Talking Creative Lab

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By June Ramli

Established in 2018 by Niro Ceramic Group, Creative Lab is a new way of experiencing home renovation with its comprehensive in-house services, a wide range of tiles and sanitary wares and 3D Design software services too.
With over 40 outlets nationwide and counting, Creative Lab has also grown its presence regionally and with offices in Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
To meet demands from its increasing consumer base, Creative Lab is also looking to expand its reach and consumer touchpoints through the support and contribution of its dedicated team and have been steadily growing their presence nationwide with its recent expansion in Johor and a grand opening in Ulu Tiram.
To date, the company has also announced that it will be the sole distributor of Niro Granite in Malaysia. To better understand the company, we recently spoke to Niro Ceramic Group, Managing Director Ian Kok on its expansion plans and a myriad of other things.

Creative Lab.

Can you tell us the range of services Creative Lab offers?

Creative Lab is a new way of experiencing home renovation with its comprehensive in-house services, and its wide range of tiles and sanitary wares. Designed to be an experiential retail environment that enables decisions to be made with ease, all Creative Lab outlets are equipped with 3D design software that enables free instant visualisation of the renovation, alongside its in-house design experts.

How was the home renovation industry during the early months of the pandemic vs now?

During the pandemic, there was a slowdown in home renovations as people were unable to move about and consumers were unable to visit our retail stores as well. However, we kept in touch through online means with our customers during the lockdowns and had
online campaigns where customers can still purchase our products through e-commerce channels and marketplace and redeem them when the stores were opened. Now that the endemic is in place, more people are looking to renovate their spaces allowing us to have a better reach to them.

What are the recovery strategies used for Creative Lab’s market revival?

Apart from pivoting all our awareness amplification efforts online, we also pay more attention to the current demands/trends of our customers and dial up the personalised offerings that we have to cater to different audiences, tastes and preferences. Additionally, we also looked into possible ways to widen our reach to potential customers through having a presence on the e-commerce platform, Shopee. During our campaigns on Shopee, customers can get great deals in the form of cash vouchers, and use them at any of our outlets nationwide.

Why was Johor’s market chosen for the brand expansion?

There has been a huge development in the property market in recent years in Johor and Creative Lab is opening more outlets with the aim to expand the reach and consumer touchpoints and also reach out to Singapore consumers. We hope that through this expansion, our consumers will be able to enjoy the services provided in making their home renovation a smooth process.

Tell us about the strategy behind the Niro Granite exclusivity in Creative Lab.

Creative Lab is a breakthrough in terms of how people buy tiles. Previously, consumers visited tile shops and went through rows and rows of tiles to select what they prefer without knowing the outcome of the renovation. With Creative Lab, they are able to visualize the outcome before they select their preferred tile.

Niro Ceramic Group, Managing Director Ian Kok.

What are the challenges faced when expanding locally during the pandemic?

In Creative Lab, our main challenge is the lack of awareness of such experiential home renovation services, as many of them are used to the traditional way of shopping for renovations. In the interest of providing convenience to the consumers and keeping up with the technological advancements in retail, we are determined to dial up the awareness amongst homeowners, and empower them to spruce up their homes. Aside from that, we have also expanded our brand partnerships to boost brand awareness and widen the reach of potential customers. For example, we have partnered with Loob Holdings as their official design consultant for all Loob Holding-owned and affiliated brands and outlets such as Tealive.

How did COVID-19 affect the business expansion opportunities for companies in the same industry?

Consumers were unable to leave their homes. Due to that, they are unable to visit our retail outlets, thus it was not an advisable period for us to expand.

With the endemic stage in place, what advice can you give on business recovery?

Home improvement or renovation will continue to be a big part of consumers’ lives post-pandemic. We foresee the trend to cater to the pandemic-ready theme — that mainly focuses on multifunctional spaces and creating homes that cater to physical and mental well-being, as the experience of the lockdown has forced homeowners to relook into their spaces at home and adapt according to the changes.

Is Creative Lab looking to expand into other countries or distributors for Niro Granite?

Presently, Creative Lab has a total of over 40 outlets nationwide and has a presence in Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines. In the near future, the team will love to look into expanding further to allow consumers to experience a new way of home renovation with its comprehensive in-house services, and its wide range of tiles and sanitary wares through our outlets.

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