I was visiting Salem Plumbing Supply in Beverly, Massachusetts, for the first time and had not a clue where to go. As I approached a counter sales person, Ralph Sevinor, the owner and one fine gentleman, saw me and grabbed my arm and said, “I want to show you something.
He led me through the warehouse, up the stairs and into what I thought were a bank of offices. As we turned the corner, I saw a beautiful boiler installation mock up. Its copper piping was polished as the chrome on a classic Duesenberg, it was magnificent. I do not simply mean beautiful as in a clean install — it was that, but it was also a piece of industrial art, simply stunning. As Ralph walked me down the aisle past a few more precisely crafted, beauteous boiler setups we entered a class room.
This was where Salem Plumbing Supply held boiler installation education sessions to help local plumbers expand their talent base. After gawking at the glowing mock-ups, my lone thought was why was this so far from the showroom? Designers, builders and homeowners would love to witness these hand-crafted installations. It would give a unique layer of extra credibility to the knowledge base of the showroom team. If you are good at something, shout it out.
I politely mentioned to Ralph that a similar setup should be added to the showroom, these are gorgeous and it will show your clients that plumbing is a master art and you are now at its Boston home. He looked at me if I was some deranged youth. We then wandered over to the showroom for introductions and a PK.
To this day, I think this classroom and its “showroom” should have been right next to the five thousand dollar freestanding bathtubs, and recently, I have had this opinion strongly enforced. As I was sifting through various Chanel runway show reviews — my father was a textile sales person — I noticed the constant mentioning of the petites mains or seamstresses in English. They were continually celebrated. Even, the larger than life, Karl Lagerfeld always proudly presented the fine work of these talented people and noted their elegantly laborious input was absolutely essential to the creation of these art fashion garments. Yet, in our industry, many supply house showrooms hide their core business like it was a manifestation of Boo Radley. Why are you so afraid? Remember that the question, "Did you know this showroom is owned by a plumbing supply house?" can cut two ways. I say, when you are good at something, let the world know.
These thoughts are pulsing through the minds of the new monied millennials and Gen Z, your customer base for the future. So tell them. If you have showrooms that do not have a supply branch attached, share images of the business with your proud moments. HVAC, plumbing products or whatever, do not hide it, flaunt it. It is part of what your brand is and what it stands for. When presented with just the right relevant story, it will allow your customers an insight into the culture that is guiding this showroom and why this showroom is truly unique.
The next brand pillar, product and industry knowledge, is an easy step. Plumbing often has to be installed behind the wall. It also has to work from day one, and customers expect showrooms fixtures to last forever. But architects, designers, builders, plumbers and homeowners know problems can happen. That is why the design and building trades and research-happy homeowners will gravitate to a designer plumbing showroom with knowledgeable sales people backed by a strong foundation in plumbing.
Plumbing ain’t fabric or flooring. Once it is installed, it is expensive to replace, and if it leaks, it can cause exponential damage. Unglamorous commodities they may be, but a deep knowledge of the plumbing product world is a tremendous brand story for any elegant showroom. Could politely sharing that your brand also successfully sells and supports pipe, valve and fitting products help comfort your clients? Absolutely!
In the 1980s, it was perceived to be necessary for pipe and supply houses to hide their commodity businesses from the showroom customers for fear it would diminish the showroom’s presence. Today, that is no longer a concern. In fact, if this is hidden — accidentally or on purpose — it might be perceived by the emerging generations that your band has something to hide. I think, success, knowledge and diversity in business are talents to be celebrated and shown off.
All of your businesses should be included as the foundational element your brand story, it will help separate your showroom from all the other showrooms. Your showroom is not simply one of the places to see fabulous faucets, it is the decorative plumbing showroom that knows plumbing from A to Z. Maybe that seems obvious to you, but to your target customer, it could be the tipping point that elevates your business above the competition.
As the famous producer, Max Bialystock shouts, “That’s it, baby, when you’ve got it, flaunt it, flaunt it!”