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UK distributor sees big future for polyurethane wall panels

Retail and restaurants are thriving elements in a UK marketplace that has welcomed Panespol® since 2006, and where, says the local distributor of these exciting wall covering systems, “there seems to be no lack of investment in new outlets and refurbishing existing ones.”

Big names on the UK scene have put Panespol® panels into designs to boost their brands, and these include Harrods, Next, Burger King, and Marks and Spencer, to name just a few.

Mike Gregg (pictured), Commercial Director of Tile Tec (branded as Feature Wall and Floor), our UK distributor, has seen interest grow steadily in Panespol® since his firm first started working with these revolutionary polyurethane surfaces.

“Competition is fiercer now but we are ahead of the game with this superior product,” says 54-year-old Gregg, whose brother Tony owns the Nottingham-based outfit.

Chance and curiosity – the beginning of a beautiful friendship

Despite the recession kicking off within two years of Tile Tec’s initial contact with Panespol®, the UK has been an easier sell than many would expect from a culture in which antique values are analysed daily on tv programmes, and where a strong taste for authenticity might have led to a rejection of imitations – however good – in favour of real brick, real stone, real wood, …

In fact, it was the ‘realism’ of these imitations that first caught Mike Gregg’s attention during a chance encounter with Panespol® while he was on holiday in southern Spain. While walking through a DIY retail centre, he saw some power tools on what he thought were real brick slip panels.

“I was intrigued to find out exactly what these panels were,” he says, “but the displays were high up the ends of the racking. Undeterred, I climbed the racking, much to the astonishment of onlookers and photographed the back of the panel where I could see the Panespol® name. On my return to the UK, I searched the name and obtained contact details for the company.”

“We launched Panespol® into the UK market at the Surface Design Show in London and as Panespol was fairly unique we had a very successful show.”

“We run a very efficient business and, with carefully selected advertising, investment in Google, selected magazines and shows, it was not too difficult to convince customers of the benefits of Panespol,” points out Mike Gregg.

A sample works wonders

Tile Tec has also worked hard on essential communications tools, such as a recent revamp of its attractive website.

The real key, though, to convincing potential customers, is to get a sample to them.

“Once they have the product in their hands and can see the quality of the material and realistic finish then the battle is half won,” argues Gregg.

Working with one of their biggest clients, Marks and Spencer, meant producing a bespoke Old English style brick effect panel for the retailer to show off high quality products. This is where one of the biggest advantages of panels – ease and speed of installation – proved irresistible.

“The ability to produce large prefabricated panels which enabled speedy installation was a big advantage,” explains Mike Gregg. (Panespol® panels are now being made in bigger sizes. For info on this click here.)

UK trends

Brick effects have dominated the UK market. This is a fashion Mike Gregg puts down to centuries-old, brick-built warehouses being turned into trendy office spaces, studios, and residential dwellings, their interiors showing off the naked brickwork to envious visitors.

“Many people wanted to recreate this look in modern buildings and Panespol® is the perfect soloution,” explains Gregg, although he thinks this is about to change.

“Whereas we will perhaps never embrace the stone effects that appear to be popular elsewhere, the split slates already sell well and the new concrete effect and natural finishes are causing a great deal of interest,” he adds. “We are particularly excited about the newer concrete effects.”

A bright future

The UK holds a fair share of the big trade shows in Europe, and these are very much in the sight line of Panespol’s® UK distributor as a means of finding new clients, 80% of which come from commercial interests (as opposed to 20% for private projects).

“We see trade fairs as a key way of getting the Panespol® brand noticed and enabling people to see and get a feel the product. We are looking at shows aimed specifically at restaurant and retail design, interior design and surface finishes,” explains Gregg.

Meanwhile, there is no sign of any slow-down in interest in Panespol® product, and a promising future is predicted by the UK distributor:

“We are very confident that we can continue with the growth we have seen since our initial involvement with Panespol®,” Mike Gregg concludes.

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