Halo shines brightly in Camolin

Patrick Doyle of Tom Doyle Supplies talks to The Hardware Journal about the recent redesign of the Halo Tiles & Bathrooms flagship showroom in Camolin.

Owned by father and son team, Tom and Patrick Doyle, Tom Doyle Supplies is over 45 years in business. Sister company, Halo Tiles & Bathrooms with its distinctive retail concept (see Panel 1), was launched back in 2012.

The crucial role of the premises at Camolin as a spectacular showcase for the company’s premium quality products was underlined by substantial investment in a major redesign of the showroom in 2016. Wexford architect Paul O’Brien in collaboration with leading interior designer Roisin Lafferty consulted on the design of the retail space, and focused on creating installations in a domestic, rather than a commercial, setting. According to Patrick: “The aim was to create a relaxing and inspiring retail environment that helped our customers make the right choice without pressure.”

Beginnings

Patrick’s father, Tom Doyle, founded the company as a delivery business in 1972, working from a warehouse in Ballyduff, a hamlet three miles from the village of Camolin in Wexford. “He was always very entrepreneurial,” said Patrick. “If a lorry was empty coming back from a delivery, he would load it by buying liquidation stock to sell on.” Focusing on assorted building materials, including tiles, sales were good and the business grew. Patrick recalls: “By the early 1980s, a showroom opened at the warehouse, trading as Thomas Doyle Supplies, and this remains the location for our central warehousing.”

Today, Pat says, the re-imagined flagship showroom acts as an information hub that reflects the latest tile, bathroom, and flooring trends, providing inspiration to interior designers, architects, and discerning home owners, with experienced staff on hand to guide them through their choices.

The showroom is located on the main street in Camolin, straight off the M11, only one hour from Dublin. Inside, visitors are surrounded by beautifully-tiled spaces that demonstrate to the customer how the tiles can be used to recreate a beautiful space within their own home. “With comfort in mind, we have also designed clearly defined waiting areas, a sales desk area, and private consultation areas.”

On entering the front door customers are welcomed with an arrangement of bathroom displays in three aisles, each with alternative tiling finishes. Patrick says the feedback from customers and staff has been hugely positive.

Customer base

Tom Doyle Supplies has a very loyal local customer base, Patrick says. “Our customers tend to do a lot of repeat business with us. We see them returning for refits, and they tend to direct family, friends and colleagues to us, which is a real testament to our level of quality and customer service. We have always been a destination showroom, with clientele coming from much further afield than our immediate catchment area. Since we opened the showroom last September, we have seen a healthy increase in footfall and resulting sales.”

The catchment area for Tom Doyle Supplies is constantly widening. “The more we invest in PR and advertising on a wider national scale, the bigger it gets. Currently, the majority of customers call in to us from south Dublin, Wicklow, Wexford, Kilkenny, and Carlow. However, our commercial sales team would bring professionals/trade customers to us from all over Ireland.

“Our collections include wall, floor, indoor and outdoor tiling solutions in a variety of finishes including Italian porcelain, timber-effect tiles, earthy Spanish decorative ceramics and British porcelain, all in this season’s bespoke colour palette. There are beautiful ranges of heritage Victorian and Georgian designs and mosaic tile collections as well as contemporary brick- and wood effect tiles from Europe’s leading tile manufacturers.”

The carefully selected tiles, which are also stocked across a network of 14 showrooms in Ireland, have been chosen for their unmatched quality, design and durability. “Tiles are sourced from trusted manufacturers in Italy, Spain and Turkey and Halo Tiles prides itself on only bringing products with the highest-quality certifications to Halo showrooms.

“Halo Tiles are the sole agents for VitrA in Ireland, the largest manufacturer of ceramic products globally and their vast range, when coupled with the range of Gala bathrooms from Spain, offers limitless possibilities.”

In an open plan home, Patrick says, being able to throw open the living room doors to a nicely designed outdoor living space is increasingly popular as people factor entertaining into their home design. As the desire for wooden decking fades, installing floor and wall tiles that are durable and suitable for both indoor and outdoor is a key element of the modern design process. “Our cladding ranges are proving to be very popular, used both for indoor feature walls in bathrooms and around stoves/fireplaces or outside in garden feature walls and outdoor fireplaces or barbecue areas. Our ranges, London, Cubics and Wall Art, emulating brick, stone and wood, respectively, offer many advantages over their natural counterparts, being high performance and durable, low maintenance, waterproof, anti-scratch and stain-resistant. Plus, they are easy to clean. For example, unlike natural brick, you won’t get the white staining called efflorescence with Halo’s porcelain brick-effect range.”

Vintage designs continue to be a feature in tiling trends and bring a sense of heritage to interior design. Moving away from ‘shabby chic’, the look is clean-cut, combining Victorian and Georgian tile patterns with classic tile shapes and colours for a contemporary aesthetic.

Bathroom design is moving away from the traditional formation and focusing on creating a rejuvenating space. For city spaces and those downsizing to a smaller property where space is at a premium, wet rooms are an increasingly popular installation.

Valuing staff

Patrick believes the experience and customer service skills of the staff at Tom Doyle Supplies is a vital factor in the success of the business: “We currently have 28 full-time employees and 15 part time employees. At least five members of staff have been with the company between 10 and 15 years, a true testament to the value we place on our staff and the experience they bring to the customer. The investment in the development of staff is ongoing and as the business grows so does our team.

“Since starting Halo Tiles & Bathrooms, we have added an extra eight staff with new positions in key areas including a dedicated Stock Controller, Marketing Manager, Sales Manager and Financial Controller.”

Patrick adds: “Staff in our flagship showroom use a 3D virtual world programme to allow the customer to see a bathroom design in ‘real life’ before it is built. This is all part of our design, supply and fit solution, where we use fitters to remove the old bathroom, re-plumb, and fit sanitary ware and tiles – a true turnkey service.”

New ideas

Patrick is always looking for new ideas and innovations to improve the business and enhance customer service and this year Tom Doyle Supplies launched Protile: “We launched Protile, for the trade, this year. It offers the convenience of tiling essentials held in stock in a prominent point-of-sale position in-store through a network of hardware shops.

“A choice of three wall tiles and two floor tiles, plus our own brand of adhesive, with a range of accessories necessary to do the job, are all provided on the one shelf/pallet. Protile is a trade counter concept for builders merchants where the trades person can take away the stock there and then.”

Panel 1: THE HALO TILES RETAIL CONCEPT

There is an increasing demand for hardware and builders merchants to supply wider ranges of products under one roof but space is at a premium and managing stock levels can prove difficult. The Halo Tiles retail concept offers a potential solution to this problem.

In a concept that Patrick Doyle says is unique to the hardware industry here in Ireland, Halo Tiles & Bathrooms offers builders merchants, independent DIY stores, and specialist tile retailers the opportunity to sell tiles and bathroom sanitary ware through a concession agreement where Halo holds stock of an agreed number of product lines, offering nationwide next-day delivery from its warehouse located in Ballyduff, Wexford.

As exclusive agents for premium ranges such as VitrA Tiles, Roca Tiles and Gala Sanitary Ware, Halo Tiles & Bathrooms offer stores premium ranges that they otherwise would not have access to.

Patrick comments: “This concept has been hugely successful in that we already have branded showrooms in 14 stores nationwide, and that number is set to increase by another two this year. We also supply through another 50 reputable businesses nationwide.

“The Halo Tiles retail concept has allowed our customers to offer a very extensive range of products without the need to stock the products. This makes it possible for them to keep up to date with trends and fashions and they also get our forty-five years of experience in the tile business.”

Panel 2: WHERE OFFLINE MEETS ONLINE

Patrick Doyle and his team in Camolin are developing online engagement across a wide range of platforms. Here Patrick outlines five key elements of the company’s online strategy.

1. Sites for sore eyes: Dual website development
Our new Halo Tiles & Bathrooms website went live on 8 April 2016, styled as a ‘go to’ catalogue website for potential retail and commercial customers. A rebranded website for the Tom Doyle Supplies flagship showroom launched in July. The sites contain product descriptions and imagery, newsfeed, a customer feedback form, testimonials and distributor log-in (to assist product training). Halo Tiles continues to invest in online marketing with SEO, Pay-Per-Click etc. We use Google Analytics and Google Adwords to track activity on our website which in turn feeds in to the planning of media and advertising campaigns directing traffic to our website.

2. Keeping in touch: Ezines
We use ‘Create Send’ for email campaigns and continue to successfully communicate news on design trends and launch new products through this medium.

3. Wise words: Texting
We regularly use text campaigns to promote sales and in-store promotions to our client base. We actively grow our client database through engagement with customers in-store, trade exhibitions, training events, links with suppliers, and competitions.

4. Joining the conversation: Social media
As a result of increased investment, we have grown our Facebook audience from 1,800 to over 6,500, with a targeted monthly budget to spend on boosting posts. We also engage existing customers and potential new customers on Twitter, Instagram, Houzz and Pinterest and feel they are an important part of the mix, especially in the home interiors segment where beautiful visuals are key. The posting of fresh and relevant content is key to our success.

5. Mobile-friendly: Adding interactivity
As the majority of all Halo Tiles online sessions are on a mobile device, we are publishing all campaigns on mobile-friendly apps such as Twitter, Instagram, Houzz, and Facebook. We are currently working on increasing engagement/duration of session on our websites by improving the content and adding an interactive compare facility to our new showroom website.