Smart showroom merchandising tips were learned from the runners-up.

Crescent Bath and Kitchens


As I’ve mentioned before, judging the first annual Showroom of the Year contest was a very tough assignment. All of the entries had a number of highlights. The difference between the three top winners and many of the rest of the nominations was very slim. Because there were really valuable and impressive things that the runners up cited in their nomination forms, I wanted to recognize some of these highlights. I wish there was room to mention everyone, but there isn’t. So suffice it to say I believe all of the entries are winners. A huge thank you from this writer and everyone at Supply House Timesto each showroom that was entered in the contest. The 2009 contest will be even bigger and better.

Here are some of the highlights from several of the runner-up companies:

Banner Plumbing Supply, Buffalo Grove, IL

This 15,000-sq.-ft. newly remodeled showroom features dozens of working displays: eight tubs, 38 faucets, 60 showerheads, four shower valves, two steamers and even a dog-washing sink and faucet. A tankless water heater is used to heat water for all of the aforementioned products. They have a touch-screen video jukebox, which features various products and is designed for client use. Banner uses their own boards and pods in their non-branded showroom. It’s beautifully built out and extremely well accessorized. Each area truly feels like home. Throughout the showroom they have incorporated large, nicely framed pictures of products they sell. The showroom is treated as a profit center and gross margins are in the 35-40% range. Very nice indeed!

Crescent Baths and Kitchens, Pittsburgh, PA

This beautiful 4,500-sq.-ft. showroom was designed by David Hawkins, ASID. From the very attractive front entrance and throughout the entire showroom Crescent Baths and Kitchensis the brand! All pods and boards are their own. David Hawkins is a lighting expert, so it’s no surprise that the lighting throughout is magnificent and truly enhances the products. Crescent has developed an in-depth marketing program that is directed to both homeowners and tradespeople. They’ve used the very creative theme of “Just Add Water” … which is depicted on several very original post cards with pictures of products on one side and a map and short description of their business on the other side. The company is active in several trade associations and community enterprises. They do educational functions for tradespeople and homeowners alike. The showroom features several audio/visual units that tell the company’s story and also provide product information. They even offer an online product library. They have incorporated as many “green” products and economies as possible.

Davis & Warshow, New York, NY

This 7,200-sq.- ft. showroom is located on the third floor of a building in the Soho section of New York City and is designed for tradespeople only. It is beautifully built out in a sleek, contemporary style which features rich walnut cabinetry. A majority of the displays are moveable pods that allow the company to relocate displays - making room for the many events they host and to mix up the look of the showroom. As you probably know, I believe strongly in using accessories to make the displays feel like home. But in this showroom, no accessorizing works beautifully. The work areas for the sales consultants are separated from the display area. There is excellent natural light from the many windows and supplemental lighting is very well done. The company has initiated a very pro-active “Practical Green” program, which they have given the very catchy name of “Helping Turn the Big Apple Green.” One of the main features of the showroom is the almost monthly event they hold for tradespeople (mainly specifiers in the design and architectural communities). They have an excellent in-house training program and also do a lot of educational “events” for their clients.

Elegant Design (Penco)

Elegant Design (a Division of Penco), Seaford, DE

This 5,300-sq.- ft. luxury kitchen and bath showroom was designed by Masco Design Solutions. Each visitor is given a personal guided tour of the showroom. They have developed a handsome 8-page Kitchen and/Bath Planning Guide that prospects are asked to complete prior to working with a sales consultant. The guide lists suggestions and what to expect when working with the company. Their working kitchen continually makes fresh-baked cookies and they also have liquid refreshments available. The showroom’s Web site offers a virtual tour of the showroom. Great idea! A series of direct mailers has been developed for monthly mailings to the tradespeople. First-time visitors to the showroom are given a gift (a candle in a decorative tin with the showroom’s logo on it). There is a well-designed training program in place and the company is very active in trade and community activities.

The Fixture Gallery (Consolidated Supply)

The Fixture Gallery (a division of Consolidated Supply), located in Tigard, Pacific and Salem, OR

These folks sent in nominations for three of their six showroom locations. All the showrooms have been designed and built out the same - and each one has earned an honorable mention. The buildings are good looking, and the outside landscaping is very nicely done. The accessorizing of the displays is beautifully done with a warm, homey feeling. These folks have one of the most comprehensive training programs of any showroom business I know. It starts day one and never ends. It includes product training and selling skills training. There is a separate, but similar, marketing program for each showroom. They do “Latte and Learn” events for both homeowners and tradespeople. The salespeople all use a standardized quote take-off form which lists every item that might be used in the kitchen or bath. They offer bottled water and napkins, both with the company name and logo on them. A wide variety of handout items - including tapes, rulers, pens, key chains, etc. - also carry the company logo. They have a very unique way of identifying the “green” items. They put green leafs on all the products that are considered to be green.

Ferguson

Ferguson Enterprises, Sacramento, CA

This brand new 27,000-sq.-ft. showroom offers a wide variety of products including plumbing, lighting, appliances, doors and cabinet hardware, countertops and outdoor kitchens. The front entrance with a reception area is very nicely done. The kitchen area has a couple of working kitchens and these are used for regularly scheduled cooking demonstrations. This large showroom has 23 sales consultants and back-up administrative associates. The sales consultants and administrators work as a team with their customers. The showroom consultants are very active in industry activities and support the local architects, designers, builders and plumbers. The company mails a quarterly Showroom Newsletter to their clients and they have developed some very nice handouts.

Modern Supply

Modern Supply Kitchen and Bath, Knoxville, TN

This new, beautifully built-out 10,000-sq.-ft. showroom features a nice variety of products including plumbing, cabinets, countertops, appliances, lighting and more. Their Web site is well done and their marketing programs are some of the best I’ve seen. For example, they have a showroom promotion that they call the “Verb Campaign.” They use words like wash, drain, splash, soak, immerse, rinse, spray, broil, sizzle, brighten, illuminate, etc.  Each of these words is tied to a print, visual or verbal ad. Plus, they have a message to the consumer that says “We know it. We have it.” and “We do it all.” The side of their attractive showroom building features a 75-foot wide mural that tells a picture story of their products. Their delivery trucks are all traveling billboards promoting the showroom. This company is also very involved in trade and community activities.

Premier Bath & Kitchen

Premier Bath and Kitchen (a division of Pace Supply Co.), Santa Rosa, CA

This 8,000-sq.-ft. stand-alone showroom is one of the nicest I’ve seen. It features a number of working displays, flat-screen monitors and touch-screen videos - which are terrific for client interaction and education. They use their own pods and boards, so there is minimal manufacturer branding: Premier Bath and Kitchen is their brand! In the same space there is a “partner” that displays granite and tile. Many of the walls and displays are portable which allows them to make changes in the showroom and to use displays in home and trade shows. All products being delivered to a job site are labeled with the job name and which room it is to be installed in. The showroom has a small decompression sitting area where clients can sit and enjoy refreshments and/or roll out their plans. Training includes weekly “lunch and learn” sessions. The company utilizes training manuals, DVDs, books and online training for all of their showroom team members.

I truly wish there was more space, because there are a dozen more companies that deserve mention. Suffice it to say, this has been an incredible experience for this old showroom warrior. I’ve learned a lot! Start getting your information together now for the next contest. It promises to be another great one!