As you open the doors at KBIS, walk through the entry hallway at ISH and exit your taxi at Salonė de Mobile, your mind is laser-focused on discovering exciting products you will bring back to your showroom. Sure you will bump into many industry friends and share a thought or two but your primary reason for braving the monster buildings with countless aisles is to uncover new merchandise to excite your design hungry clients.

When I open the ballroom door and enter the 2022 DPHA conference, the booths catch my eye but I am looking for familiar industry wide faces and those new personalities that i do not know. The DPHA conference is all about the decorative plumbing and hardware, period. It presents me with the opportunity to see new products from decorative plumbing and hardware focused vendors, industry relevant education sessions and opportunities to interact with the people that manage and own DPHA businesses.

Plumbing supply showrooms have been product driven since the day Mr. Kohler’s birthday bath frightened plumbers and wowed luxury customers. As forward thinking plumbers realized installing fine fixtures could be very profitable, decorative plumbing showrooms became viable. In these early times, the showroom’s burden was to present beautifully styled products that would change bathrooms from a sterile 5x7, chrome and white box into an elegant space that flows with the design and feel of an elegant home. It was the right strategy to carry this message to the wealthy public, designers and builders and product. Put enough on display and people will have no doubt.

Then as showroom business started to increase its market awareness, expanded cracks started to emerge.

People issues: Who will train the salespeople how to sell luxury prices and product? How should I compensate a my top sales person? What lines are best for me, my team and my market?

Merchandising and marketing questions: How should I design my showroom to woo and wow the luxury players? What should I inventory? How can I educate my target market?

Tech issues: Where do I find the best data on the upper-end market? What is a Google ad word? How do I Snapchat on Instagram? And the list is always getting longer.

At the big shows, it is all about selling you product and improving and expanding their showroom space. But, market leading showrooms are about so much more than a hot toilet, fabulous faucet and miles and miles of factory displays. Market leading decorative plumbing showrooms are focused on consistently creating a luxury experience that belongs in the high design conversation along with Holly Hunt, Herman Miller and, in the 21st century, Restoration Hardware.

How does your business get better? How does your showroom educate and train new sales people. How does you showroom work to keep your well-traveled, well-read wealthy design and building customer engaged? As the mighty, mighty Peter Ducker taught, "culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

With all this in mind, I would like to share a few of the highlights of my 2022 DPHA Conference.

The keynote speaker carefully showed us how culture rich companies significantly our perform their competition. They then took us through a few group exercises that we could do with our own teams.  The instructions were simple and are designed to help your team see where they stand and how they can perform better if all are working together. Today’s showroom businesses can learn so much if they can effectively create and waiting ah honest bottom up culture.

Market leading decorative plumbing showrooms are focused on consistently creating a luxury experience that belongs in the high design conversation along with Holly Hunt, Herman Miller and, in the 21st century, Restoration Hardware.

Later that day, I attended a presentation by a retail sales data house that was focused on the top of the market. They presented luxury retail sales analysis from before, during and after COVID. They explained the process and data that was used to create each figure. Then they presented various scenarios on how the next few years might evolve. All the while answering many, many questions. Put very simply, the ultra-rich will continue to act like the ultra rich, no surprise. But, they showed how many people were exposed to the best products and are likely to wait until they have enough funds to job the job best.

On the last day, we participated in round tables. We were all randomly spilt in to groups of 20 with a board member as moderators. The group I was fortunate to be with was made of up of three successful multi-person decorative representative agencies, two showroom owners, one Vice President from a plumbing brand form a fortune 500 company and executives from Oracle and NetSuite. We discussed topics from the economy to AI, with all the diversity in our group the discussion of each topic was wide ranging and included many factors of market influence that I had not seen. I will refer back to the session for insight into my business thoughts and writing these articles.

Standout product trends from DPHA 2022:

  • Unlacquered brass finishes, in many treatments, remains very popular;
  • Stem-Punk, industrial look is slowing;
  • Knurling remains strong;
  • Steam is almost a given in any luxury shower; and
  • Residential electronic locks are ready for prime time.

In wrapping up, getting out of your showroom, away from your business and visiting a show, a conference or other luxury businesses is great way to create new ideas and a fertile environment for your team to improve. KBIS, ISH, Salonė de Mobile and your buying group meetings are beneficial in their historically focused way. On the other side, the DPHA gathering is focused on making the Decorative Plumbing and Hardware industry smarter.

After all what is more important than a good education?

The DPHA 2023 Conference will be held in Chicago, just across the street from the Bean.

If you would like to discuss this in more depth, please reach out to me on LinkedIn,

I with you all a Happy Holidays and a rich 2023.