A look at Gold Coast-born bathroom retailer Highgrove Bathrooms, whose unique bathroom designs feature in homes right across SE Queensland and well beyond

James Sinclair, who is the second generation at the helm of leading national bathroom retailer Highgrove Bathrooms, took over a decade ago when founding father Lindsay stepped back from the day-to-day running of the business. James and his brother Wesley had spent a good number of years working in the business, before taking over directorship and operations.

They knew the ropes well, were already entrenched in the business, and could maintain what worked yet bring an element of innovation and a fresh forward vision to the business. Succession of a family business is no easy task, but the Sinclair family has obviously managed this well.

“We always felt really committed to strong family values and wanted to carry this on, right across the business and our franchisees too. It has always been more about expanding at the right pace with the right people – foremost – rather than just go for fast growth,” says James.

According to the latest Family Business Australia survey, the number one key business objective for family businesses is to be purpose-driven and to retain good talent. And, this is exactly what the Sinclair’s have been practicing over the past 18 years of operation, which has made them the fastest growing bathroom retailer nationally.

Growing Up

Expanding to meet customer demand, required attracting the right talent, which is a two-way street, explains James. Not only has Highgrove Bathrooms been attracting the right people, but they have been able to extend those strong family values to their franchisees as well, with many being family-run and some owning more than one store.

Nick Crosland (the first franchisee ever) opened the East Brisbane store in 2008, followed by Underwood and Ipswich in 2009 and 2010, respectively, and that, at just 19 years of age. It took a family effort on his part too to get into the first store, leveraging his parent’s family home to fund his first Highgrove Bathrooms store. From little things, big things grew…

Nick even inspired his two younger brothers Jim and Ben to get their own stores, with Jim opening Summer Hill in 2013 and Brookvale in 2015. Soon enough, Ben, the youngest of the three brothers opened in Penrith in 2018.

Nick meanwhile owns seven Highgrove Bathroom stores adding Fortitude Valley (2012), Lawnton (2017), and Capalaba (2019) with the latest addition being Toowoomba last year. This makes the Crosland family the biggest stakeholder in Highgrove Bathrooms apart from the founding family – the Sinclairs. Having played a major part in the expansion of the retail chain to meanwhile 50 stores nationally, the Crosland’s now hold ten stores between the three brothers.

To take a business from one or a few locations to a national network is not free from challenges, pitfalls, and risks, but for the Sinclairs and the Crosland’s, this journey has laid the foundations for unprecedented growth. Actually, 18 years of year-on-year growth despite a GFC, a global pandemic, and yo-yo-ing interest rates, property prices, and retail spending which has seen many retail sectors suffer greatly.

A recent Family Business Australia survey found that the biggest risks for family businesses are the ability to develop, acquire or retain key skills (51%), the increasing costs of doing business (45%), and the changing consumer preferences and purchasing behaviours (38%), which affect all businesses really, but especially family owned and operated ones. Such challenges have to be anticipated and managed within the family construct, where there are personal dynamics at play as well, and are often faced around the kitchen table as much as at the office.

For Highgrove Bathrooms MD, James Sinclair, he couldn’t agree more, but seeing their growth, is proof that the way they have structured their business; their core family values; and the fact that they are attracting further family businesses (like the Crosland’s) to join the Highgrove Bathrooms family – speaks volumes.

Being Customer-centric

“Business is never easy, but by making it all about our customers and what they want, maintaining that family business flair even with our franchisees, it means we are almost more in the people business than we are in the bathroom business,” says James.

“For us, it was always about meeting demand and the changing wishes from homeowners, renovators, and new home builders – essentially B2C customers. And, since we are attracting more and more trade clients as well and all of our franchisees are really aligned with our family values, I think we must be doing something right”.

The focus for the 2nd generation of Sinclairs has always been product development, meeting consumer demand, and leading bathroom innovation. They established their own design team, developed a mix-and-match range, and continue to spearhead new trends, styles, and design finesse.

“Bathrooms are something so personal too, they are core and centre to any family and home – straight after the kitchen. I think that we are leading from the heart, making it foremost about our customers, and this reflects in our products, the quality of franchisees we attract, and our growth too. It has been our outlook and commitment from the word go.”

For everything bathrooms or to learn about what opportunities exist to run your own Highgrove Bathrooms store, log onto www.highgrovebathrooms.com.au