From having doubts about the value of trade shows, after exhibiting at the FIT Show KAT’s Chairman David Richards is now a committed believer.

So much so, he successfully launched his upmarket door firm Spitfire Doors there and is coming back for more.

David Richard’s sojourn to Switzerland in the late ‘90s was life changing in more ways than the KAT founder had originally intended.

Certainly, it gave him and his family an opportunity to experience working and living in central Europe but involvement in the high end luxury watch industry gave David an insight into the mentality of the wealthy that perhaps could not be appreciated as a mere consumer.

After returning to the UK in 2012 and with KAT now achieving its ambitious goals under a team guided by Chris Powell, David’s thoughts turned once again to the luxury market but instead of exclusive timepieces he began to consider what wealthy British homeowners did when they wanted to replace the front doors of their expensive homes.

Surely a composite would not be good enough for them?

David’s conclusion was that indeed they were not, but furthermore the options open to them were limited and certainly when compared to the range of products enjoyed by wealthy homeowners in mainland Europe.

The doors manufactured by Inotherm, market leaders in Germany, Austria and Switzerland may be considered ‘high theatre’ by comparison with anything offered in the broader UK market and David decided that these would provide Britain’s wealthy with something that would whet their appetites.

After spending much of 2015 persuading Inotherm that the UK would be a vibrant market for their products and furthermore of course, that he and his team would be the right people to handle them, David brought the first products into the UK in September 2015, with a view to a full launch at the FIT Show 7 months later.

Engineering specification for Inotherm’s products is mightily impressive: 3mm thick Schüco door sash sections and 3mm thick aluminium skins inside and outside sandwich a dense polyurethane foam core which combine to offer class-leading energy efficiency with a U Value of just 0.67 W/m2K.

A range of more than 600 designs is available in an almost limitless range of RAL Colours and 20 wood-effects, with widths up to 1.25 metres wide and a massive 2.7 metres high, with configurations that will deal easily with the Grand Entrance of any luxury home.

None of which fully tells the tale. Few of these doors will ever be installed in their standard specification and indeed to do so would deny users the element of theatre that should accompany every entry fitted with an Inotherm door from Spitfire.

With a specification list that might shame Rolls Royce, every door may be installed with fingerprint recognition or smart spyhole technology; and whilst UK hardware manufacturers are struggling to persuade homeowners of the benefits of electronic locking, Spitfire doors are available with automatic opening…press the button and the door swings majestically open as one approaches.

The RAL colours and surface detailing brought by wood-effects and textured surface finishes may not be enough for many owners of large and imposing luxury homes. Fear not: a range of spectacular triple glazed glass options are available but the choice of genuine Swarovski crystals and integrated LED lighting will just be too much for many to resist, bringing new meaning to the expression ‘making an entrance’.

Of course, Spitfire Doors command a premium. Five ranges are available, from S-100 to S-500, with installed prices starting from circa £2,000 up to £10,000. These prices do not present a barrier to sales in Europe where in excess of 5,000 of what we would consider high-end aluminium residential entrance doors are installed every week.

David says his goals are modest: “We are selling 10 doors a week on average and this will grow we believe to between 20 to 30 a week by mid-2017. Our top three ranges are the ‘Bentley’s of residential entrance doors and we will therefore use marketing methods that are more akin to luxury goods than doors, to reach our customers.”

This includes exhibiting at such exotic venues as the Salon Privé Concours d’Elegance, the champagne-fuelled hypercar festival for which entrance tickets alone can be £300 and more. David believes that once visitors have spent a few hundred thousand supplementing their motor collections, his doors will catch the attention of people whose main driver is to have ‘something different’ for their homes. And £8-10,000 will be mere change to someone that has just purchased a Lamborghini, a typical Spitfire purchaser.

Of course, Blenheim Palace, venue for Salon Privé, will be preceded by a further appearance for Spitfire Doors at the FIT Show, taking place for the first time at the National Exhibition Centre.

The FIT Show may be slightly more prosaic than Salon Privé (though it was graced by a Lamborghini supercar last time out) but that is where David decided he would launch Spitfire and that is what he achieved, with spectacular results:

“After Glassex I was sceptical of shows but I took KAT to the first FIT Show in 2013 to give it a chance,” explained David. “It was a very pleasant surprise and the level of enthusiasm was very high; it worked!”

Missing the following year, David brought KAT back to the 2016 event and also decided to launch Spitfire there with a separate stand. “It was incredible,” enthused David. “We took 179 good quality leads there and have appointed 10 high-end dealers – we call them ‘Design Partners’ - displaying the higher priced S-500 Series and 36 others partners now promoting our Spitfire trade door ranges. All took doors for their showrooms and paid to do so. I have never known a take-up like it,” exclaimed David, a seasoned veteran of trade shows for the window and door industry. “They all see an exciting future for aluminium products.”

“We validated our enquiries for Design Partners according to strict criteria: two fitting teams minimum, owner managed and willing to make a commitment to us by buying their showroom displays from us. These people are not just ticking a box, they are showing commitment and the meetings we have had since confirm that.”

With 10 showroom installations already completed by November 2016, the Design Partners are now installing Inotherm’s Door Designer programme onto their websites, with a retail package that includes point of sale and, as would be expected, an upmarket retail brochure.

Spitfire is returning to the FIT Show in May when the event sets up at the NEC for the first time: “We still have a few areas in which we wish to appoint Design Partners,” explains David. “I launched Spitfire Doors at the FIT Show and it was way more positive than I could possibly have hoped for. Now I want to fill in the few gaps we have and the move to the NEC should be very good for just that,” he concluded.