Insights into the worksurface industry with Stuart Daniels
Updated: Sep 12, 2022
We recently caught up with Athena Sales Director, Stuart Daniels, to get some insight into his experiences working in the worksurface industry. Here, we hear how the industry has changed over the years, the current top trends in surfaces and why Athena stands out from the competition.
Can you tell us a little more about your role and experience with worksurface supply and install?
I am the Sales Director at Athena. My role is to ensure we hit our overall sales targets, we hit the channel sales targets, and we do that within the margins the company requires. My role also includes sales and product training, due to my detailed knowledge of the product range.
How long have you worked in the solid surface fabrication industry?
I sold my first set of luxury worksurfaces in 1989, so over 30 years.
How have you seen consumer demand change over the years?
When I started working in the worksurface industry, quartz wasn’t an established brand – granite was the go-to luxury worksurface. Corian was still in its infancy and was only sold through the most prestigious of kitchen dealers.
Today, quartz is everywhere, and we’re seeing granite taking a bit of a back seat. Corian is interesting; it seems to have gone full circle. It’s now back to being seen as an exclusive worktop material.
What makes a solid quartz worksurface so desirable and sought after?
There’s no doubt that quartz is the most desirable of materials. Part of the reason for this is the fact that most manufacturers have now established a wide range of colours and finishes – from shades with mirror chips, both large and small, to all sorts of intricate veining. This offers a great deal of choice for the consumer.
Another major benefit is that quartz is low maintenance and easy to keep clean. It doesn’t require specialist cleaning products or processes and doesn’t need resealing. It’s also consistent in colour. What you see is what you get, give or take a little shade variance.
While quartz has a reputation as a high-end, luxury surface, our new Forza range actually offers fantastic value for money too. With this exclusive range, we’ve ensured that the price point is such that even the most expensive option in the range is affordable.
Do quartz countertops scratch easily?
No, quartz doesn’t scratch easily. Quartz is one of the hardest materials known to man, and as a result, it is very difficult to mark or scratch. When cared for using regular household cleaners, a quartz countertop can continue to look new indefinitely.
How thick should a countertop in the kitchen be?
The thicker a surface, the sturdier and more resilient it will be. The majority of the options in our Forza range are 30mm thick, which is our standard offering. Many brands will supply thinner, 20mm countertops in order to reduce costs. As we’ve manufactured Forza to be cost-effective for the customer, we don’t have to value engineer a cost saving by reducing the thickness. We do supply 20mm upon request, although this is generally from an aesthetic viewpoint.
What trends in worksurface style/colour are you seeing at the moment?
At the moment, veined materials seem to be very popular in the retail market. Materials with longitudinal veins running through the slab are especially on-trend.
For the housebuilder market, we’re still seeing the lighter-coloured mirror chips being popular. Short-veined materials are also selling very well, with Forza Attico and Forza White Pearl being particular standouts in our range.
Are granite countertops going out of style?
There’s no doubt that granite is not as popular as it once was, and this has been the case for a number of years now. While granite can still be found in some high-end retail kitchen showrooms, quartz has taken most of the market share.
I’ve personally seen a definite shift since I began working in the industry. Some years ago, nearly all showrooms had a granite display as standard – today, it’s switched to quartz.
Interestingly, a lot of people I speak with still use the term ‘granite’ as a term to describe a stone countertop which is probably actually quartz.
Can you tell us a little bit about the Forza range and why you think it helps Athena stand out from the competition?
Athena was built around fantastic service and value. We pride ourselves on offering our clients a first-class service at a competitive price.
That’s why we introduced Forza. Sourcing from several manufacturers means our supply chain remains very strong. Even if one manufacturer runs into difficulties, we have alternative options that we’ve already approved and know are of the high quality required. This means that when a client places a Forza order with us, they can be assured we will have stock readily available. And, with a quick turnaround from order to template, and template to install, the whole process can be completed in 10 working days.
Another standout aspect of Athena Surfaces is the fact that our team of BDMs will visit sites or showrooms with samples, brochures and training as part of our overall package.
It’s important for us to try to make the whole process as straightforward as possible for everyone involved. So far, we’re delighted that Forza has been incredibly well received, and has already been approved by several of the UK’s leading housebuilders.
Are you a housebuilder looking to streamline your worktop supply chain? Talk to us about how the process works.