Tile Today spoke to executive chairman Bob Beaumont about the group’s latest launch and found the entrepreneur to be as energetic and passionate as ever about developing the most innovative tile retailing concepts for Australian customers. They were also joined by designer Vee Blundell from Beaumont Tiles who created one of the spaces within the Studio.
Tile Today (TT): Your inspiration and idea for this store, did that come after the other Studios?
Bob Beaumont (BB): We always planned to have a studio in Adelaide and another one in Sydney. It’s been part of the plan to have one in each capital city. We started in Melbourne and Brisbane…but we’ve always wanted to have one in Adelaide because that’s where the hometown is, that’s where the heart is. But I knew that we needed to progress from where we were in the other two states because time moves on. So I went to America and researched the latest trends in showroom design.
TT: Can you describe some of the stores? It’s interesting you went outside of tiles.
BB: We went to homewares stores, dress shops, computers, car showrooms like Tesla, and funky restaurants to see where things are going, after people get over this obsession with concrete and things that look like garages, where are they going to go? I think they are going to go ‘soft’, they’re going to go timber, they’re going to go natural … That’s where we started, with timber, so we looked at the various timber porcelain available to us. We settled on this one from Savoia Italia … It is stunning.
Vee Blundell: We’re using it through so many spaces with so many different colours … We built all this up from the floor and it works.
BB: The other interesting thing about this tile is that it comes in a textured finish so we can run it from inside to outside. It makes the whole area look bigger.
TT: Did you say it comes from a supplier you knew 40 years ago?
BB: Yes, that’s right. We got to know the family about 40 years ago and the patriarch died just this year (2018) which was really sad because he was very close to us. But his son has kept it going, and they are just so talented.
TT: The space is very unique in terms of how big it is and because in other traditional tile stores, you feel like you’re a bit overwhelmed with product. You don’t feel that when you come in here.
BB: It had to be “emotionally soft” so that started with a soft floor … When people come in, they don’t feel that they’re going to have something thrown at them.
TT: That is what it feels like sometimes.
BB: That’s right, it’s an interesting point. I’ve been in retail for a very long time and I’ve read lots and lots of books on retail and the psychology of retailing. You can get various people pontificating about when someone comes in the front door, do they go left or right? … Where do they go first when they walk through the front door of a shop? Always the furthest way away from the counter. Why? Because they don’t want to be sold something. Simple!
TT: Often, they are referring to grocery and it doesn’t apply.
BB: No it doesn’t. So we wanted to present something that is an extreme alternative to the Web. The Web is very cold and hard … We want to give people the opportunity of seeing and touching, feeling, and understanding a product that is going to be part of their home for many years. When people come in, they are not greeted with a counter, they are greeted with a barista and then we make sure they are looked after by store staff.
TT: That’s very different for a retail store.
BB: And we don’t even have a counter inside. We’ve got little workstations and computers but other than that, no counter.
VB: It makes you feel less like you’re coming in to buy something. You are coming in to create something … We’ll have architects and designers who can literally roam anywhere they like.
BB: And we’ve got their meeting rooms that can be opened up and they can have gatherings and events as well.
TT: Is the store targeting DIYers or professional end-users? Or architects and designers? Are you strategically targeting any of these groups?
BB: Not so much DIY but we have a warehouse area – Beaumont Trade Central – where people can buy adhesive and tools. [Inside the store] It’s much more directed towards designers and their clients. We will be able to help if some people don’t want a designer. We have very qualified staff.
TT: And you’ve talked about how the designers who created the spaces within the Studio are all South Australian.
BB: Yes, we are a bit parochial but we’re a national company.
TT: Is what on display in the Studio your entire offering?
VB: We have more than what’s on display. We can bring in specialty items that we source from all over the world.
TT: What was the idea behind the digital tile display?
BB: It’s for showing people different types of tiles. It’s bit innovative.
TT: I’m impressed there is a lot of forward-thinking when it comes to the store. A strong retail business looks to the future and is less about the past.
BB: That’s for sure. It’s important to look forward and to understand where things are heading, not just next year but in the next five or 10 years.
TT: I read somewhere that you were looking at unifying your IT in terms of your stores. As there are no official counters, does that change how the backend works?
BB: No, the backend facilitates how we want to work so it’s the other way around. The new computer system will also allow us to use tablets and mobile.
TT: So it allows the store staff to have more flexibility?
BB: It’s about letting people wander around the store more.
VB: Our technology gives us more freedom to do more.
BB: You’ve been trained in that now and there’s more to come because we’ve got QR codes on everything. People will be able to scan a QR code on a device so they’ll be able to get more information about the product, and there will be videos too.
TT: It is so different to other Studio stores.
BB: We’ve got to progress. We go through these the cycles where we have to reinvent ourselves.
TT: But you drive it obviously.
BB: As part of the reinvention process, we do a competitor “crawl” (competitive analysis) around Australia. You need to go to other places around the world to get inspiration. But we have never ever come back from these trips and said, ‘Oh wow that’s what we’ve got to do’ and copy what we’ve seen. We’ve always felt that we need to start again and do something we believe is unique and different.
Pictured: The Beaumont Family and SA Premier, Stephen Marshall (third from right) are all smiles at the opening.