Consider these ideas, trends and suggestions to make your showroom more profitable.

How fortunate can one guy be? Terrific family, wonderful friends, great health (except for a pretty bummed up knee - but this too shall pass) and able to work in an industry that I love. I mean, really love! I get to visit 30+/- showrooms a year doing consulting. I do a dozen or so keynote talks to various groups. I’m teaching 15-20 “Selling Skills” and “Business Management” workshops this year. I was just retained to write my fifth book. And last, but not least, I’m honored to write articles for two great industry trade publications. Yes, I’m truly blessed!

As I travel these United States and a bit of Canada, I get to see a lot of showrooms and meet a lot of people. I get to see the good, the terrible, and a whole lot in between. I learn a lot - probably more than I teach.

I’m able to see the trends in how showrooms are built out and operated.

A lot of what I share in my articles comes from these experiences. I have a core of ideas that I’ve had for quite awhile and feel very strongly about - but when I see new things, I like to share these with you.

A long time ago my dad said, “Hank, if you steal an idea from one person, that’s plagiarism. That’s bad, don’t do it! But if you steal an idea from two or more, that’s market research. Use it to your advantage.”

Following is a list of ideas, trends and suggestions that you might want to use for your showroom. These are not in any particular order.

  • Get a deposit on special order products. When selling to the homeowner, 50% down and 50% on delivery has been pretty standard. I’m seeing more and more people getting 100% up front. And a number of people are getting at least a 50% deposit from the plumbers and homebuilders. I like it. I think you should!

  • Display products by like products. Have one big faucet wall with all the faucets grouped together. Put all the toilets in one area. Ditto for tubs, lavs, etc. And when it comes to faucets, don’t group them by manufacturer, group them by style: all the contemporary faucets together, all the traditional faucets, etc. Grouping products that way makes it easier for the customer and the salesperson.

  • Use your own boxes and boards throughout the showroom. It makes a much better-looking display. Many manufacturers will “give” you the boards and boxes. Tell them you will be using your own and negotiate $30 per box and $50 per board in credits or toward products.

  • Don't use manufacturers' names. Do not use names on boxes, boards, walls, etc. Now I know some (maybe most) of your partners won’t like that. They like their brand flags waving high. But I believe your brand should be your business (name of your showroom). Many of your products are sold by virtually every wholesaler and every big box store. One way to help drive margins up is to keep model numbers and names to yourself. 

  • No manufacturer model numbers. Use your own numbers if possible - but don’t be a library for the public.

  • Put your prices on products. Be customer friendly by showing model numbers and prices. But only yours! The price may be list plus, list or list less something. Mix it up. Leave room for discounting on larger projects and contractors.

  • If you recommend a plumber or builder, do a disclaimer stating that you are not responsible. Always give out three or more names, never just one. You don’t want clients coming back to you upset because you recommended someone that didn’t perform.

  • Have the best Web site in your marketplace. This is very important today and will be even more important in the future.

  • Treat the showroom as a profit center. You need to know if you’re making a fair return on your investment. Do monthly financial statements. Share the results.

  • Establish sales and margin goals. Do this for the showroom and each salesperson. Everyone deserves to know how they’re performing.

  • Set a minimum goal of 35% gross profit margin. This applies to the showroom and salespeople. Even better: 40%.

  • Don't give plumbers the same discount out of the showroom that they get on the wholesale side. The showroom is a higher cost operation. You have to make 5-10 points more there than in over-the-counter sales.

  • Do compensation programs that include an incentive/commission driven by sales and margin. I like a combination salary/commission plan that incorporates a sliding scale: the higher the margin, the higher the commission.

  • Pay showroom managers and salespeople a fair, competitive wage. If you pay more, you should expect to get more: increased productivity and improved quality. As in most things, you get what you pay for.

  • Call on custom home builders and remodelers. Don’t just sit in the showroom waiting/hoping they will come through your doors. Be pro-active and take your message to them.

  • Have several flat-screen monitors in the showroom. Have one that tells the company story (“Welcome, this is who we are, how we operate, why we’re good,” etc.) Have one or two more that are running “educational” information on your vendors and their products. Have another one that is showing completed projects and reciting testimonials.

  • Join the Decorative Plumbing and Hardware Association. This is the best place for training and networking in the industry. (E-mail me and I’ll send you the particulars, or go to

  • Consider joining a buying group. Join a buying group that specializes in decorative plumbing and hardware products. There very well might be good educational, networking and dollar rebate reasons for you to join.

  • Diversify your product selection.   Become a “one-stop shopping” source for anything and everything for the bath and kitchen. Here are some of the products you might consider: door and cabinet hardware, lighting, tile, countertops, kitchen cabinets, appliances, flooring, steamers, saunas, towel warmers and even soft goods.

  • Subscribe to permit lists. Get the list of every permit pulled to build new or remodel in your marketplace. Cull the list and send a nice mailing to those you want to get your message to.

  • Host trade association monthly meetings. Here are a few organizations that might be a possibility: NKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Association), ASID (Interior Designers), AIA (American Institute of Architects) NARI (Remodelers), BIA (Building Industry Association).

  • Do educational seminars in your showroom. Do a direct mailing to a specific zip code area (larger homes, 10 years or older, etc.) Do a seminar on “How to Do a Kitchen or Bath Remodel,” “See the Latest Styles and Trends in Kitchen and Bath Products,” etc.

  • Participate in local home shows.  Do a quality booth. Have a reason for folks to stop by your booth (some type of coupon or giveaway drawing). You be the expert and conduct a seminar in new styles and trends in plumbing products.

  • Do a series of radio commercials.   Have your voice become recognized as the local expert on decorative plumbing products.

  • Do cable TV advertorials.  Tell who you are, what you do and why you’re good. Weave some products in for co-op dollars -but make it about you.

  • Do an annual marketing plan. Budget 5%+/- of showroom sales for the total annual plan. Spell out what advertising, promotions, public relations you want to participate in. Spell out when! Do a spreadsheet for the entire year showing who, what, when, where and how much - every month!

  • Do a marketing survey. Either do a blind zip code mailing or mail to your customer base. Ask them what radio and television stations they listen to, what newspaper and magazines they read. Offer a gift certificate to everyone who responds. Compile the results and use them as your guideline.

  • Do a customer satisfaction survey.  This should go to all customers who did projects over $5,000. Ask 10 easy-to-answer questions. Leave room for comments. Offer a $10 gift card to Starbucks for every one sent back in the enclosed, self-addressed, stamped envelope. You’ll learn a lot about your business and your staff!

  • Provide client referral cards. Include referral cards in the above-mentioned customer satisfaction survey mailing. Again, offer a $10 gift certificate to Starbucks (or another like certificate) for everyone brought into the showroom, and a gift certificate for dinner for every referral that turns into an order of $5,000 or more. Use past clients as great referral lead opportunities.

    Well, I could keep on going, but my boss only gives me so much room per article! I hope there might be two or three ideas here that might help you.  Sell more, make more and have more fun!