PBM speaks with Scott Beattie, Managing Director of Fibo UK, about the growing popularity of wall panels.
Q. What market trends have you noticed in the last few years?
A. Our merchant customers have reported a growing trend in products that are intuitively designed, and quick and easy to fit. With a shortage of skills in our industry, products that avoid specialist trades and therefore project delays are winning in the market.
Accordingly, wall panels are increasingly popular as an alternative to ceramic tiling in both kitchens and bathrooms. We’ve seen a significant leap in demand from merchants and their customers in the past two years.
Q. What’s behind the demand for wall panels?
A. There are a number of factors behind the trend, not least that wall panels have come a long way since they were first introduced. Once known as a low-end product used mainly in social housing and large scale public sector projects, developments in design and technology have combined to produce high-quality finishes, textures and colours which work with any style of property.
The flexibility of panels means it’s also easy to mix and match designs to create a specific look. To achieve this with tiles would add considerably to cost and time.
Many builders are also discovering how quick and easy panels are to fit — they can be up to five times faster to install than traditional tiles, can be fitted by any competent builder and it’s not necessary to have a perfect wall before installation. This means no waiting for plasterers to make good the surface when old tiles are removed, and no waiting for tilers to fit the job in.
Our customer BBS Plumbing & Heating Supplies in Bristol is actually a perfect example. BBS decided to use Fibo panels throughout its showroom and employed a local contractor to fit them — the contractor was so impressed, they now use our panels all the time!
Q. What projects are suitable for wall panels — and have you noticed any change in the last few years?
A. Historically, panels have been most popular in social housing projects and are traditionally used for bathrooms, wetrooms and kitchens. But projects have diversified quite a lot in recent years and the versatility of panels means they can be used to transform interior walls, regardless of the type of room or building.
We’re now seeing them used for retail and domestic refurb, renovation and new build, as well as in hotels, offices and health clubs. Currently we’re supplying a Sikh Temple in Birmingham with thousands of panels which they have chosen to complement the Fibo panels they installed there more than 20 years ago! A nursery in Swindon also recently fitted our panels in the entire interior of their building, using different colours and contrasts for each room.
Q. What design trends are currently proving popular?
A. There’s been a huge increase in the range of panel styles and designs. Gone are the days of limited choice. Panels are now available in many styles, textures and finishes to suit every theme. Industrial, traditional or contemporary, high gloss or matt — it can all be achieved without the hassle of tiling.
There is a definite trend for marble-effect panels at the moment, reflecting current interior design fashion. They are able to create the look — and feel — of this traditional but very heavy and expensive material. Bold colours and statement patterns are also in style, as well as more textured finishes such as stone or wood effects.
We offer five bathroom ranges, from the traditional Classic Tile to the more modern Marcato, while our kitchen options are available in a variety of finishes, from shabby chic to a trendy New York Black. The ranges that include our unique 3D routed ‘grouting’ line — ensuring the panels look just like ceramic tiles — are particularly popular.
Q. What support does Fibo offer merchants? What do your customers find most useful?
A. Supporting our merchant customers is very important to us, which is why we’ve invested heavily in the past two years in building our ‘on-the-ground’ team to achieve nationwide coverage. Product training is a prime priority so customers fully understand the benefits of selling wall panels. Our training is supported with POS and merchandising, samples and trade days, where our sales team can talk to builders and contractors.
Generating leads is also important and our strong growth in specification is helping us create sales opportunities for merchants.
Q. What’s next for Fibo?
A. We have more than doubled our sales in the last couple of years and we intend to keep going. We’re investing in design and innovation as well as building our team and investing in our brand to ensure we continue to support our customers effectively, while preparing for the next stage of growth.
For more information on Fibo, visit www.respatex.co.uk.