DIY giant Kingfisher’s trade chain Screwfix is to trial a standalone bathroom store, called Watersmith.

The trial store, which was due to open as Retail Week went to press on Thursday, will cater for consumer as well as trade, and is located in Stoke-on-Trent, next to one of Screwfix’s branches.

The 3,000 sq ft store stocks products including heated towel rails, freestanding baths and double shower cubicles, some of which are from the Screwfix range. Items can be purchased to take away immediately or be delivered in 24 hours.

Screwfix commercial director Andrew Livingston said: “Our new showroom concept is a step change in presentation and experience that responds to what our customers are telling us they want and need.”

He described the store environment as “unique”, adding that it “enables both audiences to shop the way they please, but that also brings them together so that tradesmen and customers can browse together”.

Interest in the bath sector has been hotting up. Building materials firm Wolseley put its chain Bathstore up for sale at the end of last year, while DIY retailer Wickes opened a standalone Wickes Kitchens & Bathrooms fascia in April, as revealed by Retail Week (April 1, 2010). It now operates several of its stores under the fascia.

Watersmith - which is an existing Screwfix brand and has its own catalogue - will display product both on the walls and in room sets. The retailer said the colour-coded, catalogue-co-ordinated displays will provide an easy-to-navigate shopping experience.

Retail Week Knowledge Bank director Robert Clark said the baths market has developed significantly in the last decade, but questioned why Kingfisher didn’t do this earlier, and why it is being operated by Screwfix, not B&Q. He said while the bathroom market is tough at present, it will bounce back.

Shopfitter and design agency Resolution Interiors designed the store.