DARLINGTON ON SHOWROOMS:Just How Good A Retailer/Merchandiser Are You?
Recently I was asked to give a talk at this year’s Decorative Plumbing and Hardware Association’s annual conference in Boston Oct. 5-7. I’ve been asked to talk about how to do a great job merchandising a showroom. Well now, from years ago in college and a Masters Degree in Business and Marketing, I learned a little about “merchandising” - and I always believed I did a pretty good job merchandising my showrooms when I owned them. But it’s been awhile, so I decided to do some research.
One evening I “Googled” the term “merchandising” and spent an hour at Borders. Sure, there was some good information, but nothing that really applied to our great products. Almost everything was directed at the big department stores, big boxes and the fashion industry.
So first thing the next morning I started listing everything I could think of that would fall under the term “merchandising” for a showroom of decorative plumbing and hardware products. Wow, the list just kept growing. Check the following list of things you need to do - and do well - to be considered a good merchandiser.
Allow me to start with a definition of the term merchandising:
1: The planning involved in marketing the right merchandise or service at the right price, at the right time, in the right quantities and at the right price.
2:The retail selling effort that is the principal task of in-store sales personnel through the use of promotions designed by a manufacturer or distributor - such as unique displays, giveaways, or discount and premium offers. In this case, merchandising is the act of managing and arranging the merchandise on display in a store in order to promote its sale.
Yes, merchandising is mainly considered to be a part of retailing - and I know I’m writing to predominately a wholesaler audience. But if you have a showroom operation, it needs to look, feel and be treated as a retail-type business. Even if you are one of the diminishing few that sell only to the plumbing contractor, isn’t it a fact that it’s the homeowner and designer who are doing the major portion of the selection of the product? This being the fact, then you have to learn and exercise the very best retailing and merchandising techniques possible.
Think about your favorite higher end retail store. In fact, don’t just think about them - go visit them. Study them! Learn from them! Some of my favorites are Crate and Barrel, Williams-Sonoma, The Pottery Barn, Nordstrom and Tiffany. What really makes these folks better, different and more unique?
Here is my list of things that I believe are important merchandising elements that when done well - better than your competition - can and will put you out in front. Due to space limitations I have listed them in bullet point form with just a few words of explanation. It’s probably a subject that needs to be expanded upon. Join DPHA and attend the conference in October. I’ll be talking on this subject for a couple of hours.
Your brand: It is important that you develop your very own brand. Don’t count on your manufacturers and their brands.
Accessorizing the showroom: Do you have towels on towel bars, robes on hooks, etc.? Make your displays feel like home!
Nobody said the showroom business was easy. It certainly is a whole lot different than operating a wholesale business. If you operate a showroom, I would encourage you and your team to become students of retail and merchandising. I for one loved this end of the business. I also figured out pretty quickly that if I did all or most of the above items better than my competition, we would be winners.
Please feel free to e-mail if you have any questions or comments.