Let’s do something different - and have some fun doing it! Every yearSupply House Timeshonors a Wholesaler of the Year. It’s a great tribute to well-deserving businesses.

Showrooms have been around for a very long time. My dad built one as part of a wholesale branch in Harrisburg, PA, in 1949. It was well done for the times, but it wasn’t well marketed and was poorly staffed. Until 15 years ago very few wholesaler showrooms could be considered for a “Showroom of the Year” award, but today there are several dozen, maybe even a hundred or more, that would make excellent nominations.

With that thought in mind I suggested the idea of a “Showroom of the Year” to my editors atSupply House Timesand they endorsed it.

First, we want to keep it simple! Second, it is open to everyone. We want a lot of nominations. Third, it’ll be up to you to give us all the reasons why your showroom should be considered for the honor. And last, the winners will be recognized in my column with pictures in the October 2008 issue ofSupply House Times. They will also receive an attractive plaque they can proudly hang in their showroom.

Our idea is to recognize showrooms based on their size and merits. There will be two honorees: one for showrooms of 2,500 sq. ft. and larger and one for showrooms of less than 2,500 sq. ft. The recognition will be for a well built-out and displayed showroom and will also consider outstanding business practices, customer service, human resource practices, community involvement and industry support.

Additional criteria used for evaluation will be:
  • Showroom training programs
  • Showroom marketing programs
  • Unique and different customer service ideas
  • Merchandising of showroom products
  • Treating the showroom as a profit center
  • Innovative presentation of products within the showroom
  • Diversity of products and services

    The Showroom of the Year award is designed to recognize all facets of the showroom operation. This will include, but not be limited to: the location of the showroom; the exterior of the facility, including signage, the building, landscaping and parking areas; and the interior of the building, including lighting, display build-out, uniqueness of displays and layout of the showroom.

    The nomination information should include an overview of the training program and any unique customer service programs. It should describe the company’s approach to merchandising and marketing the showroom. You’re welcome to submit any auxiliary information in the form of CDs, brochures, handouts, direct mailers, advertising copy and description of promotions you’ve used.

    This will take a bit of effort, but it gives you the opportunity to brag about your showroom. Self-nomination is encouraged. Be proud of what you have developed! Winning would make for great public relations. People like winners!

  • Economy Supply's HomeStyle showroom, Fishers, IN.

    Our goal is to share with the industry what some truly well-run showrooms are doing to become successful. Hopefully, others will pick up on these ideas and improve themselves.

    Some folks are reluctant to share what makes them successful. I respect that, but I don’t agree with it - there really are no secrets out there. My dad told me a long time ago that if you steal an idea from one person, that’s plagiarism; if you steal an idea from two or more, that’s market research and it’s perfectly okay. Smart business people are using this type of “market research” every day. If you’ve got something special going on in your business, share it and upgrade the level of the industry!

    I’m pleased to see so many companies starting to take the showroom business seriously. Showroom sales are growing dramatically, even in this slow economy. Margins are approaching and even exceeding that 40% target I keep preaching. I’ve seen some wonderfully built-out showrooms, some located offsite in more customer-friendly locations. Some very creative advertising and promotion activities are driving prospective clients into your showrooms. And finally, showrooms are being treated as profit centers. Wholesalers are discovering they can achieve a bigger bang for their invested buck on showrooms than they can with their wholesale business.

    Here are a few rules and criteria:

  • All nominations must be received by August 15, 2008.

  • Self-nominate or an industry peer may nominate a company.

  • Only plumbing wholesaler showrooms will be considered.

  • There will be two winners:
    • Showrooms between the sizes of 1,000 sq. ft. to 2,499 sq. ft.
    • Showrooms 2,500 sq. ft. and larger.

  • Wholesalers with multiple showrooms may nominate more than one - but each one must have a separate entry form and backup material.

  • A minimum of four pictures (one of exterior and three of the interior) must be submitted. More pictures are acceptable.

  • There will be five judges:
    • Scott Franz, publisher of Supply House Times
    • Jim Olsztynski, editor of Supply House Times
    • Pat Lenius, managing editor, Supply House Times
    • Reed Fry of Fry Communications
    • Hank Darlington of Darlington Consulting

    The winners will be announced in the October 2008 issue of Supply House Times.

    Click here for more information on the contest and to access the entry form. Or if you need an entry form e-mailed or faxed, please contact Pat Lenius at leniusp@bnpmedia.com or 630-694-4335 or Beth Shor at shorb@bnpmedia.com or 630-694-4383.

    Good luck!