In the pandemic year 2020, your showroom has a velvet rope around it and is only open to those with appointments. All the while, it remains lovely inside; elegant products adorn every wall and talented sales people are at the ready. 

Finally, after decades of preaching, customers are now actually coming in with appointments. Maybe this COVID-19 thing will finally make showroom appointments the norm. And that is a good thing, right?

What will happen if a loyal luxury designer just happens to be in the area with a potential client and would like to show off your showroom with no appointment? What is a builder to do when they are deep into a remodel project only to discover their client has yet to select a faucet and sink? Without an appointment, they cannot send them to your showroom to see, touch and interact with the products you have in stock. You lose in both instances. 

The designer cannot effectively pitch a nice budget for the job’s bathroom designs, and the builder will have to send them to a big box store. 

This appointment thing is not really how you built the showroom part of your business. Successful showrooms do solid marketing and create passionate word-of-mouth referral in their markets. How good can word-of-mouth be if there is no stop by and shop? Will people make appointments to simply walk around your showroom to admire your elegant bathroom and kitchen fixtures? Do you want them to? I think not.

Is a culture of going with appointments good? Yes. Is closing the doors on walk-ins good? No!  What’s a showroom to do?

Let’s look at the pre-pandemic data and talk with showroom salespeople to identify those building and design professionals that were in our showroom a lot, but are not a typical customer. I refer to this group as “addicted users.” They love to use, learn from and be in your showroom. This is the design professional that will ask to use a showroom work table to work with a client, and you simply say “OK” not knowing what they will be working on. This is the builder that is always rushing clients to your door needing something right now so as not to hold up the job. They might seem to be a nuisance. 

Do not judge these people solely by their purchases. Note the way they use your showroom and promote your showroom. The fact they have selected your brand is your gain.

I have found these professionals are active in their local trade groups and will always talk up your showroom because you share your space; treat them with respect and save their butt. Their fellow designers or builders know they are not the best. They also know they need the most support and that speaks well for your team. It never hurts to have your brand mentioned in a professional environment, especially when it is a positive comment. 

So what to do? You are only allowed so many people touring your showroom at a time, and you need to keep it disinfected. How do you bring these customers back?

Unfortunately, at this immediate moment in time, you cannot simply let them return to their pre-pandemic style. Their style has worked for them and now it has been outlawed. This is an opportunity for your showroom to resume and secure a good customer partner.

For your addicted users, try to create a plan that allows them the opportunity to semi-revert to their original buying style. For the builder who consistently forgets to order, offer them a hotline to call and your team will find a way. On Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, open your showroom on a first come, first serve basis. This “open-time” can also be advertised as walk-in time. 

Take the list of customers you generated and assign a few to each showroom salesperson. Call these addicted users and tell them what you have created to support their business style. I think you will find them very happy to talk, and thankful you understand their needs. They will be more loyal than ever; singing your praises far and wide.

These are only two types of showroom clients that will struggle with an appointment only showrooms system. There are a lot of builders, designers and plumbers that work in a manner that will find this structured system difficult. If you identify them, your team will be able to find some way to accommodate their unique style.

These times are tough and businesses are constantly being slapped with new, never imagined demands affecting you and your customers. This is when great businesses look to see what opportunities these changes will create. Good and bad changes create new walls. We need to step back and find the right door that our clients will gladly open to continue to work with your brand.

Best of luck out there, keep you minds open and please, be safe.