Topps Tiles is rolling out a chain of small boutique stores that take advantage of the company's online visualiser tool, which provides both inspiration and the platform for customers to design their interior spaces.

Speaking at RBTE 2016 on day two, Phil D'Souza, merchandising director at Topps Tiles, said the number of 'inspirational' boutique stores will double this year to over 20 outlets, which are located in central locations and have a limited range but are enhanced by the use of technology.

"We've integrated the visualiser tool into these stores and combined it with consultation, which is the core of the offer in these stores," he explained, while revealing that the 620 sq ft store in London's Chelsea with its 2,000 lines has the same capabilities as a regular 3,000 sq ft outlet.

The visualiser enables typically domestic customers, who D'Souza refers to as 'specifiers' as they will invariably employ a tradesman rather than taking the DIY route, to define the room project online and fully personalise the design. Key to the visualiser's success is its multi-platform capability.

"Wherever you start the [design] journey there is the capability to maintain it end-to-end across multi-platforms – mobile, desktop, iPads and also in-store. The visualiser is about creating a seamless journey across all touch-points. We need all the elements coming together. But the store is the core of the proposition," said D'Souza.

Since trade customers represent 50% of Topps Tiles' base of shoppers and they buy very frequently - as well as introducing new 'specifier' customers - the company is currently developing a CRM channel for engaging better with this valuable grouping. 

Topps Tiles is also working on its back-end supply chain as it seeks to remove the silos from within the business. "Technology silos exist [in retail] and this has been the case with Topps Tiles. The website is semi-independent from the rest of the business. But we want as few silos as possible and we're seeking to align them in the same way we have done with the visualiser," he explained.