The showroom’s exterior, lighting, signage, displays, accessories and colors are all part of the merchandising package used to win customers.



This is the third and last article on showroom merchandising. While doing research on this topic I have discovered how much I did not know - and it has become apparent that among both wholesalers and independent showroom operators, many do not understand this concept either.

Other than sharing what I have learned, all I can do is encourage you to do your own homework to become stronger in this area. Really good merchandising of your showrooms will not only help you earn a greater return on your investment, but will help ensure your future in this increasingly competitive business.

Visual merchandising can be defined as everything the customer sees, both interior and exterior, that creates a positive image of the business and results in attention, interest, desire and reaction of the consumer. It communicates to the customer what the showroom is all about. It includes the presentation of products and other subtle features that create the showroom’s atmosphere.

Here are some important elements of successful showroom merchandising.



Facility Exterior

The building should be located in a customer-friendly area, not necessarily where the wholesale business is operated. Make sure that both the building and landscaping are attractive and well-maintained. Provide the showroom with its own front entrance, convenient to parking and well marked.

Some wholesalers have given their showrooms a different, more descriptive name. Instead of “ABC Wholesale” the showroom might be called “Creative Bath & Kitchen.” Use signage that is tastefully done and highly visible. The name, colors and logo are a big piece of your brand.

Below are other features of a well-merchandised showroom:

  • Front window displays look good from the outside and the inside. You have an average of 15 seconds to attract attention, create interest and invite the customer into your store. The windows are always clean.

     

  • The hours of operation listed on the front door signage must be professionally done.

     

  • Make sure your showroom provides a good first impression. You have less than a minute to accomplish this.
  • The sound of water, a nice aroma or fresh flowers right inside the front door will help put your prospects in a relaxed mood.
  • Create a “decompression area” inside the front door.
  • Assign a receptionist to greet customers with a warm, sincere welcome; ask the initial qualifying questions; and serve a liquid refreshment.
  • Have a carefully designed showroom layout and flow.


  • Lighting

    This is one of the most important merchandising tools and may require professional help. Three types of lighting are used in a showroom:
  • Primary lighting, the overall level of illumination created by fluorescent or incandescent lights;
  • Accent or secondary lighting, which provides lighting in designated areas of display, including valance or showcase lighting;
  • Atmosphere lighting, such as pinpoint lighting, color filters and black lighting to create dramatic effects.
  • Accent lighting should have three times or more the intensity of ambient lighting.
  • Combine floods, spots and ambient lights for a dramatic effect.
  • Focus adjustable lights on the merchandise.
  • Adjust the lighting so there’s no glare in the shoppers’ eyes.
  • Use brighter lighting towards the back of the store to draw customers to that area.
  • Bulb size and type should be consistent.
  • No burned out bulbs - ever!
  • Spotlights will make merchandise “pop.”


  • Signage

    Very few decorative plumbing showrooms that I’ve visited utilize professional, well-done signage. On the contrary, they show manufacturer names above the displays, on faucet boxes and boards and on other manufacturer-supplied signage. They use a potpourri of signage for sale items, features and benefits. Make your signage consistent throughout the store. My suggestion is to have no manufacturer names on anything and have all signage professionally done. You are using signage as a silent, never absent, always accurate salesperson!
  • Use consistent holders for all signs - don’t tape them to the walls or product.
  • Make your signs easy to read and understand - use a large, consistent font.
  • Use the same tasteful colors for all signs.
  • Keep signage to a minimum.
  • Signage should describe both the features and the benefits of your main products.
  • Use signage for specials and promotions, but not so many sale tags that it looks like you’re going out of business.
  • Don’t mix the type of signs used.
  • Replace outdated and damaged signs.
  • Don’t use handmade signs.
  • On smaller signs margins and borders should be one inch on the top and sides, with bottom margins of 1-3/4 inches.
  • The optical center of the sign is about a third of the way down from the top edge, so position the main message in this vicinity.
  • I have changed my position regarding this idea: Include tastefully done model numbers and prices on every display item, but they should be your model numbers and your prices. You could use clear tape with black print for boards and boxes (smaller items), and black on white tags in plastic holders on larger products.
  • Use all the same boxes and boards for displays - yours, not a mix from the manufacturers. Instead of getting “free” boxes and boards from your vendor partners, ask for credit toward products and have your own boxes and boards made. This will cost about $30 per faucet box, $55 per bath accessory and shower product board. The entire showroom should be consistent.
  • You have three to eight seconds to attract customers to a display. That’s how long it takes for them to decide if the product is of value to them or not.


  • Color

    The colors used for walls, flooring and ceiling are important elements in creating a warm, enticing showroom. Color can influence our emotions, actions and responses to people, things and ideas. Also, they are easy to change.
  • Red is highly visible and good for accents.
  • Blue is cool and relaxing - good for thoughts on cleanliness and water.
  • Yellow conveys cheer and vitality and is good where there’s pool lighting.
  • Orange is warm, energetic and highly visible. Use it to catch attention and highlight the most important elements of your design.
  • Green is relaxing and relates with safety.
  • Purple is dramatic and rich.
  • Black, white and brown are neutral colors and can be used to soften bright displays. Use black sparingly.
  • Colors are labeled either warm or cool. Warm colors are yellow, orange and red and their combinations with black and white. They please the eye, enhance the appearance of the merchandise and optically push it to the front of the display. Cool colors are the greens and blues. They are good for window displays because they create an illusion of enlarging the window.


  • Displays

    Add a dramatic touch with a few working displays, such as one whirlpool tub with all the bells and whistles, a working showerhead, personal shower, body sprays and a working washlet seat.

    Create one or two “Wow” displays - complete vignettes that show a great-looking bathroom or kitchen.

  • Display like products together if possible. If you have a faucet wall, keep all the contemporary faucets together and do the same with traditional-styled products. Try to keep all kitchen products in one area. Have a tub and vessel area. Make shopping easy for your customers.
  • Build displays that are moveable and easy to change out.
  • Budget and plan to change 20-25% of your showroom displays every year. This is how fast products, styles and colors change. Keep your showroom fresh for both customers and your sales consultants.
  • Play DVDs/CDs on flat-screen monitors to tell your company/showroom story, show finished projects and share educational messages on manufacturers and products. Some great-looking kiosks are available for this.
  • As an alternative to the above, do a professionally done “storyboard” somewhere near the front door that tells folks who you are, how you work and why you’re the best. Inform and brag!
  • Where it makes sense, use oversized photos (such as 40 by 50 inches) of bathrooms and products, professionally framed. Many manufacturers have these photos available. They are colorful, help tell a product story and are more cost effective than building out real vignettes.


  • Accessories

    Accessorize your showroom to give your displays a home-like look. This will take your displays from boring to beautiful and create a welcoming environment.
  • Make your space look enjoyed and lived in without losing the panache of great style.
  • Use accessories to add “punch” to the overall setting.
  • Decorate with live plants and flowers.
  • Fabric adds a sense of touch to the displays.
  • Accessorize with towels, robes and boutique items - and offer them for sale.


  • Don't Forget These!

    Here are a few more merchandising tips to remember:
  • Position work areas in a convenient location and keep them well maintained.
  • There cannot be any “holes” in displays - not ever!
  • When you re-do an area of the showroom post a professionally done sign that says: “Please excuse our dust while we remodel our showroom for you.”

    Once again, I’ve run out of space - there was more I wanted to cover, but three consecutive articles on this topic should be enough for now. Merchandising is an essential ingredient to the success of your showroom. I challenge you to start incorporating some of these ideas I’ve shared with you - now. Please feel free to call or e-mail if you have any questions or would like more information.