Sub36 profile: Bathed in success

It may go down in history as 12 turbulent months when Covid-19 changed the world but for Abbie and Sophie Schofield 2020 was also the year of the bathroom.

Demand for the sisters design services increased four-fold as Lancashires homeowners turned to home improvement, decorating and DIY during lockdown.

Sales rocketed by 320 per cent compared to the previous year as people ploughed their cash into their properties and embarked on makeover projects they may have been putting off for years.

Like most business owners, the entrepreneurial sisters, who founded luxury design studio and showroom Ribble Valley Bathrooms in 2018, entered lockdown with a feeling of uncertainty.

Sophie, 30, explains: As a relatively new business in its third year of trading we were extremely tentative about how the first lockdown in March would impact demand for bathroom design.

At first, we switched our showroom-based business to online – offering design and consultation services and using our social media channels to inspire, educate and excite potential customers.

“Due to the size of our showroom and nature of the space we were able to re-open on an appointment basis and our fitters were given the green light to start work.

As a result, sales started to pick up again and over the course of the year we saw a growing demand.

This year has been unprecedented in so many ways. We're grateful that we have been able to sustain and grow our business.

Sophie believes that as people spent an increasing amount of time at home, many turned their intention towards how they could make changes to their living space to boost their wellbeing.

She adds: “Many of our customers have told us that they reassessed how they use their homes; what spaces are most important to them and how design can really enhance and uplift their personal space.

Bathrooms are such a versatile room – they can become a complete sanctuary, a spa-like escape – or they can make bold design statements with standout tiling, colour palettes, fixtures and fittings.

We love helping people bring their own visions to life and some of the bathrooms that we have transformed this year have been truly remarkable.”

Sophie and her younger sister Abbie founded the Clitheroe-based business after noticing a gap in the local market.

Despite having a 35-year family heritage in the plumbing industry, entering the sector was not something either of them had ever anticipated.

However, they have now carved out a niche in the county and the wider North West - combining a flair for cutting edge design with an unrivalled knowledge of Europe’s most iconic bathroom brands.

Abbie, 28, says: “Our father Martyn instilled an entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic in us from a young age – he set up his plumbing and heating business when he was just 18 and 35 years later it is still going strong.

As keen designers, marketeers and luxury good sales specialists, a career in plumbing and construction wasn’t a path we were planning to follow.

But we noticed a really clear gap in the market – despite the prevalence of online bathroom retailers, people want the customer service, guidance and expert knowledge from a specialist showroom.

We knew we could make a real difference in the luxury bathroom space and we’re proud that we have been able to channel our passion for design and craftmanship together with an ever-growing knowledge of plumbing to create our own unique twist on the family legacy!

She adds: “This year has been unprecedented in so many ways. We’re grateful that we have been able to sustain and grow our business through such a difficult time.

“Looking forward our ambition is to grow and expand the business throughout the North.

With uncertainty around the property market and wider economy we’ll be taking things one step at a time, however we are confident in our belief that the value and service that we can offer, in contrast to the discount ecommerce model, will continue to be a crucial USP and something people in this region value greatly.”

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