
We also offer a free on-site survey undertaken by our own staff. And we can accommodate every requirement from price point driven schemes to high profile projects.
Our regional depots are run by a dedicated local team, which means we can offer local ‘knowhow’ backed by the resources of a national company.
Each team has extensive experience in the industry and is able to advise and develop a cost effective solution to ensure it provides excellent value for money. Gaining the in depth knowledge needed to ensure that it is meeting all of its customer’s needs. By doing this and engaging with the customer it also allows the teams to identify that all requirements are technically appropriate and cost effective.
Can you tell me more about the bespoke nature of the service that the company provides?
We are dedicated to providing excellent service delivery and value for money throughout any contract. We put a cost effective and effective flooring solution in place and back this up with first rate pre and aftersales support.
We log all service requests, identify the causes and work with the housebuilders not only to resolve any issues but to try to identify and help eliminate the causes. Several of our customers have asked us to help them with this to improve their NHBC survey scores.
All our regions have dedicated customer service e-mail addresses to ensure single points of contact and our customer service teams liaise directly with the house builders’ customer care managers. Such a good, trusting relationship is often forged that we are even sometimes asked to resolve other contractors’ issues as well as the more usual requests to sort out issues caused by plumbers and decorators.
To ensure the successful execution of a contract, we will have a full understanding of what is to be provided and what requirements/service levels are to be met. We review and measure our performance to ensure we are meeting and exceeding the agreed terms and expectations.
We put dedicated people in place and assign resources to manage the contract effectively. As a result of this we gain the in depth knowledge needed to maximise efficiency and therefore create greater customer satisfaction. Effective account management allows us to work closely with our customers and maintain a long standing profitable relationship.
We ensure that on-site technical advice is readily available and our staff are qualified to offer comprehensive advice and are able to suggest and implement any necessary improvements.
We offer a free-of-charge pre and after sales support service. Our team has extensive experience in the industry and is able to advise and develop a cost effective solution to ensure we provide value for money throughout the contract. At the on-set of the partnership we gain the in depth knowledge needed to ensure that we are meeting all of our customer’s needs. By doing this and engaging with the customer it also allows us to identify that all requirements are technically appropriate and cost effective.
How has Designer Contracts embraced innovative technology and products?
We have established relationships with most major flooring manufacturers. This means that we have access to the most up to date products are always aware of new and innovative products often in advance of them being introduced to the industry. We have recently introduced a new range of waterproof laminate which is proving very popular. The joints are fitted with a protective, waterproof coat (Hydroseal). This coat stops water from penetrating into the joints, so that it sparkles on the floor instead.
The joints are pressed into the surface structure right from the first production step. This not only makes the laminate floor waterproof, but it also ensures that the design, colour, and structure of the planks blend subtly into the joint. This is ideal where previously house builders were reluctant to use laminate floors in bathrooms, kitchens and other areas susceptible to moisture.
How has the company adapted to changes in the floorcovering market?
Within the house-building market, business is going to a smaller number of contractors who can give a level of service with in depth financial strength and resource. There is a lot more expected of a company, and this includes being able to answer various specific financial and health and safety questions.
Suppliers are now expected, and quite rightly, to be able to provide a high level of health and safety reassurance. We now have three staff working within our health and safety department, all making sure we have the relevant accreditations to ensure our fitters can get on site and get on with their job.
Recycling requirements have changed considerably as sustainability becomes an increasingly important factor. Last year, we boosted our green credentials significantly following the introduction of a carpet recycling scheme in conjunction with Carpet Recycling UK (CRUK), earning us a place in the 2013 Housebuilder Product Awards.
Spearheaded by merchandise manager Louise Abbott, the system was initially trialled at the company’s head office in Chesterfield before being rolled out to nearly all of our regional offices. From the housing developer’s point of view, dealing with a contractor or manufacturer who recycles materials is increasingly beneficial.
The scheme works by diverting 90% of our fitter’s unfitted carpet into felt underlay. What isn’t turned into underlay is used in the equestrian sector for arena flooring.
Fitters are supplied with a builder’s bag to fill with unfitted carpet to then drop off at their nearest Designer Contracts regional depot. It is then taken to an approved recycling facility before being transformed into felt underlay.
Any waste we create is removed from site and recycled wherever we can. We do not use housebuilders’ skips.
This innovative scheme has already saved over 250 tonnes of fitters’ waste carpet from landfill and as an environmentally conscious company, we’re delighted to have spearheaded this sustainable solution.
Which trends do you predict will be leading the industry in the coming year?
When it comes to dealing with the consumer you can never afford to be complacent, that’s why keeping ahead of emerging trends is essential.
When we started, everyone had one terracotta, one blue and one green carpet in a showhome. Now, it’s about different tones of beige – greige is particularly popular – feature colours such as aubergine and darker grey are prevalent too, although volume is low compared to the amount of beige that we supply.
Amtico and Karndean are growing in popularity as homeowners choose to mix and match alternative floorcoverings throughout the home.
Statement flooring will be big in 2015, with unique, deliberately manufactured styles taking the lead. Latest products to hit the market are ‘Concreate’ and artificial grass, both of which we are now offering to clients across the country.
Concreate takes the appearance of concrete in a laminate format. It is durable and practical, as well as being easy to install. It’s also available in a range of colours to suit different tastes and decors and is perfect for anyone looking for an ‘edgier’ look in their home.
Artificial grass has come a long way in the last few years and is now more life-like than ever before. It’s extremely practical and ideal on working building sites where potential purchasers are viewing showhome properties – particularly in periods of wet weather when mud from real turf can be traipsed through, ruining the inside flooring of a property. It’s also a great product for busy families who may not put cutting the lawn at the top of their agenda!
As well as being warm and practical, traditional carpet will remain a staple flooring option in the home in 2015 – especially neutral tones which are easily adaptable with all furniture types and wall colours.
Homeowners are really appreciating quality brands too and there’s been a definite shift away from cheaper floorcoverings as customers want something that is going to last. Real wood – oak in particular will remain favourable in 2015.
Customer expectations have changed too. They expect to move into a home with new carpets and curtains, for them to be excellent quality, and most importantly, to be fitted before they move in.
Blinds are more popular than ever before. The early nineties were all about fussy curtains with swags, tails and patterns, but homeowners now want simplicity. Wooden and roman blinds are the principal choice, with metal poles overtaking the wooden curtain pole trend.